How To Best Photograph Auroras

How To Best Photograph Auroras

Aurora Australis - Cradle Mountain

Text and Images By Michael Snedic

Recently, aurora activity has been ‘off the charts’! Less than two weeks ago, aurora activity across Australia (and the world) was the best in at least 20 years (Northern auroras are called Aurora Borealis and southern ones are called Aurora Australis). Auroras were seen and photographed in locations that you previously couldn’t imagine – Uluru in the Northern Territory, Mackay in Queensland, Christmas Island and many more locations. Those in the southern parts of Australia, especially Tasmania, are used to auroras but to have them right across Australia was simply awesome. The unbelievable colours and patterns made those nights recently very special moments indeed. I saw a huge number of aurora images posted across social media and there were many great images. There were, unfortunately, quite a few that could have been amazing but the photographers didn’t necessarily know the correct settings and techniques to use. In this article, I will show you the best ways to photograph auroras.

Essential – Using A Tripod

To end up with great shots of an aroura, you need to use a tripod. Sure, there are shots out there with phones and hand-held cameras but by using a tripod for stabilisation is the preferred method. I highly recommend using a sturdy tripod, rather than a Joby GorillaPod or similar. The tripod needs to be on firm ground to minimise camera shake.

Remote or Cable Release

Apart from using a sturdy tripod, it is best to use a remote or cable release to take aurora images. This eliminates any movement that may be created by physically pressing the camera’s shutter button with your finger, especially since we are using quite slow shutter speeds. If you don’t own a remote or cable release, you can use the camera’s timer or, if your camera make and model has the feature available, connect it to an App where you can press the shutter button via your phone.

Recommended Camera Settings

The main problem that arises when photographing auroras arises when photographers who aren’t familiar with the correct settings use ‘normal’ landscape settings (i.e small aperture size, 100 ISO and a reasonably fast shutter speed). For auroras, the settings are opposite to landscape photography. My suggested starting point when using a digital SLR or mirrorless camera is to set your camera to manual mode. Set the camera’s shutter speed to around 15 seconds, the f-stop set to the widest (lowest number) aperture your lens allows, such as f1.8, f2.8 or f4 and the ISO at 1600. Take a few test shots to see the result and if needed, you can tweak the settings for optimal images. If your images are a tad dark, you can either reduce the shutter speed by one stop to 30 seconds or increase the ISO by one stop to 3200. An important point to remember is to not set your shutter speed for longer than 30 seconds, as this can create small arcs in your images due to the movement of the stars.

It takes a bit of ‘trial and error’ but well worth experimenting with your settings in order to capture great shots.

Best Way To Focus

Autofocus won’t work when shooting an aroura, so you need to focus manually. Focus to infinity (furthest away) or manually focus on a star and when it is sharp, you have perfect focus. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding out there is an aurora alert, travelling long distances to get there, waiting for hours for the aurora to be at its best, then realising after you get back home that all of your shots are blurry due to incorrect focusing! As far as lens focal lengths go, I recommend anywhere from 14mm to approximately 50mm. Lenses with a focal length of 14-18mm will give you a wider field of view and preferred if you are wanting to capture quite a large expanse. By the way, don’t forget to pack a headlamp so that you can see what you are doing with your camera!

Find A Foreground Feature

Aurora images can be more interesting by having a foreground feature. This may be a mountain range (such as in the two images shown with this article), an old building, a jetty or a monument. It is definitely worth scouting locations during the day when you can see where you are going and what features you have around you. That way you aren’t fumbling around at night trying to work out where things are.

How To Find Out When The Next Aurora Is Due

There are a number of Aurora Facebook groups worth joining. I personally recommend the Aurora Australis Tasmania group of which I have been a member for many years. They will usually have posts letting people know if there is any activity happening and where. There are also websites such as www.spaceweather.com you can visit that let you know if there are auroras due and what ‘strength’ the solar flares are. One important thing to remember is that even if there is a high alert for an aurora, your best chances for seeing and photographing one is when there is no rain and the skies are clear. That doesn’t mean you can’t photograph one when its cloudy (see my shot featured taken in Coles Bay, Tasmania as an example) as this can add interest in your shot.

More than anything, enjoy the experience and if you achieve great photos of an aurora, that’s simply a bonus!

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Five Macro Photography Tips and Techniques

Five Macro Photography Tips and Techniques

Gilled-Fungi

Photographing the ‘tiny things’ in the natural world can be both enjoyable and rewarding. Below are some tips and techniques that will help you achieve better macro photos.

1. Dedicated Macro Lens

If you love your macro photography, using a macro lens is always preferable. Whether your lens has focal length of 50mm, 200ml or anything in between, a dedicated macro lens allows for closer focusing and incredibly sharp images. Yes, some zoom lenses have a ‘macro’ setting but they aren’t true macro lenses.

There isn’t a perfect focal length for a macro lens. The most popular focal lengths seem to be between 60 mmto 100mm. Lenses with a focal length of 180 or 200mm macro lens are a tad heavier to use and don’t have as close a minimum focal length as the smaller sizes. One advantage , however, is that you are able to focus further away, which can have its advantages when photographing insects such as dragonflies or butterflies which can be a bit kittish when approaching them too close.

2. Extension Tubes

Using extension tubes with SLR or Mirrorless cameras allow for much closer focusing to your macro subjects (they fit in between the camera and lens). The downside is that depth of field becomes a real issue and even at an aperture of f22, only a fraction of your close-up image will be in focus. Generally, extension tubes are best when using a tripod, as this allows for greater stability. Hand holding a lens with an extension tube can be quite tricky since adding them reduces your aperture size and therefore decreases your shutter speed.

