Thursday, 7 February 2013

And so ...... welcome to 2013. I hope it's a great one for you!

As well as photographing and writing about nature, I teach photography through photo workshops, field trips [including whale & dolphin photography trips] and private tuition. I put out a newsletter at irregular intervals, a mix of photos, short articles, tips, quotes, links, thoughts, and details of upcoming workshops and tuition.

This newsletter goes out to many photographers in New Zealand and overseas - and to anybody who asks to go onto the mailing list. If you – or anybody you know - would like to be on the mailing list, please email me. It’s free and they can unsubscribe at any time, of course.


From the current newsletter:    UPCOMING WORKSHOPS

Through 2013, I will be running many photo workshops - plus sea photography trips and whale trips. These will be a mix of “tried and true” workshops plus several new ones. Here’s a list of what’s been scheduled between now and June. More details will be in the newsletters as we get closer. We also hope to have Paul Oellerman’s “Amazing Liquids” back, somewhere about May, and we plan to run a brand new workshop “The Night Sky”, probably in June.

16 February [Saturday] “Summer Beach Magic” – photography on the beach and rocky shore. Full day + assignment + follow-up. $295 [$245 EarlyBird]. Students $150. Price includes Viv’s yummy catering.

24 February [Sunday] “Photo Impressionism” – creating art in your camera and in post-production. Full day + assignment + follow-up. $295 [$245 EarlyBird]. Students $150. Price includes Viv’s yummy catering.

10 March [Sunday] “Sunrise & Sunset” – Full day + assignment + follow-up. $295 [$245 EarlyBird]. Students $150. Price includes Viv’s yummy catering.

16 March [Saturday] “Waterfalls & Forests” Full day + assignment + follow-up. $295 [$245 EarlyBird]. Students $150. Price includes Viv’s yummy catering.

31 March [Sunday] “Composition – making your photos sing” Full day + assignment + follow-up. $295 [$245 EarlyBird]. Students $150. Price includes Viv’s yummy catering. 



Saturday 16 February 9.00am – 5.00pm plus assignment and follow-up evening 2-3 weeks later for assignment evaluation [at a time that suits everyone]. The follow-up can be by email.

Aaaaaah, summer and the beach! I find the beach [and rocky shoreline] to be one of my greatest sources of photographic inspiration. Part of why the beach is such a favourite of mine - and of many other photographers – is how it’s always changing. The possibilities are essentially endless. And as we all know, the beach is a great place to go anyway - with or without a camera. This workshop will show you the equipment, techniques and approaches for getting great beach and rocky shore photos, including long exposure “silky seas”. Lots of tips and tricks.

Cost: Full course fee [which includes tuition, hand-outs, Vivienne’s yummy catering, assignment and follow-up] $295 - or $245 for Early Birds [if you register before 8 February]. Fulltime students $150

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Hi everybody
Interested in whale photography field trips in the Bay of Plenty? Read on ...

WHALE PHOTOGRAPHY TRIPS   October and November are whale months here in the Bay of Plenty. Over the last few Octobers we saw whales pretty much every time we went out: blue whales, pygmy blue whales, sei whales, Bryde’s whales, minke whales, and occasionally other species. This year I have organised two whale photography trips with expert whale finder [and good friend] Graeme Butler on board Gemini Galaxsea. Last year, the Rena wrecked our whale trip plans, but the two previous years had been exceptional.

Coming back from an overnight visit to Motiti Island in September 2009, we encountered both a Blue Whale and a Pygmy Blue Whale [a subspecies of blue whale that “only” grows to 24 metres in length – compared to Blue Whales which reach 33.6 metres]. The highlight for me was photographing a full-sized Blue Whale rising out of the sunset-lit sea, with The Mount in the background a mere 5-6 miles away. This was truly amazing – the Blue Whale is the largest animal ever to have lived on Planet Earth, considerably bigger than every known dinosaur. And here was one feeding - with the buildings of Mount Maunganui in the background.

The following year was even more amazing. Every time Graeme went out in October 2010 he saw whales, often Blue Whales. Graeme and I organized a special “Whale Photography” trip, and some of you now have life-long memories of close encounters with a mother Blue Whale and her calf, a third Blue Whale, and a pair of Bryde’s Whales. Not to forget the largest numbers of shearwaters and storm petrels I’ve ever seen in one place – all feeding on the dense krill schools that turned the sea a dark brown, almost black. This year I’ve organized two “Whale Photography Trips”, one on Sunday 14 October, the other on Saturday 3 November, and am ready to organize a few short-notice trips. 
I’m compiling a “Short notice list for whale trips” of people I can contact at short notice if Butler is seeing whales and the weather forecast looks good. If you want to be on this list, please email me 
These trips will leave Tauranga Bridge Marina at 8.30 am, and come back late afternoon. The day will be spent on board Graeme Butler’s 18 metre motor ketch, “Gemini Galaxsea”, a stable comfortable photographic platform.  Can we guarantee that you will see whales? I’m afraid not, nature’s not predictable like that, but the Bay of Plenty in October is the right place and time, and Butler and Stuart Rendall [his business partner] are better at finding whales than anyone else. Looking back through Butler’s log book, the last year Butler was out at sea during October [2010] he saw whales every single trip.

