Gareth Morgan is a strong climate change campaigner and author of a book on the subject, so a bit of creative dreaming arrived at a strong metaphorical image to capture the man’s character and one of his important messages.
This was my 17th trip to Antarctica. I drive boats and lecture, as a break from professional photography. So, we took a boat on Xmas day, out into flat water behind Plenneau Island, borrowed a face mask and snorkel, and dropped Gareth off on the best piece of ice we could find to represent the melting ice of climate change. The casual holding of the face mask and snorkel in normal business attire was designed to represent the foolish notion that many people carry, vis, that we have a ‘plan B’ somewhere for climate change. Plan B isn’t an option - just as a facemask isn’t here.
I’m proud of the result - strong metaphorical frame that captures Gareth Morgan in a striking way - no trickery, no post production work - simple. BUT check out the pile of comments on Gareth Morgan’s facebook page. It’s galling when some people, from the comfort of their home, suggest a great photo must be ’photo-shopped’. *Cough* - THAT photo is the combination of skills learnt over a long time as a professional photographer, planning, a good creative process, and qualifications and experience operating boats on over 20 polar expeditions! Everyone is a cynic, a critic, or blimin both…
Rob Suisted polar guiding and boat driving
Anyway, here’s the NZ Geographic Magazine article the image was used in: Out in the Cold. And Gareth was a bloody good sort, keenly signing up to the idea, and willingly being marooned on a small ice floe while we (I and his family) drifted off without him, in the frozen middle of nowhere. Shot with a Pentax 645Z and DFA25mm lens.
“You should come on the May autumn muster to Lake McRae.” said Jim Ward, Manager of Molesworth high country Station.
What an invitation; for those that know Molesworth Station you’ll understand the significance of such an invite! For those that know Lake McRae (see map at bottom), many will regard this as a holy land of sorts. To join in on the annual cattle muster to push 400 cattle over the Inland Kaikoura Ranges to their traditional winter pastures is epic. Not only is it regarded as one of the highest cattle musters in the world (at over 1400m/4700ft), but it’s also one of the most remote seldom visited spots in New Zealand. With three stockmen & horses involved, and small backcountry hut, it’s also a very few lucky folks that have ever participated in this 100 year tradition. More folks have climbed Everest than been here. This is not a commercial trip, but a unique rare opportunity to join the stockmen on part of their annual work programme in the high country.
For the last 18 months I’ve been working on a book about this historic high country station with Harry Broad. Lance McCaskill wrote a seminal book about the first 50 years of Molesworth history. We’re bringing the history of this fascinating iconic high country run up to date. It’s New Zealand’s largest farm at 500,000 acres and sits nestled amongst mountain ranges between Blenheim, Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura.
Back at my office in Wellington, Nina, my Business Manager, was excited. She’d grown up with horses and rode professionally back in Sweden. On weekends she trains riders and horses. You will be fine, I’ll teach you she said.
Learning: my horse riding crash course on Red. Photo & teaching by Nina Tötterman
So started a wonderful bi weekly programme designed to advance me from newbie to competent horse rider in less than a month, but most importantly to toughen up my softer spots. Each Tuesday and Thursday we shut the office at noon, headed for Wainuiomata and climbed on horses. My third lesson as cantering bareback. They pushed me hard to learn on the crash course but I’m very grateful now. Luckily I apparently picked things up fast, learning I think more about animal behaviour and psychology than staying on Red, Ray, or Teddy, the three boys I learnt to ride on. Bruce and Kelly’s property in Wainuiomata had a great variety of steep hills and trails to explore between flat work. Things started to arch and hurt in places you’d normally only see with a mirror; apparently a sign you’re doing it right. Weird that.
Nina, my Bus. Mgr & horse whisperer controlling an over excited high performance F1 hot blooded 'Shaka'
One Sunday night the phone went; it’s Jim. “Can you get down tomorrow? We’re bringing it forward due to weather”. I hurriedly finished my GST tax return, a quick pack and assemblage of equipment and I was on the ferry heading for the South Island.
