Make love, sorry PHOTOS, not WAR

November 5th, 2009 § 2 comments - add yours

Check this out. Latest specialist camera build for an interesting job I have coming up. Want one?
 

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A new Weta species for NZ? Going back to find today…video added*

October 25th, 2009 § 0 comments, Add the 1st

Two weeks ago I was on Mana Island (a special Island sanctuary for rare NZ creatures) on a wildlife photo shoot for New Zealand Geographic Magazine (here’s a small sneak preview)  for their 100th issue (congratulations to James and the team!) and while out filming past midnight I spotted a very unusual weta species.Weta Discovery Mana Island, Rob Suisted

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:

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Rob’s Arctic adventure 2009 updates

July 11th, 2009 § 20 comments - add yours

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
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.
Very large Polar Bear on Monumental Island, Canadian Arctic
Polar Bear mother and cub on Lady Franklin Island, Canadian Arctic.
Aurora borealis Northern Lights
Aurora borealis, Northern Lights, Greenland
Humpback whales amongst ice
Humpback whales amongst ice
Iceberg near Uummannaq, Greenland
Iceberg near Uummannaq, Disko
Bay, Greenland
Santa's summer house, Uummannaq, Greenland
Santa's summer house, Uummannaq,
Greenland
Rob at Ilulissat, Greenland
Rob at Ilulissat, Greenland
Nunavut legislative chamber, Canada
Nunavut legislative chamber, Canada
Long finned Pilot whales at sea
Long finned Pilot whales at sea
Lady Franklin Island, Canadian Arctic
Lady Franklin Island, Canadian Arctic

The Google Map below is a rough overall view of the trip. Zoom in and move the map around.

View Rob's Arctic 2009 trip in a larger map
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Speed and beauty, NZ falcon shoot up close

July 5th, 2009 § 16 comments - add yours

It was a privilege to work with the rare and little know native New Zealand Falcon this month… New Zealand Geographic Magazine were running a feature on the rare NZ falcon, but didn’t yet have the wow shot to sell the story, so asked if I’d have a crack at it. Knowing that these birds are amongst the fastest on earth, very cryptic, and not particularly large meant that a challenge lay ahead.  I love a tough assignment that pushes thinking beyond the norm; the satisfaction of success is very sweet.  Here is part of the result:

New Zealand Geographic Magazine Cover this month

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Watching the seasons ’round – summer to winter photos

June 22nd, 2009 § 2 comments - add yours

Had a challenging, but fun, photo job last week in Rotorua with the rare native New Zealand Falcon (really exciting photos coming very soon! Sneak peek below). While there I managed to shoot down twice to a great spot on the Waikato River where I’d shot during summer, as I thought comparision photos would be very interesting. I couldn’t wait to prepare them alongside each other, and share them with you. So, here they are – a nice little study of interest I think. Nice when a simpy idea comes off like that:

Waikato River, Summer season

Waikato River, Summer season

Waikato River, Winter season

Waikato River, Winter season


The last shot below was taken in -3 degree celsius frost. While it’s hard to see here, there was a tremendous hoar frost forming on the trees from the freezing fog along the river. Not as epic as our Central Otago hoar frosts, but always stunning to see. I’ll have a few waikato hoar frost shots up in my library in a few weeks….MORE…
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Very rare creepy-crawlies. Mentoring a young photog for NZ Geo Magazine

June 15th, 2009 § 13 comments - add yours

‘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

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.

Common Gecko licking eyeball while hanging off branch hunting at night (Hoplodactylus maculatus, Gekkonidae)

Party trick. A common Gecko licking its eyeball while hanging off branch hunting at night (Hoplodactylus maculatus, Gekkonidae)

We spent the day checking out Brown Teal, Kakarikiand other creatures (not to mention the volunteer creatures planting trees for DOC) on the before the rain arrived. Sue and Frank, the DOC Rangers on Mana, were very accommodating, pointing us in the right direction to find species and things of interest. Frank took us to a known spot to look for McGregor’s Skink, one of the rarest Skinks in the world. Our luck was in, finding several of these beautiful lizards as the rain set in proper….. MORE…
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