3. Macro Flash

By using a macro or ring flash attached to your lens negates the use of a tripod, especially in low light scenarios. You are, quite simply, carrying around your own light source. Using a flash has the advantage of you being able to capture insects such as bees buzzing over a flower, which a slower shutter speed will struggle to capture in poor light. Also, for insects that fly or move, the fact that you aren’t connected to a tripod means you have much more flexibility focusing on the moving subject.

Apart from using a macro flash, there are also numerous macro lights available on the market. Rather than a flash being fired when you take a shot, a macro light uses a continuous light source that usually can be adjusted according to the amount of light you require on your subject.

4. Using a Diffuser

Sometimes when you head on out with your camera with the aim of photographing plants, insects, fungi or frogs, lighting may be harsh. There are ways of reducing your exposure in-camera but harsh lighting can create unsightly images, especially if the subject is shiny and reflective, or white and yellow. By setting up on a tripod and using a portable hand-held diffuser between your intended subject and the lens, this creates much smoother lighting. Sure, photographing during overcast weather is ideal, but we can’t choose what mother nature will do! I have often gone out to shoot macro subjects on an overcast day when the lighting is sublime, only to have the clouds replaced by harsh sunlight!

5. Watch Your Background

I regularly see beautiful macro shots posted, including insects, plants or wildlife such as geckoes or frogs. Unfortunately, some of these images are ruined by unsightly twigs, grasses or overblown leaves in the background. Photographers are often so into getting the perfect exposure or composition of their intended subject(s) that they are oblivious to the distracting background which only show up once the images are downloaded and viewed on a computer.

Overall, I encourage you to get on out there and experiment with different subjects, lighting conditions and compositions. The more you practise, the easier macro photography becomes and the process can be loads of fun : -))

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

8 Day Bird Photography Workshop – Victoria

  • Male Gang-gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum) identified from the female with his a red head and crest.

With Bird Photographer and Tutor Michael Snedic
and Birding Guide Barry Davies

3rd to 10th of October 2024

Only One Spot Left!

NEWWe will leave Melbourne and head to Healesville to our base for two nights. From there to Badgers Weir and Toolangi State Forest, we will marvel at the ancient Mountain Ash forests of the Yarra Ranges. We will find ourselves surrounded by beautiful wet forests, laden with large ferns in the understory and towering canopy trees, with some Mountain Ash over three hundred feet tall! The great attraction is the Superb Lyrebird, indisputably the world’s most remarkable songster and mimic. While walking the forest tracks, we should see the delicate Rose Robin, Pilotbird, and Olive Whistler.

The following two nights, we will be based on the Great Ocean Road, widely regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the world. Around Aireys Inlet and Anglesea, we will spend time investigating this stunningly scenic coastline. We will seek out the region’s special birds, such as the endangered Hooded Plover, Rufous Bristlebird, Southern Emu-Wren, and Striated Fieldwren. From Lorne, we will visit the coastal rainforest of the Otway Ranges, looking for Gang-gang Cockatoo, Crescent Honeyeater, Pink Robin, and Olive Whistler.

Musk lorikeet

Musk lorikeet

Finally, we head to the Little Desert National Park for three nights, a vastly different environment from the forest and coastlines of the days before. We will be staying at the Little Desert Nature Lodge, which specifically caters to birdwatching and photographic groups. The Mallee around Little Desert National Park hosts the stately and shy Malleefowl, the world’s southernmost megapode, and there will be an array of spring-blooming ground orchids. Other special species that we will track down include the small Slender-billed Thornbill and skulking Rufous Fieldwren, as well as other sought-after species such as Blue-winged Parrot, Western (Golden) Whistler, Southern Scrub-robin, and the gorgeous Tawny-crowned Honeyeater. Patches of Stringybark Eucalyptus should hold Purple-crowned and Musk Lorikeets, along with the handsome White-fronted Honeyeater. In the afternoon of the last day, we will head back to Melbourne.

Malleefowl, Bake Ocellata
Malleefowl

Date

3rd to 10th of October 2024

Cost

$AU3845 (plus GST) twin share. Single supplement - $AU895 (plus GST) 

Please note: WildNature Photo Expeditions will endeavour to find someone to share with you, from the photography group. If no one is available to share, then a single supplement will be added and you will have your own room.

 

Maximum 8 passengers with two experienced tutors/guides.

Lyrebird

Superb Lyrebird

Contact Michael Snedic directly
on +61 408 941 965

Your Photography Tutor: Michael Snedic

Michael Snedic, based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is an award-winning bird/wildlife and nature photographer, tutor, writer, presenter and photo competition judge. His photos have been published in numerous publications both in Australia and internationally, since the year 2000. He has been photographing across Australia (and overseas) for the past 27 years and he has loved every minute of it!

Michael is a Nikon School tutor In Queensland (but knows all brands quite well) . He is a writer of photographic articles for magazines such as ‘Australian Geographic’, ‘Wildlife Australia, ‘Australian Birdlife’ as well as ‘BBC Wildlife’, ‘Nature TTL’ and ‘WildArt’ (all based in the UK). Michael has also been a regular feature writer for Australia’s highest-selling photography magazine, ‘Australian Photography’, since 2006. He was also a judge for the Birdlife Australia Awards in 2022 and 2023. He is very passionate about wildlife and nature photography and loves sharing his images and photographic knowledge with others.

Michael Snedic bio shot

Your Birding Guide: Barry Davies

Barry Davies is an experienced Naturalist, Environmental Interpreter, Tour Guide and Tour Leader with a speciality in birds and is a Certified EcoGuide with Ecotourism Australia. In 2005 and 2009 he was Australian EcoGuide of the Year. In 1993 he won the prestigious Gold Coast Supreme Hospitality Award. In 2004 he started Gondwana Guides, where he has lead countless birding tours across Australia and the world. Barry and Michael Snedic have worked together on at least 15 birding/bird photography tours over the past 10+ years.

