Monday, 6 July 2015

Beautiful Borneo and the stunning Kimberley

Well, again I find myself writing this from the Auckland Airport, about to head out on another trip.  This time it was just a week between trips and so by the time I had caught up on a few jobs, been for a few rides on the Mountain Bike, and spent some time with friends it was time to repack and head out again!  And it is heading back to familiar ground in the Kimberley.

But Borneo, man what a place.  A difficult place to work and photograph in, with very high humidity and high temperatures sapping strength hand making it necessary to keep gear out of the air-conditioned ship to allow it to work right from the get-go each morning.  We were fortunate on the two trips I did from Bali to Singapore and back (onboard the National Geographic Orion with Lindblad Expeditions) to visit Camp Leakey in southern Borneo.  What a stunning place, set in Tanjung Puting National Park, we got to see wild Orangutans, as well as rehabbed animals, plus a lot of other birds and mammals along the way.  Certainly one of the big highlights of the trips for me.

In the Kimberley we visited many of the must-see locations, but also got to explore a few of the lesser visited ones as well.  And just such a great place for photography!  Looking forward to getting back.  I've just got a new 5D MkIII (decided against the new 5DS), so now armed with two cameras that are fully functional I hope to maximise my photographic opportunities a little more.

Standby for more photos...


One of the juvenile Orangutans at the Orangutan Foundation International Centre near Kumai.

On of the sub-adult male Orangs yawns as he hangs from a tree near the feeding platform at Camp Leakey.

A mother Orangutan with two babies looks towards the feeding platform, waiting for her turn.

A baby bearded pig looks up from the grasses.

The black river that runs up to Camp Leakey mixes with the soiled Sekonyer River full of sediment from mining upstream.

A proboscis monkey looks out from its tree-top seat at dusk.

Bearded pig in the undergrowth at Bako National Park.
 
Closeup of great argus pheasant feathers in a head-dress at Kumai village.

Closeup of Orangutan hands.

A sub-adult Orangutan looks towards the feeding platform at Camp Leakey.

'Arben' the juvenile Orangutan pulls faces as we interact with him at the Orangutan Foundation International Centre near Kumai.

A local girl does a traditional dance at Kumai village.

Looking out from the shore at Bako National Park.

A proboscis monkey leaps from one tree to the next.
 
Photographing the sunset as we leave Broome, our first evening in the Kimberley.

Our first not so small saltwater crocodile up on a sand bank near the Horizontal Falls.

Spinifex grasses seeding and lit by the sun.

The Horizontal Waterfalls in Talbot Bay.

The end of Slug Island in the evening light.

Beautiful sandstone folded vertically with small trees growing.

Spinifex grasses growing from the red sandstones.

Some of the beautiful geology and scenery near the Hunter River.

Fiddler crab with its pincer up.

The stunning scenery of the King George River.

Sunset, with the Moon, Venus and Jupiter.

White morph reef egret with a fish at the incredible Montgomery Reef.

Raft Point rock art with ghostly people during a long exposure image.

Small saltwater crocodile hiding amongst the leaves.

An adult white-bellied sea-eagle cruises over the top of us during our zodiac cruise on the Hunter River.

'Thor's Hammer' near the Hunter River.

An osprey comes in to land at its nest on the Hunter River.

Rock art lit by beautiful light on Jar Island.

Sandstones near the King George Falls.

A good sized saltwater crocodile gives us a smile.

Rock fig and red sandstone.

A darter backlit by the sun.

White-browed crake, one of several seen on the Ord River, and a bird that has managed to evade me until now!

A black bittern trying to convince us we couldn't see it.

One of two dingos we spotted in what looked like a hunting attempt on a Wallaroo.

A male great bowerbird attend to its bower.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Looking back to February - New Zealand from North to South

Straight after Antarctica, I flew Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires to Auckland, Auckland to Queenstown...and immediately joined the group in Queenstown!  No rest for the wicked!  We had that evening in Queenstown, and then up the next day to head by bus to Milford Sound, where we boarded the MV Oceanic Discoverer that afternoon.

