Meet the photographers of NZ Birds Online #4

Adult white-bellied sea eagle in flight, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia, April 2007. Photographer: Sonja Ross © Sonja Ross, courtesy NZ Birds Online.

Adult white-bellied sea eagle in flight, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia, April 2007. Photographer: Sonja Ross © Sonja Ross, courtesy NZ Birds Online.

Packed full of stunning pictures, detailed information and beautiful bird calls, NZ Birds Online is an online encyclopaedia of birds created in collaboration between Te PapaDOC and OSNZ.

We’re indebted to the photographers who’ve shared their images with us – and now the world! Sonja Ross is the next intrepid birder in our Meet the photographers series. Hailing from across the ditch, we’re grateful to Sonja for sharing her photos.

How did you get involved in the NZ Birds Online project?

I found out about NZ Birds Online  when Colin put a request for images on an Australian bird photography forum I belong to – Feathers and Photos. I thought what a great resource it would be, perhaps particularly for visitors who didn’t want the weight of a field guide in their luggage, but also as a way of encouraging knowledge about your birds for anyone who wanted to find out something about a bird they’d seen.

What image (or images) are you most proud of on NZ Birds Online?

Light-mantled sooty albatross in synchronised courtship flight. Macquarie Island, October 2011. Photographer: Sonja Ross © Sonja Ross, courtesy NZ Birds Online

Light-mantled sooty albatross in synchronised courtship flight. Macquarie Island, October 2011. Photographer: Sonja Ross © Sonja Ross, courtesy NZ Birds Online

I’m probably most proud of the photo of light-mantled sooty albatross in a synchronised courtship flight as I was partway up a fairly steep set of steps when they appeared unexpectedly and I managed to get the lens up and focused on them, even if not quite as soon as I’d have liked, but it was one of the things I’d most hoped to see on that trip to your sub-Antarctic Islands and Macquarie Island.

What’s your favourite bird species to photograph?

Adult yellow-eyed penguin calling, October 2011. Photographer: Sonja Ross © Sonja Ross, courtesy NZ Birds Online.

Adult yellow-eyed penguin calling, October 2011. Photographer: Sonja Ross © Sonja Ross, courtesy NZ Birds Online.

I think great egrets (white herons in New Zealand) in breeding plumage would be a favourite bird to photograph as they are so beautiful and delicate-looking in good light, but any sort of penguins are usually fun to photograph too, as they have character and are usually interactive with other penguins!

Do you have any tips for aspiring wildlife photographers?

My best tip is be patient!  It takes time usually to get special photos, although you can be lucky, so you need to concentrate and be ready to seize opportunities if they occur!  Good light makes a huge difference too usually, although adverse conditions can make for interesting and different results.

What camera equipment do you use?

Adult sulphur-crested cockatoo feeding,  Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, January 2012 Photographer: Sonja Ross © Sonja Ross, courtesy NZ Birds Online.

Adult sulphur-crested cockatoo feeding, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, January 2012 Photographer: Sonja Ross © Sonja Ross, courtesy NZ Birds Online.

I use Canon cameras, currently a 5D, usually with a 300mm lens when I’m walking or on a pelagic, and a 500mm when I’m driving around an area like the Western Treatment Plant at Werribee in Victoria, Australia, where most photography is done using a car as a hide.

Thanks for taking part Sonja! You can visit Feathers and Photos to see more of Sonja’s photos – including those species that are endemic to Australia.

Check Te Papa’s blog in the new year for our next instalment of Meet the photographers.

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