Barry Davies

Itinerary

Day 1

Leave Melbourne and drive to Healesville via:

  • Masons Falls
  • Wirrawilla Rainforest Walk

Day 2

  • Badgers Weir
  • Cathedral Ranges

Rufous Bristlebird (Dasyornis broadbenti)
Rufous Bristlebird

Day 3

  • Drive to Otways via Serendip Wildlife Sanctuary 
  • Point Addis
  • Ironbark Walk
  • Point Roadknight

Day 4

  • Anglesea Heathland
  • Airey Inlet Wetland
  • Lorne Sheoak Picnic Area

Intermediate Egret
Intermediate Egret

Day 5

  • Apollo Bay Rainforest Walk
  • Drive to Little Desert 
  • Little Desert Nature Lodge
  • Little Dessert Mallee Walk

Day 6

  • Campground Track
  • Heathland Track
  • Wimmera River

Purple-crowned Lorikeet in Australia
Purple-crowned Lorikeet

Day 7

Wyperfeld National Park:

  • Discovery Walk
  • Heathland Walk

Day 8

  • Snapes Reserve (Trust for Nature reserve - Little Desert)
  • Drive back to Melbourne

Southern Emu-wren - Stipiturus malachurus brown bird with long tail and blue throat in Maluridae, endemic to Australia, natural habitats are temperate forests, Mediterranean-type shrubby vegetation
Southern Emu-wren

Inclusions

  • Seven nights accommodation including two nights at Sanctuary House Resort Motel, two nights at Great Ocean Road Resort and three nights at Little Desert Nature Lodge
  • Farewell Dinner (all other meals at participant's expense)
  • Transport via 12 seater bus
  • Photography tuition from Michael Snedic and birding from guide Barry Davies

Exclusions

  • Meals (except Farewell Dinner)
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Alcohol
  • Flights to and from Melbourne 

Pink Robin, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Pink Robin

Bookings and Contact:

To reserve your place or just to ask more questions about this photo expedition, please contact Michael either via his CONTACT FORM or by calling +61 408 941 965.

Your position on the tour will be guaranteed immediately upon payment of non-refundable deposit of AU$900.00 (plus GST) The balance will be due up to 90 days prior to the start of the workshop.

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellation up to 90 days before departure - deposit forfeited. Cancellation between 90 and 60 days before departure - 50% of total workshop price forfeited. Cancellation less than 60 days before departure or during tour, no refund available.

Bird photo workshop participants

17 Day Bird Photography Adventure – Subantarctic Islands including Chatham, Bounty and Antipodes

  • Subantarctic_photo_workshop_2023

Join us on this 17-day photographic adventure starting in Queenstown, NZ. We travel by an expedition ship, heading south and exploring some of New Zealand’s amazing subantarctic islands, reaching as far south as Australia’s Macquarie Island. We return via either Invercargill or Queenstown on the southern tip of NZ’s South Island (depending on which location you would like to be dropped off.

Discover the 'Albatross Latitudes' and explore the most remote Subantarctic islands including Snares, Bounty, Antipodes, Auckland, Campbell, Macquarie & Chatham Islands on this comprehensive 17-day expedition perfect for those interested in birds and bird photography

We will have a maximum of 8 photographers on this expedition, led by professional nature photographers and tutor, Michael Snedic

Photographers of all experience levels are welcome. Michael will be guiding you and supporting your photography during the expedition. Not just in taking photographs in the field, but also in reviewing and refining your photos along the way.

Contact Michael Snedic directly
on +61 408 941 965

Your 
photography 
leader and tutor - Michael Snedic

On this expedition you will have access every day to a professional nature photographer and instructor. Michael is there to help you photograph the stunning scenery and wildlife we will encounter. Michael will be conducting a series of classes throughout the voyage, as well as being on-hand throughout the outings.

Michael is an experienced (27 years) and widely published wildlife and nature photographer, writer, competition judge and tutor. His articles and images have featured in many magazines, calendars, diaries, books, brochures, billboards and many other publications, across Australia and the world.

He is the author of two books on Australian wildlife, and is a Nikon School tutor for Australia. Michael regularly presents audio-visual presentations at photography clubs and conventions, and has been conducting photography workshops and tours across Australia and the world for many years. Michael loves sharing his photographic knowledge and passion with workshop participants, helping them improve their photographic skills.

 

Itinerary:

Day 1: Queenstown

Guests should make their way to the designated hotel where we will spend the first night of the expedition. This evening there will be an informal get-together at the hotel for dinner; an excellent opportunity to meet fellow adventurers on your voyage and some of our expedition team.

Day 2: Port of Bluff

Today we enjoy breakfast in the hotel restaurant and have the morning free to explore Queenstown before returning to the hotel for lunch and departing for the Port of Bluff to embark your ship. You will have time to settle into your cabin and familarise yourself with the ship; we will also take the opportunity to conduct a number of safety briefings. You are invited to join the expedition team in the Observation Lounge and up on the Observation Deck as we set our course to The Snares and our adventure begins.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_12_2023

Day 3: The Snares – North East Island

The closest Subantarctic Islands to New Zealand, they were appropriately called The Snares as they were once considered a hazard for sailing ships. Comprising of two main islands and a group of five islands called the Western Chain; they are uninhabited and enjoy the highest protection as Nature Reserves. It is claimed by some that these islands are home to more nesting seabirds than all of the British Isles together. We plan to arrive in the morning, and as landings are not permitted, we will Zodiac cruise along the sheltered eastern side of the main island if the weather and sea conditions are suitable. In the sheltered bays, we should see the endemic Snares Crested Penguin, Snares Island Tomtit and Fernbirds. There are hundreds of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters nesting on The Snares; the actual number is much debated. Buller’s Albatross breed here from early January onwards. There will be opportunities to view the forests of large tree daisy Olearia lyallii which forms a canopy over much of the island group.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_19_2023 © T Bickford