Having done quite a few similar trips over the years, it was nice to relax and show everyone around New Zealand.  We made some of the usual stops, several days in Fiordland National Park, Stewart Island, Dunedin, Christchurch, Kaikoura, Marlborough Sounds, Napier, etc, and then made a stop at White Island and then into the Hauraki Gulf to spend time on Waiheke Island in the morning and Tiritiri Matangi Island in the afternoon.

My 1Dx was still in with Canon being repaired, so I didn't take a lot of shots, but managed a few out of Kaikoura, and on Motuara Island in Queen Charlotte Sound.  The trip was great, we had pretty cool weather whilst we were around the south, but it gradually warmed as we headed north.

I think the New Zealand trip from the water gives a completely different perspective to what you get when you travel around New Zealand by land.  They almost don't compare...so you actually need to do both to get a real sense of the country.  Watching the land slip past as you cruise along the coast gives you a real appreciation for the extent of the coastline, and in many cases for how isolated many places on the coast are.  Having albatross cruising past the ship for almost the whole time you are at sea around the South Island (and southern North) is fantastic, and really makes you realise that we take these beautiful creatures for granted in New Zealand.  Most New Zealander's would not even have a clue that flying just off the coast are throngs of albatross and other tube-nosed seabirds...

Probable female Gibson's (New Zealand) wandering albatross off the coast of Kaikoura

Probable male and female Gibson's (New Zealand) wandering albatross displaying at sea, just off Kaikoura

Yellow-crowned parakeet drinking at a small pool on Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds

Immature South Island saddleback peering curiously, on Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Looking back to January - Antarctica

Well the year to date has been a hectic one, but with a lot of fantastic places along the way.  First off was a trip to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica - I always say if you are going to go to Antarctica, then you HAVE to do a trip that includes the Falklands and South Georgia.  So this is one of my favourite trips, and despite the increase in tourism in the Antarctic you still get the feeling of isolation and that you could well be the first people looking at the landscape.

We started in Ushuaia, with awesome views of both male, female and young Magellanic woodpeckers in the National Park - stonking views!  Epic birds, and also got great views of ashy-headed geese.  Then out of the Beagle Channel and heading to Saunders Island in the Falklands.  This has to be one of the best islands for diversity in the Falkland group, with a great array of species there nesting within easy walking distance.  To be so close to nesting black-browed albatross is always a treat, and whilst we were there the birds had young chicks in the nest, so there was a lot going on.  Having spent four incredible days on this island camping under a rock at 'The Neck' back in 2004 this place is one of my all-time World favourite spots!

Next stop South Georgia, and with landings at Salisbury Plain and St Andrews Bay we got to see a fair sack of the king penguin population that breeds on the island.  Our afternoon at St Andrews was just spectacular, with incredible weather and so much going on.  I managed a bit of time with tripod and neutral density filters to play around with some long exposures which was fun - let me know what you think of the images below.  There might still be a slight colour cast from the ND filters, but I am pretty happy with the results...I'd just like to spend some more time experimenting with these filters.

We also called in to Coronation Island in the South Orkneys, with a little bit of sleet and drizzle it was a chilly landing, but thousands of chinstrap penguins were there to keep us company!  Back onboard that afternoon my Canon 1Dx decided to give up the ghost - leaving me with my old worn out 1D MkIV for the rest of the trip.  On getting back to NZ it turns out the 1Dx was the first in the country to have completely died - making me wonder if i was lucky or unlucky (!) - having blown a circuit board and some fuses.  All covered under warranty when I got home, but effectively an expensive paper-weight for the rest of the trip!