I arrived late evening, got a bit of gear organised, hit the hay around midnight, to be up a 4.30am for breakfast with Jim & Tracey and the three stockmen that I’d be riding with for the next 3 days, Andy McLachlan, Cory Hollister and Tom O’Sullivan. Nine months before I’d met these guys on their first week on Station as they learnt horse shoeing from visiting farriers so they could look after their horses in the remote out stations through the year (a skill we’d rely on later…
So the buggers put me on the cover, freezing my bits off. I can’t be too upset, testing a new outer shell garment for Swazi Apparel can lead to trouble when you push the limits, but you’re going to get an experience out of it too. Here’s the shot, a quick story behind a beaut experience.
Freezing my proverbials off, Mt Taranaki winter
I set off with Bia Boucinhas (a Brasilian friend training as a mountain/Antarctic guide in NZ) to climb Mount Taranaki and get some winter photos. Davey Hughes of Swazi had stuffed a newly designed goretex lightweight ‘Narwhal’ anorak into my hand and told me to test it the day before. Of course I’d said. Little did I know what a testing it, and we, were going to get. The day had been fine as we set off to climb to Syme Hut on Fanthams Peak for the night, before climbing Mt Taranaki the following day. As is often the case here, the weather changes very fast despite the best weather forecasting, and sure enough we were pushing through cloud and wind by the half way mark.
Approaching the summit of Fatham’s Peak we were hit by hurricane strength winds and a freezing southerly which made it very hard to stand up. Visibility dropped to 3 metres making it very hard to find the white ice covered hut in a total white out where visibility was 2-3 metres. Things were getting serious at this point as our core body temperatures were plummeting fast in the… > > > Continue reading : full post + comments > > >
Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry had the classic ‘encounter’ with a frustrated male Kakapo bird which has since become gold on YouTube. 1.7 million views last count (see video below).
I came across old photos of my own encounter with a friskly Kakapo recently. The famous person around at the time was Don Merton (famous enough), but unfortunately there was no video camera. Fame and glory were not to be this time, so you’ll have to make do with this image:
Rob Suisted being Kakapo’d by an over enthusiatic ‘Trevor’ on Maud Island. Photo by Don Merton. Kakapo are one of the rarest birds on earth (123 birds), the heaviest parrot, the only nocturnal one, and a Lek breeder.
Remarkable experiences. Conflicting demands. How to make the most of them & life?
I’m lucky in my life, and work, to see and experience some remarkable things. The trick is not to take this for granted. It’s easier said than done when the object of the experience usually must be shot with camera. There are fundamentally opposing demands here and I want to explain a solution I’ve found to this problem….
I’m doing a lot of commercial helicopter photo work at the moment, mainly for Tourism New Zealand. I want to take you along behind the scenes in Fiordland New Zealand, on a job I just got home from. Spectacular! Things don’t go as forecast so it’s an interesting day with some interesting sights and some interesting blokes. You have to watch this:
The day started in a run of perfect weather, but mysteriously a thick layer of fog/cloud filled Fiordland making filming tough for myself (stills photog) and the HD Cineflex video helicopter team to operate. What happens next?
I’d like to wish you all a very happy festive holiday and the best for the New Year.
It’s been a tough year for some. Let’s hope 2010 is a great year for all.
I’d really like thank the people I’ve worked with and for this year. We’ve done some great things and this year has been a beaut.
I was lucky enough to visit Santa’s homeland this year. I’m standing beside his postbox. Seriously, this is where all letters go that are addressed to Santa in Greenland.
In Greenland, I also managed to visit a spectacularly scenic little town called Uummannaq on the west coast of Greenland, and walked overland to a remote bay where Santa has his summer house, a little sod hut maintained by the locals. Be assured that I put in a good word for you all, and if you’re of the Christmas persuasion, you’ll be blessed with the season’s best.