Days 4: Auckland Islands – Enderby Island

The Auckland Islands group was formed by two volcanoes which erupted some 10-25 million years ago. They have subsequently been eroded and dissected by glaciation creating the archipelago as we know it today. Enderby Island is one of the most beautiful islands in this group and is named after the same distinguished shipping family as one of our own vessels. This northern most island in the archipelago is an outstanding wildlife and birding location and is relatively easy to land on and walk around. The island was cleared of all introduced animals (pests) in 1994 and both birds and the vegetation, especially the herbaceous plants, are recovering both in numbers and diversity. Our plan is to land at Sandy Bay, one of three breeding areas in the Auckland Islands for the Hooker’s or New Zealand Sea Lion, a rare member of the seal family. Beachmaster bulls gather on the beach, defending their harems from younger (ambitious) males, to mate with the cows shortly after they have given birth to a single pup. Hooker’s or New Zealand Sea Lion numbers are in a slow decline, for reasons which are not obvious but most probably connected with a nearby squid fishery. During our day ashore there will be several options, some longer walks, some shorter walks and time to spend just sitting and enjoying the wildlife. The walking is relatively easy. A boardwalk traverses the island to the dramatic western cliffs, from there we follow the coast and circumnavigate the island. Birds that we are likely to encounter include the following species: Southern Royal Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Auckland Island Shag, Auckland Island Flightless Teal, Auckland Island Banded Dotterel, Auckland Island Tomtit, Bellbird, Pipit, Red-crowned Parakeet, Yellow-eyed Penguin and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. There is also a very good chance of seeing the Subantarctic Snipe. Other more common species we will see include the Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird, European Starling, Red-billed Gull and Redpoll. On Derry Castle Reef we will look for migratory waders which could include Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and possibly vagrants.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_6_2023

Day 5: At Sea

As we make our way through an area known as the Furious Fifties in the tumultuous Southern Ocean, we will learn more about the flora and fauna as we prepare for our arrival at Macquarie Island. En route there are great birding opportunities which may include the Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Salvin’s Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, Sooty Shearwater and Little Shearwater. We will endeavour to spot the Fairy Prion, Fulmar Prion and Antarctic Prion – never an easy task – but we should get some great views. Other species to be on the lookout for include the Soft-plumaged Petrel, Mottled Petrel, White-headed Petrel, Grey-faced Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Grey-backed Storm-Petrel, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel and the Black-bellied Storm-Petrel.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_16_2023

Day 6 to 7: Macquarie Island

The great Australian Antarctic Explorer Sir Douglas Mawson once called Macquarie Island “One of the wonder spots of the world.” You are about to discover why as we spend two days exploring this amazing Island. It was one of the first of the Subantarctic Islands to obtain World Heritage Status and that was largely due to its unique geology. It is one of the few places on earth where mid-ocean crustal rocks are exposed at the surface due to the collision of the Australian and Pacific Plates. The island was discovered in 1810 and was soon ravaged by sealers who introduced various animals including rats, mice, cats and rabbits. The native bird population was virtually eliminated and plants destroyed. The Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service which administered the island recently embarked on a very ambitious eradication program which appears to have been successful. The island is now predator free and both the birds and plants are responding. It is amazing to witness the regeneration and the increase in the number of birds. Macquarie Island is home to four species of penguin, Kings, Royals, Gentoo and Rockhopper. The Royal Penguin occurs nowhere else in the world. During our visit we will land at two sites (subject of course to weather and sea conditions) and you will get a chance to see, observe and photograph all four species, although the Rockhopper is much harder to capture than the others. Macquarie also has a large population of Southern Elephant Seals. Pups are born in October and weaned in November when the breeding adults return to sea. The weaners and sub adults lie around on the beaches. The weaners go to sea sometime in January, running the gauntlet of Orcas or Killer Whales who are waiting offshore. We plan a landing at the Australian Antarctic Research Base at Buckles Bay where you will be able to meet with scientists and base staff. The original base was established in 1947 and the island has been ‘manned’ since then. It is one of the longest continuously occupied bases in the Subantarctic.

Subantarctic Birding_J_Mishina

© J Mishina

Day 8: At Sea

At sea en route to Campbell Island and time to unwind after the adventures of Macquarie Island. Look for cetaceans and albatross, join a lecture or catch up on your photos and journaling.

Day 9: Campbell Island – Perseverance Harbour

Today we explore Campbell Island, New Zealand’s southernmost Subantarctic territory. Its history is as rich and varied as the other islands we visit. Discovered in 1810, it was soon occupied by sealers who introduced rats and cats. Farming followed from 1895 to 1934 when it was abandoned. Coastwatchers were stationed on the island during the war and at the end of the war the station was taken over by the New Zealand Metrological service. They maintained a manned weather/ research station there until 1995. In the early 1970s the removal of farm animals commenced and all were eventually removed by 1990. The vegetation recovered quickly and the cats died out naturally. In a very ambitious (and never before attempted on such a large scale) eradication programme the New Zealand Department of Conservation successfully removed the rats. With the island declared predator free, the way was clear to reintroduce the endangered Campbell Island Flightless Teal, which had been rediscovered on an offshore island in 1975. Snipe, which were formerly unknown from the island but were discovered on another offshore island, recolonised the islands themselves. The vegetation which the great English botanist Sir Joseph Hooker described in 1841 as having a “Flora display second to none outside the tropics” is flourishing and is nothing short of spectacular. We will offer a number of options which will enable you to explore the island including an extended walk to Northwest Bay. There will also be an easier walk to the Col Lyall Saddle. All of these options will allow you the opportunity and time to enjoy the Southern Royal Albatross which nest here in large numbers. We also visit areas of the island which contain outstanding examples of the megaherbs for which the island is renowned.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_20_2023