The October-November whale-hunting trips are “no-frills” – for $135 you get a full day at sea looking for [and hopefully photographing] whales and whatever else the day brings: typically dolphins, seals, albatrosses, other seabirds, and penguins - but without the fresh coffee and muffins and sea photography tuition/hand-out of our traditional “Cap’n Butler/Dr Kim Sea Photography Trips” – but don’t worry, we’ll run more of these next year. If interested, contact Mary Butler at freephone 0508-BUTLER or 07-578-3197 or Email   Website:
Sunday 14 October - $135. 
Saturday 3 November - $135
Other October-November whale-hunting trips - $135, dates to be announced at short notice.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Hi everybody - there's a great nature photography tuition weekend coming if you live within driving [or flying] distance of Tauranga on the shores of the beautiful Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. Read on ...

 Kim Westerskov
6-7 October 2012
[the last Nature Photography Weekend for 2012]

This is Numero Uno, the biggest workshop I run: a full weekend of workshops and field trips, followed by an assignment and an evaluation evening about 3 weeks later at a time that suits everyone.

Part 1: Saturday and Sunday 6-7 October, 9.00 am - 5.00 pm. Both days will be based at Kim’s studio but we’ll also take some time to head out into the field [to a local park, wetland, or shoreline] in the afternoons. The main theme is CREATING GREAT NATURE PHOTOGRAPHS. A mix of modules with summary hand-outs, live demonstrations, screen-projected images, and questions answered.
Topics include:
  • The equipment, techniques and approaches needed for getting great nature photos
  • Photos that win competitions
  • Landscapes and seascapes
  • Wildlife photography [including birds]
  • Composition – the rules, and when to ignore the rules
  • Telephoto vs. wide angle – getting the most out of each
  • Dealing with scruffy foregrounds & problem skies
  • Specialised techniques for night/dusk photography and aerial photography,
  • “Secrets of the pros” - yes, quite a few
  • Creativity, commitment, how to get lucky, working a subject
  • Wonderful silky waterfalls
  • Digital workflow – from camera to great photos as painlessly as possible. Backing up, archiving
  • Photoshop & Lightroom
  • Photo impressionism creating art in your camera.
  • Getting emotion, atmosphere and ‘soul’ into your photos
  • Checklist for critiquing photos
  • Copyright, photo competitions & the law
  • The 4 main things holding photographers back – and how to deal with each.

  • Part 2: Photo assignment – in your own time over the following 2-3 weeks.

  • Part 3: Evaluation and critiquing of your photos [this can be done by email if you’re from out of town]. We meet at Kim’s studio again for a few hours at a time that suits everybody, probably an evening.

  • Cost: $475. The Early Bird special is $425 if you register before 30 September [I’ve extended this deadline a bit to give more people the chance of the lower rate]. The fee includes the workshop, follow-up, hand-outs, Vivienne’s yummy refreshments and lunches on both days. Special rate for fulltime students - $225.

We put a lot of time and thought into preparing and running these workshops. Class numbers are small, allowing for considerable individual attention. For anyone living outside the Tauranga area, there are three motels within 5 minutes’ walk of Kim’s studio. The workshops are held at Kim’s comfortable studio at 18 Greerton Road, Gate Pa, Tauranga. Contact Kim at the email address in the underwater image in the previous post. He's love to hear from you!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Hi everyone - Long time, no see, but it's time to get back into it! I've got a number of events coming up and I'd like to let you know about some of these.

"The Stories Behind The Winning Photos"

Firstly, I'm giving a talk [slide show with commentary] at the Auckland Museum this coming Saturday 18 August at 2.00pm. The museum have titled it "Making The Cut". I'm calling it "The Stories Behind The Winning Photos", as I'll be showing a selection of my photos that have done well in international photo competitions or become well known for other reasons, and telling the stories behind each photo. Expect to meet killer whales close up underwater, dive beneath the Antarctic sea ice, huddle with emperor penguins in an Antarctic blizzard, be "cuddled" by a humpback whale ... and much more.
The presentation is free but you need to book - phone [New Zealand] 09 306 7048 or

If you live within driving distance of Tauranga [New Zealand], you might like to know that I've got two photography workshops coming up. I'm running a "Nature Photography" weekend on 6-7 October [details later] and:

"Composition - Making Your Photos Sing" workshop

Saturday 15 September 2012 at Kim's comfortable workshop studio in Tauranga.

