By Alison Ballance
"Some of my best bird photos have been taken in my back garden." David Hallett
After many years working as a staff photographer for The Press, Christchurch photographer David Hallett is now pursuing his passion for taking pictures of birds fulltime. He says his fascination with birds began in his teens, when he was into tramping and began seeing birds that he wasn't familiar with. To start with, the photos were a way of capturing images to bring back for identificaton, but over the years he became more interested in the form of birds, particularly in flight.
David says he is a photographer first and foremost, not an ornithologist, but he is quick to point out that taking good pictures of birds means understanding their biology and behaviour, so he does read a lot about the birds he is trying to photograph. His key messages for aspiring bird photographers include doing lots of research into the species you're trying to photograph, being familiar with the camera so that handling it is second nature, and being able to anticipate what is about to happen. "If you wait for something to happen and then try to photograph it you'll miss it" says David.
Daivd also says that it is not necessary to travel to remote locations to take good photos. He has taken some of his best photographs in his garden and neighbourhood. He says the advantage to doing that is being very familiar with the routine of local birds. For example, he knows that the fantails in his garden are very active for half an hour just after dawn, when there is a regular hatch of insects around some cabbage trees. He is working to photograph fantails flying and says it is one of the most challenging things he has done.
Alison Ballance joined David at Brighton's South Spit in Christchurch. This is a high tide roost for godwits and oystercatchers that feed in the Heathcote Avon Estuary, and is a spot that David visits regularly to get photos of these migratory shorebirds.
David's book 'Native Birds of New Zealand' is published by Sandfly Publishing.