© Katya Ovsyanikova

Day 10: At Sea

At sea en route to the Antipodes, it is a day for pelagic birding. Species commonly seen in this area include Wandering Albatross species, Southern Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Campbell Island Albatross, Lightmantled Sooty Albatross, Salvin’s Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, the Sooty Shearwater and the Little Shearwater. This region of the Southern Ocean is one of the few places where the Fairy Prion, Fulmar Prion and Antarctic Prion occur together, providing a good opportunity for comparison. Other species to be on the lookout for include the Soft-plumaged Petrel, Mottled Petrel, White-headed Petrel, Grey-faced Petrel, Whitechinned Petrel, Grey-backed Storm-Petrel, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Black-bellied Storm-Petrel and the Common Diving-Petrel.

Subantarctic Birding_G_Riehle

© G. Riehle

Day 11: Antipodes Islands

The Antipodes group of islands is the most isolated and perhaps the least known of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. Sealers lived here in the decades immediately after their discovery in 1806. Mice are the only introduced animal on the islands but efforts to eradicate them will hopefully see that their days are numbered. The islands are of volcanic origin, but are heavily eroded especially the western shoreline. The largest of the group is Antipodes Island. Landings are not permitted so we plan to cruise, along the coastline by Zodiac where we have a good chance of seeing the Antipodes Parakeet, the largest of New Zealand’s parakeets. This species has an entirely green head. We will also look for the Reischek’s Parakeet, a subspecies of the Red-crowned Parakeet found in the Auckland Islands and on the Chatham Islands. We also see the Antipodes subspecies of the New Zealand Pipit. Good views of both Erect-crested and Rockhopper Penguins can be expected along the coast where they often breed in mixed colonies.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_7_2023

Day 12: Bounty Islands

We arrive at the incongruously named Bounty Islands, the remote northernmost of the five New Zealand Subantarctic groups; they were discovered by Captain Bligh just months before the infamous mutiny. Here inhospitable granite knobs, tips of the submerged Bounty Platform, are lashed by the Southern Ocean. They are home to thousands of Salvin’s Albatross, Erect-crested Penguins, Fulmar Prions and the endemic Bounty Island Shag – the world’s rarest. We plan to arrive in the early morning and if conditions are suitable we will cruise by Zodiac around the granite outposts to take a closer look at the birds which breed there. New Zealand Fur Seals which were almost hunted to extinction in the Subantarctic Islands are present in large numbers. Sailing towards the Chatham Islands there are opportunities to see a good selection of birdlife as we sail. These should include Wandering Albatross, Northern Royal Albatross, Mottled Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Broad-billed Prion, White-chinned Petrel and Black-bellied Storm-Petrel as well as Wilson’s Storm-Petrel. Other possible sightings include White-capped Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel, Antarctic Fulmar, Sooty Shearwater, Little Shearwater and Grey-backed Storm-Petrel. We will also start to keep a lookout for the Chatham Island Petrel.

Subantarctic Birding_M_Sylvia

© M Sylvia

Day 13: Pyramid Rock and South East Island

As we continue toward the Chatham Archipelago, there are excellent opportunities for pelagic birding today. In particular, we will look out for the Chatham Island Petrel which has been seen on this leg of the voyage before. In the past we have observed the very rare Chatham Island Taiko in this area. Endemic to the Chatham Islands, the Chatham Island Taiko – also known as the Magenta Petrel – is among New Zealand’s most endangered species. It is one of the world’s rarest seabirds with a population estimated to number less than 150. This afternoon we will cruise around spectacular Pyramid Rock, a basalt outcrop south of Pitt Island. This is the only breeding place of the Chatham Island Albatross. During the afternoon we arrive at South East Island. This has to be one of the world’s greatest nature reserves and landings are not permitted. However we should obtain good views of the very rare New Zealand Shore Plover and Chatham Island Oystercatcher from the Zodiacs as we cruise along the coast. We should also see the Pitt Island Shag which nests on the island.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_10_2023

© Samuel Blanc

Day 14: Chatham Islands – Waitangi

The Chatham Archipelago consists of one large island and numerous smaller islands and rocky islets. Only two of the islands are inhabited. They represent New Zealand’s eastern most territory. The islands were originally settled by East Polynesians. In the 1400s the population became isolated and interestingly developed its own distinct culture. The islands were discovered by Europeans in the 1790s. Sealers and settlers followed and then in the 1830s Maoris from New Zealand invaded killing and enslaving many of the indigenous people. The impact of the original settlers, the European and later the Maori people on the native flora and fauna was disastrous. Introduced animals, hunting, fires and land clearing wiped out many species of endemic birds. Fortunately a number survived on the offshore islands in the archipelago. With a new generation has come a new awareness and a willingness to be part of a concerted conservation effort. A number of private reserves have been established, a lot of replanting has taken place and predators are being controlled. Today we will visit one of the original private reserves established by a local family on the south coast of the main island where there is a very good chance to see the endemic Chatham Island Pigeon and Warbler. The pigeon was close to extinction until recently, and is now in good numbers. We will travel by local bus to the reserve. The road takes us through developed farmland where we will undoubtedly see numerous introduced species and possibly the Weka. Near our landing in Waitangi there is a good chance of seeing the endemic Chatham Island Shag. This afternoon we cruise back along the south coast, this is where the only known population of the Taiko breeds and also where they are attempting to establish a new population of the Chatham Island Petrel in a predator free area. We have seen both Taiko and Chatham Island Petrel in this area on previous expeditions.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_3_2023

