We planned and booked a tour around the coast to see the seals just before Christmas, we were to take a visiting family member with us. Things turned out a little differently but my husband and the other family member insisted that I still take the tour even if they were unable to join me. So I called up a couple of fellow photogs and off we went. December 23rd in Wellington was raining, very low cloud and generally a very miserable morning. The tour guide offered to take us out later in the day but we are tough and determined so we went regardless.

As we headed over the top of the hill in the four wheel drive vehicle, our driver told us of the views we were missing, but we didn’t care. We asked him to stop several times to get images of fence posts in the mist, and each other (as you do), and enjoyed every minute of the misty clouds. We are photographers who look for beauty in everything, including misty mornings. We slowly educated our driver about how we look at the world differently and by the time we got to the beach he was talking about getting his camera out.

We made a short stop to see the deer on the way down to the beach. There were a range of different aged animals in the paddock, including a couple of new born fawns that we didn’t get to see as they were hiding way up on the hill. The teenagers and dad were more than happy to come down and say hi. Truth be known that they were actually expecting us to feed them but of course that would bring them too close to the fence for us to photograph they, so they were left disappointed.

As we reached the beach, it became obvious that the rain had not reached the beach and the cloud lifted about the same time. The weather there was so different! Our tour guide told us of some oyster catcher chicks he had seen the previous day and we got all excited. “Can we stop for those please?” He commented after we had been sitting in our hide (the 4×4) taking photographs of the birds for a while that he was really enjoying watching them, because usually people just take one shot then want to move on. We were in our happy place… seals? what seals?

Next we were told about the banded dotterels that were nesting further around the bay. Our driver had seen chicks with them the previous day also. This tour was was getting very interesting and we spend a good deal of time playing “where’s wally” with the dotterel chicks from our ‘hide’. It was bout this time that I realised that I had not checked my camera settings. So many of my images were very noisy and required a bit of noise reduction to be able to present them here. Note to self – ALWAYS check your settings prior to clicking the shutter for the first time!

There was no mistaking that these were banded dotterels, the male’s markings were very clear and he was proudly displaying them for us. However we didn’t see any of the usual flapping and distressed calling when humans are in their space, they were totally used to the four wheel drive vehicle being there and it made the perfect hide for us. It was great to see the birds so relaxed in their environment.

We also had a great view of the leaning lighthouse from the dotterel stop. We were still a few minutes away from the seal – yep the seals that we had come to see but almost run out of time for!

All the while the weather was clearing further, the sun was coming out and it was turning into a really nice day. The seals were basking in the sun on the rocks and showed very little interest in our being there. There were a couple of exceptions, and they posed beautifully for us. Clearly they had modeled before, because each time the shutter clicked they would move to a different position. We were served a cup of tea and muffins while we spent time with the seals, then it was time to head back. Our stops with the birds had shortened our time with the seals, but we were more than happy with that.

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