It gives me the willies when we have icebergs turn up around the New Zealand coastline and tourism operators go wild. Silly stuff happens and I’m worried someone’s going slip up without good knowledge. I’m always up for a laugh, but from experience people don’t know what they’re playing with. The worst will happen sometime, it’s an odds game and there’s no warning before things get serious. Icebergs seem beautiful and benign, but so did the mythical Sirens of Sirenum scopuli luring mariners with their song. Check this out….
Why do I worry? I’ve had a load of experience showing people icebergs and I’ve learnt and seen a few things that would make the hair on your neck stand up. I’ve had over a dozen trips and over 6 months of taking people to see icebergs in Antarctic and the Arctic and I’ve seen and photographed some unexpected things from the close up of the zodiac boats I drive around them. We’re trained to read them and work with respect.
Major misconception: Icebergs don’t melt away - they die, often violently. Bits break off, the balance changes, and they start rolling. When they roll, more bits break off and a chain reaction starts that can ultimately break a big berg into many small bits very quickly. The forces are unbelievable. Check out this photo I took in cold water off Antarctica of a ‘new’ iceberg (not a rotten weathered berg off NZ in warm water) collapsing without notice.
It’s taken a while to post, but here it is, an exciting short trip to ride a motorcycle in Southern Indian at short notice. Here’s a copy of a dispatch to friends: Change of life circumstances, an opportunity, brother in India, tickets booked Wednesday, Mumbai by Saturday, Classic Royal Enfield Bullet motorbike rented illegally from Policeman by lunchtime, an adventure unfolds….
A mass email for those interested to know more…
Thought I had better file something from India before departing. Things have been so full on the classic Royal Enfield Bullet 350cc motorcycle Suisted tour, and not really near touristy type places that getting to an internet connection has been a bit hard.
So, in the nutshell, joined brother Phil and Nicki in Panaji Goa about 8 days ago. Served a whirlwind apprenticeship under Phil, learning the ropes on communicating (yes you might be speaking with an english speaker, but our logic is worlds apart - once you’ve confused them you’re stuck), wheeling and dealing, route finding (read communication), food, chai, riding a motorbike that is doubly back to front - gear lever on opposite foot, and change direction reversed - if you emergency brake like in NZ you only succeed in changing up a gear!).
Phil and Nicki really impressed me at how quickly they’ve learned, and esp. Phil dubbing Nicki as he hasn’t done many miles on a motorbike - let alone dubbing (not to mention the nerves of steel and trust that Nicki has sitting on the back watching the traffic and potholes unfold) . With that done, we set off into the maelstrom of traffic on my 350 bullet ( it dones 80KM flat out - basic design unchanged since 1940s). Road rules don’t really exist, the basic factor is might is right, and motorbikes are bottom feeders. You need to treat the centre line as fully moveable and stay 100% awake, and use horn all the time on traffic you come up on (and cows and dogs). Trucks will pass trucks on blind corners - it’s your job to expect this and be ready to run off the road for them…
Overtake the bus on the right side, the tuk-tuk on the wrong side, through the roadworks, over the bridge. Catch the bus overtaking the truck on the blind corner - Situation Normal!
I’ve just been interviewed by Graeme Hill on RadioLive for EnviroNews, about my new book Majestic New Zealand, recent adventures, life and a bit of philosphy. Click here if you missed it live and would like a listen.
Update 22 Jan 2010: We now have signed copies of Majestic New Zealand available for supporters. If you’d like to consider a copy, have a look here.
Teamed up with Editor of NZ Geographic Magazine, James Frankham, to do a feature on nocturnal Mana Island. Photography of wildlife can be tough, but doing it alone, in the dark, fitting between southerly cold fronts and short timeframes makes it all the sweeter for me when it comes off. I enjoyed this one, and working with James in a can-do style.