Days 15 to 16: At Sea

En route to Bluff we will cross the Chatham Rise, a large, relatively shallowly submerged part of the Zealandia continent that stretches east from near the South Island of New Zealand. Nutrient rich waters from the south mix with warm northern waters and there is an overlap between northern pelagic species and birds from southern latitudes, so we can expect great pelagic sightings. Species we expect to encounter include Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, White-capped Albatross and Salvin’s Albatross. Petrel species we should be able to identify are the Northern Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel, Westland Black Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Great-winged Petrel, Grey-backed Storm-Petrel, Whitefaced Storm-Petrel, the DivingPetrel and Cook’s Petrel. Additional birdlife will include species of shearwater seabirds. These tubenose birds fly with stiff wings and use a ‘shearing’ flight technique to move across wave fronts with the minimum of active flight. Photographic opportunities can include Flesh-footed Shearwater, Buller’s Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater and Little Shearwater. Small petrels on the horizon and close by include Fairy Prion and Broad-billed Prion. We will recap the highlights of our expedition and enjoy a farewell dinner tonight as we complete the last few miles of our journey.

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Day 17: Invercargill/Queenstown

Early this morning we will arrive in the Port of Bluff. After a final breakfast we bid farewell to our fellow voyagers and take a complimentary coach transfer to either Invercargill or Queenstown Airports. In case of unexpected delays due to weather and/or port operations we ask you not to book any onward travel until after midday from Invercargill and after 3pm from Queenstown. Note: During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed. Landings at the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand are by permit only as administered by the Government of New Zealand. No landings are permitted at The Snares, Antipodes or Bounties.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_@2023

Health and Fitness

Anyone in normal good health can join us on this adventure. There are no special fitness requirements, although we will be often climbing into and out of the inflatable Zodiac boats, and walking on shore. Out on the ocean and exposed to the elements it can get quite cold. But it is summer and at times in the sun it can be quite warm.
The ship has a doctor and basic medical facilities on board. If you have specific health concerns or dietary requirements the staff at Heritage will be able to advise you. There’s also a gym on board if you feel the need to get extra workouts. Actually, with the excellent meals provided on these trips it’s not hard to put weight on, so some people like this option.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_8_2023

Our Ship

The 'Heritage Adventurer' is one of Heritage Expedition's latest additions to its fleet. Although we won’t be seeing ice on this voyage, the ship regularly visits both polar regions and is a very capable vessel. She also has plenty of vantage points for scenic and wildlife photography from all around the ship.

 

Heritage Adventurer

Inclusions

  • Photography tuition throughout the expedition with Michael Snedic.
  • One night accommodation (with breakfast) in Queenstown.
  • Shipboard accommodation.
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners onboard.
Coffee, tea, cocoa available around the clock.
  • All zodiac and land excursions.
  • Transfer from Queenstown to Port Bluff, and to Invercargill or Queenstown on completion of the voyage.
  • Pre- and post-departure materials.

Exclusions

  • Airfares and other travel expenses to/from Queenstown/Invercargill.
  • Meals in Queenstown (other than as above).
  • Passport/visa expenses.
  • Personal/travel insurance coverage.
 Heritage will discuss with you the required insurance coverage (due to the remoteness of our destination).
  • Onboard bar, laundry, and telecommunications charges. Internet access is not available onboard.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_14_2023

Prices (Australian Dollars)

The trip is being put together with our partners at Heritage Expeditions in Christchurch, and they take care of the bookings and travel arrangements for us, while Michael runs the photography program.

There are a variety of cabin classes. As usual with these ships your choice of berth/cabin type directly impacts the price of your ticket.

Main Deck Triple TBA
Superior Triple TBA
Superior Deck 4 TBA
Superior Deck 5 TBA
Main Deck Single TBA
Superior Single TBA
Worsley Suite TBA
Heritage Suite: TBA

A 25% deposit is required to secure your place.

NB: PRICE INCLUDES PHOTOGRAPHY TUITION FEE BY MICHAEL SNEDIC, WHICH WILL BE INVOICED SEPARATELY

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_4_2023

How to book

To reserve your place or just to ask more questions about this photo expedition, please contact Michael either via his Contact Form or by calling +61 408 941 965.

 

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_09_2023

13 Day Subantarctic Islands Photo Adventure (including Macquarie and CampbeIl Islands)

  • Subantarctic_photo_workshop_10_2023

22nd of November to 4th of December 2024

Join us on this 13 day photographic adventure starting in Hobart, Tasmania. We travel by an expedition ship, heading south and exploring some of New Zealand’s amazing subantarctic islands, reaching as far south as Australia’s Macquarie Island. We return via either Invercargill or Queenstown on the southern tip of NZ’s South Island (depending on which location you would like to be dropped off).

This is without doubt one of the most inspirational and informative journeys or expeditions into the Southern Ocean ecosystem that one can make anywhere in the world. Long recognised for their rich biodiversity, the Subantarctic Islands lying to the south of New Zealand are UNESCO World Heritage sites. This places them in a select group of only 180 natural sites that have been designated as ‘the most important and significant natural habitats' on the planet. They are also afforded the highest conservation status and protection by the Australian and New Zealand governments and access to these islands is by permit only. On this expedition we offer you the unique chance to explore, photograph and understand these wonderful places in the company of some of the most knowledgeable and passionate guides.

We will be exploring rarely-visited wilderness hotspots, photographing wildlife (largely birds but also some mammals), plants, and stunning landscapes.

