Welcome to International Bird Rescue’s inaugural edition of Photographers in Focus, our tribute to the wildlife photographers who further inspire our passion for bird rehabilitation.
Robyn Carter first caught our attention on the web a few months ago for her almost portrait-like shots of a kingfisher and a rehabilitated New Zealand gannet — equally striking in color and in black-and-white.
A resident of Marlborough, New Zealand, Carter has wide-ranging interests in wildlife photography — anything from a possum to a South Island weka. She exhibits a tremendous love of nature and animal diversity; that she is hearing impaired may help explain such sensitivity. “I am profoundly deaf, but have a cochlear implant,” she writes. “I use my eyes to hear (lipread), and have no doubt that because of my increased reliance of vision to ‘hear’, that this allows me to see what others often miss.”
We recently caught up with Carter to learn some behind-the-scenes details on her fantastic shots.
Board of Directors
International Bird Rescue
1) How did you get into wildlife photography?
Accidentally really. My first camera was a Canon EOS 500 film, and I just happened to take a really good photo of a NZ fantail. It got so much admiration from all and sundry that from then on my love was wildlife. Not being able to travel very much, a lot of it is at wildlife parks and zoos, and animal rescue centres.
Australasian Gannet - Robyn Carter
2) Your photo of the gannet is simply amazing. Where did you shoot it?
The Gannet was actually rescued off a boat the morning I visited the Bird Lady of Auckland. Sylvia Durrant devotes her time and energy to rescuing and rehabilitating birds. I was up there taking photos of various baby birds when she suddenly flings open a box, grabs this huge gannet out, wrests its beak open and says to me “here – grab that fish and stick it down its throat!” So camera got put down, huge fish in hand, and shoved down bird’s throat. Not a usual morning for me in any shape or form!! I then picked up my camera fishy hands and all, and took 3 photos of the bird before the lid went back down again. This was the only one that turned out!
3) What camera do you use?
Kingfisher - Robyn Carter
I use the Canon 7D which I’ve now had for a year. I chose this for the 1.6 cropping factor (gets me closer to wildlife), and for its fast shutter speed so I can try and get birds in flight. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck yet with the birds in flight but I keep trying!
4) What’s the most challenging aspect of what you do?
I like to take photos with minimalistic yet natural backgrounds so the focus of the wildlife is the main attraction, and not competing with anything else. This is actually quite difficult to do because nature is so complex and in the wild, an animal or a bird is not often totally in the open. Even in wildlife parks or zoos, there are often cages that distract, or man made things in the way. Getting them close up and in focus is also challenging as most wildlife tends to move about, and you can’t direct them to where you would like them to be! You just have to bide your time and be as patient as possible!
Black Swan at Lake Rotoiti - Robyn Carter
5) Why birds?
I was born with a hearing loss and later lost all my hearing. For a long, long time I couldn’t even hear a bird at all. I was given a cochlear implant about 15 year ago, and the sound of birdsong just thrilled me. I then became interested in being able to recognise each song and bird, and it seemed to just go along with my photography. I love their colour and shape, and the challenge of bird photography because they’re often not easy subjects, being flighty, fast and generally not very obliging at the best of times! But every now and then all the elements line up perfectly and you can achieve the wow factor.
If you would like to be considered as a featured photographer, or would like to recommend a photographer for this monthly feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.