The story is contained in the 100th issue of NZ Geographic Magazine (a great milestone for James and the team). How about getting a copy as it’s a beaut read - in fact it’s so good I can’t think of a reason not to. Better still I think you should subscribe). Here are a few of the frames selected for publication and a bit of info behind them. I wanted to show rarely seen wildlife living on this special island, but contextually it’s so close to our capital city (hence I wanted the light pollution illuminating the skies beyond). The shot above was taken after sitting motionless in the dark for 2 hours in camouflage clothing waiting for the diving petrels to return to their burrows after dark. I was ready to leave when a lone bird landed nearby amongst the flowering native ice plant - what a stroke of luck. It sat there preening while I careffully took it’s portrait. Above is one of the island’s geckos. At night they all come out hunting insects and …. > > > Continue reading : full post + comments > > >
I got some good photos, realised it was different and contacted the weta experts. No one has seen anything like this. There’s a chance it’s a juvenile Cook Strait Giant Weta with odd markings, but then there’s also a chance it’s a whole new species. Very exciting…colouration and some body features are very different.
So today I’m heading back to Mana Island for the night with 4 weta experts. We want to see if we can catch the insect again so they can determine how significant the find is! Back Monday evening.
Update 26 Oct 2009: Well, we found the spot I originally spotted the unknown weta (shown above), but strong winds conspired to make the search tough. We’ve marked and will be monitoring it for future developments.
We did have a top night though, finding a couple of Gold-striped Geckos (Hoplodactylus chrysosireticus) and a beautiful pair of Cook Strait Giant Weta (Deinacrida rugosa), some of the heaviest insects in the world - real whoppers! I’ll post a few photos of these shortly. Also, we saw the first nests of the very endangered New Zealand Shore Plover (Thinornis novaeseelandiae) on the beach. In fact, this morning I was enjoying a cup of tea sitting in the sunshine on the beach and a pair of rare plover came over and bedded down not far from my feet - how lucky is that! So, not successful this trip in finding the unknown weta, but great to see all these rare creatures.
Update 29 Oct 2009: I’ve just added a video of the Giant Cook Strait Wetas as they make great video actors! Check this out:
Chase Jarvis Studio Party, Seattle. Sept 2009. Chase Jarvis is a legend in commercial photography and social network marketing, and I just had the chance to meet him with a beer in hand.
It’s not surprising then that Chase throws a Seattle street party with three bands (some you’ll know), feeds and waters the hundreds of guests in his studio and street outside, all the while trying to keep the party secret from the thousands of fans that follow him.
I was travelling back from the Arctic to NZ, staying with friends, Angela Nelson and Andrew van Leeuwen, in the coffee city by chance when I was given an invite. Some said it was to be the party of the year and Chase didn’t disappoint.
It was a great balmy late summer evening with the city lights of Seattle glowing behind. Partly because of the Wellington developed
42 Below Vodka that lined the racks, a lot due to the band “The Presidents of the United States of America” with their energetic display, and mostly to the open social style of Chase Jarvis, we all had a top night.
Chase and his wife Kate had just flown in from a film shoot in New Zealand, and it was great to talk about his love for our place. A carefully managed social networking strategy using twitter, facebook, youtube and blogging etc has seen him gain a worldwide following. Check out his work, both with the camera and his blog - very inspiring.
Andrew van Leeuwen, Angela Nelson, Alex Hillinger, Chase Jarvis, Rob Suisted.
Chase Jarvis Studio and Street packed with happy people
The Presidents of the United States of America in full swing, with Seattle behind.
For two months I'm working as lecturer and naturalist on an expedition ship heading to Svalbard (bet you don't know where that is), Greenland, Iceland and the Canadian Arctic. I'm blogging, and also carrying a satellite beacon that gives my real time location. So, add us to your favs, sign on for the RSS feed, or follow me on twitter and I'll do my best to take you along for the trip.
LATEST UPDATE:8 September 2009 - Greenland & Canada.