Down on the Antarctic Peninsula we had stops at Brown Bluff, with a little foray along the ice front of the Weddell Sea in Antarctic Sound.  There had been an Emperor penguin reported, but rising winds meant we could't get too close, and had to head back onto the western side of the Peninsula and carry on to the South Shetlands.  A morning at Hannah Point was fantastic with lots of activity amongst the chinstraps and gentoos - including the gory killing of a gentoo chick by several giant petrels.  At Deception Island, not normally know for its wildlife (at least the interior of the island), we had an awesome leucistic chinstrap penguin.  At first it seemed to be playing hard to get, and then at the end walked up on to the shore with another bird, and right into the middle of our group!  Ha, what little show off!

Then it was off south along the Peninsula, making landings at Petermann Island and Plennau.  Awesome iceberg graveyard, and VERY 'friendly' leopard seals - one of which came steaming in and chomped on the end of my zodiac!  That was a new experience - it all happened so quick I didn't have time to get out of there, so after our 2.5 hour zodiac cruise one of the pontoons was VERY flat!  We only lost two people out of the zodiac...just kidding!  We also had an incredible show with a female and calf humpback right at the stern of the ship.  With everyone out on the stern of the ship, they came right in under us and just hung out at the back of the ship for more than 15 minutes - just incredible.

A final afternoon at Portal Point - after finally catching up with killer whales in the Neumeyer which I managed to spot a few miles off. We had stunning views of a pretty large pod of these Type B (small form) killer whales, in what looked like a feeding slick.  There was a huge slick on the surface and clearly something attracting large numbers of Wilson's storm-petrels, giant petrels and other species, but we couldn't spot anything that looked like chunks of prey.  A mystery!

And then we were on our way back to Ushuaia.  Time just flies so quickly on a trip like this, with days at sea and the start of the trip seeming to go relatively slow, and then all of a sudden you are heading back across the Drake Passage! A great trip with great folks and an excellent Zegrahm Expedition team!

Female Magellanic woodpecker pausing whilst foraging on a branch

Stonking male Magellanic woodpecker on a Southern beech branch

Ashy-headed goose looking stunning in the sunshine

Brown-hooded gull foraging in the shallows amongst the kelp

Adult black-browed albatross about to regurgitate food for its chick

Everyone LOVES rockhoppers!

Poop circles at the albatross colony

A pair of black-browed albatross display to each other at the nest site

A young pair of black-browed albatross display to each other at the colony

Striated caracara having an 'Albatross Omelette'

Is there anything more stunning than a black-browed albatross?

Pair of black-browed albatross braying and displaying to each other at the colony

Pair of black-browed albatross displaying to each other

Antarctic fur seal pup looking cute, before it gets angry and attacks!

Young Antarctic fur seal pups playing in the water

Adult Antarctic tern hovering whilst feeding

Gentoo penguin chick on the edge of the colony

Long-exposure of the St Andrews king penguin colony, blur of the clouds and the river

Long-exposure of the king penguins along side the river with the glacier in the background

Long-exposure of the king penguins along side the river with the glacier in the background, a little closer and some blurred adults

Long-exposure of the king penguins along side the river with the glacier in the background, a little further back, milky river

Snowy sheathbills setting up a time lapse with my iPhone

Snowy sheathbill with chicks at the nest

Snow petrel near the nest with a large chick on another nest site

Windy in Antarctic Sound

Giant petrels display and tear apart a gentoo penguin chick - the struggle of life in the Antarctic!

Giant petrel chick yawning at the nest

Leucistic chinstrap penguin coming ashore in Deception Island

One of these things is not like the other! Leucistic chinstrap penguin on the left, with a normal adult on the right.

Gentoo penguin and chicks at the nest in a snow storm

South Polar skua on the nest amongst fresh snow

Blue-eyed shag in the sunshine

Type B (small form) killer whale found in the Neumeyer Channel surfacing beside the ship in spray

Mother and calf Type B (small form) killer whales surfacing beside the ship in spray

A calf Type B (small form) killer whale gives a little tail flick as it dives beside its mother