We will have a maximum of 8 photographers on this expedition, led by professional nature photographers and tutor, Michael Snedic

Photographers of all experience levels are welcome. Michael will be guiding you and supporting your photography during the expedition. Not just in taking photographs in the field, but also in reviewing and refining your photos along the way.

Contact Michael Snedic directly
on +61 408 941 965

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_10_2023

© Samuel Blanc

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Your 
photography 
leader and tutor - Michael Snedic

On this expedition you will have access every day to a professional nature photographer and instructor. Michael is there to help you photograph the stunning scenery and wildlife we will encounter. Michael will be conducting a series of classes throughout the voyage, as well as being on-hand throughout the outings.

Michael is an experienced (27 years) and widely published wildlife and nature photographer, writer, competition judge and tutor. His articles and images have featured in many magazines, calendars, diaries, books, brochures, billboards and many other publications, across Australia and the world.

He is the author of two books on Australian wildlife, and is a Nikon School tutor for Australia. Michael regularly presents audio-visual presentations at photography clubs and conventions, and has been conducting photography workshops and tours across Australia and the world for many years. Michael loves sharing his photographic knowledge and passion with workshop participants, helping them improve their photographic skills.

 

Itinerary:

Day 1: Hobart

Arrive in Hobart, capital of Australia’s Island state of Tasmania and make your way to the designated hotel where we
will spend the first night of the expedition. This bustling port town is rich in culture and colonial history, and features a renowned foodie scene all wrapped in stunning waterfront surrounds. This evening there will be an informal get- together at the hotel for dinner - an excellent opportunity to meet fellow adventurers on your voyage and some of our expedition team.

Day 2: Port of Hobart

Today we enjoy breakfast in the hotel restaurant before departing for the Port of Hobart to embark your ship. You will have time to settle into your cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship. Early afternoon we depart the Port of Hobart, the centre for the Southern Ocean whaling and sealing trade; it is now a busy seaport and also serves as the home port for both Australian and French Antarctic operations. You are invited to join the expedition team in the Observation Lounge and up on the Observation Deck as we sail across Storm Bay. We sail past Bruny Island and the Tasman Peninsula and set our course for Macquaire Island.

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Day 3 and 4: At Sea

As we make our way south through the Roaring Forties to Macquaire Island, we will prepare for our visit, and there will be a series of lectures on the biology and history of the island and the Southern Ocean. Birding opportunities may include the Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Salvin’s Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, Sooty Shearwater and Little Shearwater. Other species to be on the lookout for include the Soft-plumaged Petrel, Mottled Petrel, White-headed Petrel, Grey- faced Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Grey-backed Storm-petrel, Wilson’s Storm-petrel, Black-bellied Storm- petrel and Common Diving-petrel.

.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_19_2023 © T Bickford

Days 5 and 6: Macquarie Island

The great Australian Antarctic Explorer Sir Douglas Mawson once called Macquarie Island “One of the wonder spots of the world”. You are about to discover why as we spend two days exploring this amazing Island. It was one of the first of the Subantarctic Islands to obtain World Heritage Status and that was largely due to its unique geology. It is one of the few places on earth where mid- ocean crustal rocks are exposed at the surface due to the collision of the Australian and Pacific Plates.

“Macca”, as it is affectionately known by its resident ranger population, was discovered in 1810 and was soon ravaged by sealers who introduced various animals including rats, mice, cats and rabbits. The native bird population was virtually eliminated and plants destroyed. The Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service, who administer the island, embarked on a very ambitious 7-year eradication program resulting in the island earning pest-free status in 2014. Both the birds and plants have responded and it is amazing to witness the regeneration and the increase in the number of birds

Macquarie Island is home to four species of penguin, Kings, Royals, Gentoo and Rockhopper, with the Royal Penguin occurring nowhere else in the world. During our visit we will land at two sites (subject to weather and sea conditions) and you will get a chance to observe and photograph all four species. Macquarie also has a large population of Southern Elephant Seals. Pups are born in October and weaned in November when the breeding adults return to sea. The weaners and sub adults lie around on the beaches.

 

 

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Day 7: At Sea

Sailing east through the Furious Fifties, also known as the Albatross latitudes, we will have a series of informal lectures on the biology and history of the Subantarctic Islands and prepare for our visit to Campbell Island. Species that we may see include the Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Salvin’s Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel. There should be plenty of prions including Fairy, Fulmar and Antarctic.

Elephant Seals

Days 8 and 9: Campbell Island

We have two days to explore Campbell Island, New Zealand’s southernmost Subantarctic territory. Its history is as rich and varied as the other islands we
have visited. Discovered in 1810 (by the same sealing captain who discovered Macquarie Island) it too was soon occupied by sealers who introduced rats and cats. In 1895 the New Zealand government advertised the island as a pastoral lease. In the early 1970s the island was fenced in half and stock was removed off the northern half.

The impacts of the remaining animals were monitored and they were all eventually removed in 1990. The vegetation recovered quickly and the cats died out naturally. With the island declared predator free in 2003, the way was clear to reintroduce the endangered Campbell Island Flightless Teal, which had been rediscovered on an offshore
island in 1975. Snipe, which were formerly unknown from the island but were discovered on another offshore island, recolonised the islands themselves

We will offer a number of options to explore the island. There will be extended walks to Northwest Bay and also be an easier walk to the Col Lyall Saddle. All of these options will allow you the opportunity and time to enjoy the Southern Royal Albatross which nest here in large numbers. We also visit areas of the island which contain outstanding examples of the megaherbs for which the island is renowned.