We got to Nuuk, the captial of Greenland. Of course Santa Claus is a tourist thing here, with his 'headquarters' in the tourist office. The national museum was worth the visit. On display are 4 of the famous perfectly preserved Greenland Qilakitsoq Mummies from around 1475AD. Several days later we were to visit Qilakitsoq, the actual burial site, just across from Uummannaq town. Uummannaq is very scenic, and the recent wind had choked the harbour with large icebergs enhanced the view. Lunch was served with a collection of local foods - esp. fin whale meat and much dried fish at the local hotel. Afterwards we hiked over the island for an hour to a back bay where Santa Claus has his summer house. He wasn't in when we arrived , but Christian one of our team (with authentic white beard) was on hand to pass out sweeties! The traditional turf house was furnished with his belongings. And yes Janette (my able bodied Business Manager), I did leave a note for you saying you'd been good.
Ilulissat - now that's a spectacular place in Disko Bay. Jacobshaven Glacier has the highest output of water (ice) in the northern hemisphere. It's calving more ice in one day than New York uses in water in one year apparently. The huge bergs take 2 years to travel down the fiord and out past the town. It is truly impressive, and little wonder why this is the heart of Greenland tourism, and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It produces very tall bergs as they roll around in the fiord, and these litter Disko Bay and the surrounding Davis Strait. We had 2 days there, seeing a fantastic sunset on departure, humpback whales amongst the bergs and generally just staring in awe from the various hiking tracks at the scale of things.
Next was the Davis Strait passage across to Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. We spotted a hundred or so Pilot whales, but within sight of our first landfall, a tiny lonely piece of ice floated past with 2 polar bears eating a seal, 20NM from land. Welcome to Canada! We called at Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. Had a look in the Government's Legislative Chamber which was festooned with indigenous icons, art, narwhal tusks and meaning. I enjoyed seeing this, and the strong connection still with nature, the environment and the strengthening culture.
Then across to Lower Savage Islands to drive zodiacs amongst them looking for Polar bears. The first bear literally popped up in rocks about 30 metres from the Zodiac I was driving. Fantastic! Sadly, in Canada, (unlike Svalbard) Polar bears are hunted, have a great fear of humans, and generally high tail it quickly. But, we saw another 11 polar bears before heading to Resolution Island and spotting another two. 13 polar bears in one day and the Aurora borealis (Northern Lights) playing overhead to end with - what a day!!
Then a visit to Lady Franklin and Monumental Islands (both names connected to the famous missing Franklin Expedition in the North West Passage). Had another few polar bear sightings before the largest one I have ever seen decided to lie and/or prance on a rock very close to the coastline with very little concern (wee below right). This was a highlight. A visit to Akpatok Island was curtailed due to high winds, but I spotted a lonely bear walking the cliff top about 800 feet above us.
This morning we called into Hopedale, a tiny mostly Inuit town of 600 in Labrador. A beaut setting and historic place with Moravian church and Mission arriving from Germany in 1782 and being possibly the oldest building in east Canada. The local kids were out in force and we spent the morning giving them joyrides in the zodiacs around the ship. We were the first outside ship to call here this year and the smiles on their faces said it all. The kids certainly made the visit enjoyable for all of us.
Leaving Ilulissat IceFjord, Greenland, at dusk!
Very large Polar Bear on Monumental Island, Canadian Arctic
Polar Bear mother and cub on Lady Franklin Island, Canadian Arctic.
Aurora borealis, Northern Lights, Greenland
Humpback whales amongst ice
Iceberg near Uummannaq, Disko
Santa's summer house, Uummannaq,
Rob at Ilulissat, Greenland
Nunavut legislative chamber, Canada
Long finned Pilot whales at sea
Lady Franklin Island, Canadian Arctic
The Google Map below is a rough overall view of the trip. Zoom in and move the map around.
‘We’d like you to mentor a ‘Young Gun’ photographer’ was James Frankham’s request from New Zealand Geographic Magazine. The ‘Young Gun’ was Spiderman Bryce - a keen young chap from Hamilton who has a penchant for bugs, especially big spiders. Bryce was super keen, and while spiders are not one of my fav critters, I’m always up for an interesting challenge, giving back to a good cause and something different.
