Friday, 28 November 2014

Royal Albatross Centre Guided Walk

After a great day driving through The Catlins, we made our way back to Taiaroa Head in time for our booked guided walk through the Royal Albatross Centre.


We had deliberately booked the last tour of the day as, in addition to giving most of the rest of the day to do other things, we anticipated that there would be more activity with albatross returning to roost in the early evening.

Even from the car park it was obvious we'd made a good decision as there were several birds flying around overhead.

Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/8000

The Centre has an observatory built on the cliff top within the colony

Royal Albatross Centre Observatory, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
(photographed from the boat on the Monarch Cruise yesterday)
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @200mm ISO 400, f/6.3 1/1000

so you can get up close (and nearly personal) with nesting birds.

Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/200
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/160

Even though sunset was still a few hours away, the cloudy conditions made for low light, which was just one of the challenges facing us. The tours are limited to a small number of people so that everyone can get a spot at the window but the action was coming thick and fast, with birds flying past the windows every few seconds, so once I had a good spot I was reluctant to move. One of the reasons why this site is suitable for albatross is that it almost always has high winds and this evening was no exception, which meant the birds were flying at incredible speeds. When you are standing at cliffside lookouts watching albatross flying offshore there are few indicators by which it is possible to judge their speed but when they fly past you only a few metres away...

Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/400

So, fast moving birds, low light, cramped conditions and shooting through glass was challenging. The following shots (all from one sequence) demonstrate the auto-focus problems. I thought I had a lock on the bird but once I lost it, the camera tracked back and forth between the background and the glass...

Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/640
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/1250
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/2500

We spent about 40 minutes in the observatory but it was over way too quickly. It's almost impossible to convey the feeling of standing (albeit inside a building) within a colony of these majestic birds but here's a few of my feeble attempts:

Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/400
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/400
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/250
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/250
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/500
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/800
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/400
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/500
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/400
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8
ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/3200
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8
ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/800
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/800
Northern Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, Otago NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/320

Oh, and to top it off...sunset

Sunset from Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula NZ
Pentax K-5, Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 @35mm, ISO 1600, f/4 1/4000

2 comments:

  1. Well this is a neat way to see these birds without getting your feet wet or sea sick. All great shots..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Margaret. Fortunately, I don't get seasick and I don't mind getting wet...as you'll see in some posts coming up...but being so close to albatross flying past the window only a few metres away is amazing.

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