 

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Day 10: Auckland Islands – Canley Harbour

The Auckland Islands group was formed by two volcanoes which erupted some 10-25 million years ago. They have subsequently been eroded and dissected by glaciation creating the archipelago as we know it today. In the south of the archipelago there is a very large sheltered harbour rich in human history including shipwrecks, treasure hunters, Coast-watchers and, of course, scientific parties. We enter the harbour through the eastern entrance which is guarded on both sides by dramatic cliffs andrugged, tussock-covered hills.

The more energetic expeditioners may climb to the South West Cape and visit the Shy Albatross colony. This climb provides magnificent views in all directions, especially over the western entrance to Carnley Harbour, Adams Island
and Western Harbour. For those not climbing there will be an opportunity to Zodiac cruise along the coast of Adams Island and Western Harbour, with landings at the latter. Other options include the Tagua Bay Coastwatcher’s hut and lookout which was occupied during the Second World War. We could visit Epigwatt and the remains of the ‘Grafton’ which was wrecked here in 1864. All five men aboard survived and lived here for 18 months before sailing their modified dinghy to New Zealand to get help.

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Day 11: Auckland Islands – Enderby Island

Enderby Island is one of the most beautiful islands in this group and is named after the same distinguished shipping family as one of our former vessels. This northern most island in the archipelago is an outstanding wildlife and birding location and is relatively easy to land on and walk around. The island was cleared of all introduced animals (pests) in 1994 and both birds and the vegetation, especially the herbaceous plants, are recovering both in numbers and diversity.

Our plan is to land at Sandy Bay, one of three breeding areas in the Auckland Islands for the Hooker’s or New Zealand Sea Lion, a rare member of the seal family. Beachmaster bulls gather on the beach, defending their harems. Hooker’s or New Zealand Sea Lion numbers are in a slow decline, for reasons which are not obvious but most probably connected with a nearby squid fishery. During our day ashore there will be several options, some longer walks, some shorter walks and time to spend relax and reflect on an amazing experience. We will recap the highlights of our expedition and enjoy a farewell dinner tonight as we complete the last few miles of our journey.

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© Katya Ovsyanikova

Day 12: The Snares

We plan to arrive early in the morning and, as landings are not permitted, we will Zodiac cruise along the sheltered eastern side
of the main island if the weather and sea conditions are suitable.
In the sheltered bays, we should see the endemic Snares Crested Penguin, Snares Island Tomtit and Fernbirds. Cape Pigeons, Antarctic Terns, White-fronted Terns and Red-billed Gulls are also present in good numbers. There are hundreds of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters nesting on The Snares; the actual number is much debated. This afternoon en route to the Port of Bluff, take the opportunity to relax and reflect on an amazing experience. We will recap the highlights of our expedition and enjoy a farewell dinner tonight as we complete the last few miles of our journey.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_3_2023

Day 13: Invercargill/Queenstown

Early this morning we will arrive in the Port of Bluff. After a final breakfast and completing Custom formalities we bid farewell to our fellow voyagers and take a complimentary coach transfer to either Invercargill or Queenstown Airports. In case of unexpected delays due to weather and/or port operations we ask you not to book any onward travel until after midday from Invercargill and after 3pm from Queenstown.

Note:

During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary.
This can include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed. Landings at the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand are by permit only as administered by the Government of New Zealand. No landings are permitted at The Snares.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_@2023

Health and Fitness

Anyone in normal good health can join us on this adventure. There are no special fitness requirements, although we will be often climbing into and out of the inflatable Zodiac boats, and walking on shore. Out on the ocean and exposed to the elements it can get quite cold. But it is summer and at times in the sun it can be quite warm.
The ship has a doctor and basic medical facilities on board. If you have specific health concerns or dietary requirements the staff at Heritage will be able to advise you. There’s also a gym on board if you feel the need to get extra workouts. Actually, with the excellent meals provided on these trips it’s not hard to put weight on, so some people like this option.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_8_2023

Our Ship

The 'Heritage Adventurer' is one of Heritage Expedition's latest additions to its fleet. Although we won’t be seeing ice on this voyage, the ship regularly visits both polar regions and is a very capable vessel. She also has plenty of vantage points for scenic and wildlife photography from all around the ship.

 

Heritage Adventurer

Inclusions

  • Photography tuition throughout the expedition with Michael Snedic.
  • One night accommodation (with breakfast) in Hobart.
  • Shipboard accommodation.
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners onboard.
 Coffee, tea, cocoa available around the clock.
  • All zodiac and land excursions.
  • Pre- and post-departure materials.

Exclusions

  • Airfares and other travel expenses to/from Hobart
  • Meals in Hobart (other than as above).
  • Personal/travel insurance coverage.
 Heritage will discuss with you the required insurance coverage (due to the remoteness of our destination).
  • Onboard bar, laundry, and telecommunications charges. Internet access is not available onboard.

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_14_2023

Prices

The trip is being put together with our partners at Heritage Expeditions in Christchurch, and they take care of the bookings and travel arrangements for us, while Michael runs the photography program.

There are a variety of cabin classes. As usual with these ships your choice of berth/cabin type directly impacts the price of your ticket.

Main Deck Triple AU$16 895 pp
Superior Triple AU$17 745 pp
Superior Deck 4 AU$20 250 pp
Superior Deck 5 AU$21 075 pp
Main deck Single AU$24 095 pp
Superior Single AU$24 750 pp
Worsley Suite AU$25 795 pp
Heritage Suite: AU$36 500 pp

A 25% deposit is required to secure your place.

NB: PRICE INCLUDES PHOTOGRAPHY TUITION FEE BY MICHAEL SNEDIC, WHICH WILL BE INVOICED SEPARATELY

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_4_2023

How to book

To reserve your place or just to ask more questions about this photo expedition, please contact Michael either via his Contact Form or by calling +61 408 941 965.

 

Subantarctic_photo_workshop_09_2023

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