Cook Strait Giant Weta female climbing onto Bryce's hand (Deinacrida rugosa, Stenopelmatidae). Endemic endangered New Zealand insect. Wetapunga. Island gigantism
NZ Geo magazine have just started a programme where they pair promising photographers with seasoned pros (not sure what my seasoning is yet though). We chose to take Bryce to Mana Island, a Scientific Reserve that is an island sanctuary for some of New Zealand’s rarest animals and plants. Currently Mana is being restored to a pest free island status, which means that the lack of introduced predators gives the local fauna a chance to recover - especially the giant weta and lizards. Kindly supported by the Department of Conservation (DOC), we were collected in the DOC boat and whisked across to Mana Island from Paremata.
Party trick. A common Gecko licking its eyeball while hanging off branch hunting at night (Hoplodactylus maculatus, Gekkonidae)
The trip was fantastic. Lost about 5kgs/12lbs from sweat and toil…would have been more if the weather hadn’t done its best to muck us up. So, what was the trip all about? Once a year a ballot is run to allow folks to chase Wapiti deer in a remote part of Fiordland. We happened to get lucky in the very popular ballot, so set off into this seldom visited part of New Zealand, seeking in the least to get some great photos.
A unique part of the trip was that I carried a new SPOT personal satellite tracker unit that allowed people to follow us in real time on google earth, as well as an emergency backup with our mountain radio set. We had quite a following after our original post. So, here’s the write up about the trip…..
Below you’ll find the final annotated GOOGLEMAP of our trip you can play with, filled with our satellite transmissions and photos of the locations. Waypoints are numbered so you can figure which way we went (#1-266). Click on the camera icon’s for photos and further info. Zoom the map below in to see everything and more photos (use ‘+’ or ‘-’ on top left), and drag map around with your cursor…..
I suspect Rob knows that I am a bit of a townie!! Before he left for his latest adventure he handed me the transcript of the diary of Mr A Sutherland, well known in hunting circles for his “early exploratory trips and hunting of the Wapiti herds of the Fiordland area” in the earlier part of the 20th century.
Alpine Tarn above the Glaisnock River Valley
Reading this definately gave me a greater insight into the harsh terrain Rob is currently transversing!
QUICKIE UPDATE: 14 April 2009: Well, after some very bad weather (5 days straight stuck in the tent with hail, early snows, storm force winds and thunder/lightning - and no book!) we had to pull the pin on heading over Edith Saddle to Lake Te Anau. Instead, choosing to make our way back to the put in point and fly out 2 days early. Top trip though and we saw some pretty tough country and got some great shots and experiences. 14 days worth of food and equipment meant 31+kg (70 pounds) packs on backs pushing through untracked country - loosing a bit of girth and finding a muscles I’d forgotten about in the process. The live tracking tracks are disappearing now (last 7 days display only), so I’ll post some shots and the full trail in a few days time when I get better sorted. Love the comments you all left - many thanks. Regards, Rob. NOTE: You can now read the trip write up in this new post
Remote wilderness Fiordland. I’m taking camera and equipment for two weeks unsupported tramping and hunting through some of Fiordland’s toughest terrain, some of the wettest and most rugged land about, and you’ll be able to track the expedition in real time.
Fiordland Wilderness Travel, Glaisnock tops
The plan is to find trophy Wapiti bulls (incorrectly called Elk to those from North America ;-)) to photograph during the breeding season. Evan Mardell from Wellington will be the other person in the party. I’ll have a new system with me that you can track the last 7 days of my movement via satellite beacon….. > > > Continue reading : full post + comments > > >
As you can see we have joined the world of blogging, and we hope you will enjoy reading our posts. Not only will be be showcasing some of our favorite images, we will share with you some exceptional examples of how Rob’s images are used by clients.