1. Saturday morning – the theory: learn the rules, guidelines, and finer points of composition [including when to break the rules] in the comfort of Kim’s workshop studio.
2. Saturday afternoon [after a nice lunch] – the practice: a field trip with Kim, photographing a variety of subjects with an emphasis on getting your composition "right".
3. Assignment. You will then have 2-3 weeks to keep putting what you’ve learned into practise. Kim will give you a series of assignments to help consolidate what you’ve learned.
4. We meet again [at a time that suits everybody, probably a weekday evening] to look at and evaluate your assignment photos. This evaluation can be done by email if you’re from out of town.
Full course fee [which includes tuition, hand-outs, refreshments, lunch, and follow-up] $295 - or $245 for Early Birds [if you register 14 or more days before the workshop]. Fulltime students $150. For more details, email me at the address below.

Friday, 3 February 2012


Tips don’t come much simpler - or more useful - than this one. It’s a technique I use all the time when photographing landscapes. Without bringing my camera up to my eye, I simply close one eye and look at the scene in the same two-dimensional way that the camera will see the scene.

With both eyes open, the landscape in front of me often looks great – it’s a wonderful world we live in. However, when I close one eye [or hold a hand over one eye], all of a sudden it often looks somewhat flat. If the view doesn’t look interesting to one eye, then it’s highly unlikely to look good as a photo. So I give up on that idea, and move on.

If the view with one eye closed still looks good, then I move on to the next steps: finding exactly the right spot to stand, the best height for the camera, choosing the right lens and focal length, composing the photo, focussing, adjusting exposure, depth of field, and so on. The “One Eye” technique will save you from cluttering up your memory card with low quality landscape photos.

Coming home at sunset after yet another great day at sea with my good friend Graeme Butler, I lay flat on the deck of Gemini Galaxsea, resting the camera on the edge. Using a wide angle lens [Canon 17-35mm] I was able to include the boat's bow wave and thus add interest to the foreground - as well as a diagonal line which will usually make a photo more dynamic, even in cases like this photo where the overall feeling is peaceful.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Three Orca spyhopping in Antarctica

Let’s start with “Three Orca Spyhopping”, one of my favourite photos, and one that is possibly genuinely “unique”. Over the years it has appeared in many books and other places. I’ve seen a lot of Orca spyhopping photos, including a good number with three Orca, but this is the only one where all three Orca are in unison, at the top of their spyhop.

So how did I get it? With a lot of effort and commitment, a lifetime of photography building up to this moment, and some luck.

First of all, why do Orca spyhop? Well, the ones around New Zealand where I live rarely if ever do, as far as I know. But the Orca in Antractica spyhop often. It’s their way of seeing what’s up on top of the sea ice – is there a tasty penguin or seal that could be tipped off the ice floe for lunch?

I’ve been to Antarctica five times, each time for 2-4 months, adding up to a year of my life on the coldest, windiest continent. During that time I’ve taken many photos of Orca spyhopping. Onboard a US Coastguard icebreaker as it punched its way through steel-hard fast ice towards McMurdo Station, Orca followed the icebreaker and spyhopped regularly. But never in unison, as in this photo.

This photo was taken at the very end of my last visit, in late summer. I had been contracted by Christchurch International Airport Ltd to obtain long list of photos for their new Visitor Centre - over three visits between late winter and late summer. It was now late summer, and we’d gone well beyond the agreed date of my return. So I might not be paid for this extra time, but I still hadn’t had my second helicopter flight into the Transantarctic Mountains that was needed to tick off a still-long list of needed photos. The weather simply hadn’t been good enough.

Week after week I sat in McMurdo Station, chatting to my new American friends, and waiting for a good weather forecast. It was so late in the season that the Americans had finished their programme and dismantled their helicopters. The only helicopter still flying was a New Zealand one which had come down to help out. The American helicopters had been grounded for much of the summer because two helicopters of the same type as the US ones had fallen out of the sky in other parts of the world for reasons unknown, and until the reasons were discovered and addressed, the US helicopters stayed on the ground. This caused all sorts of problems that summer, with many unhappy scientists and others unable to carry out their scheduled programs. A helicopter and pilot on loan from New Zealand rescued much of the US and New Zealand summer research program - and my photography.

I checked in with the pilot, Rob McPhail, each morning. Day after day after day. Then “The forecast finally looks OK Kim - we’re going!” Rob and I took off from McMurdo Station at and headed across McMurdo Sound for the Antarctic mainland and the Transantarctic Mountains. I had panoramic cameras [6x17cm] and 35mm cameras with me, and lots of film. It was such a perfect day that Rob and I “forgot” to come home. By , nearly , we’d been in the air 14 hours with only an occasional stop to refuel. Aerial photography is high pressure stuff and after 14 hours my head hurt - but I had over 50 exposed films sitting in a box on the floor of the helicopter. I felt sure I had what was needed to complete the audiovisual and other displays at the Antarctic Visitor Centre, the reason I was there.

Rob flew back over McMurdo Sound, following the “coastline” where the Ross Ice Shelf met the open sea. “There’s killer whales down there, Kim. Want a look?” The ice was too uneven to land, but Rob hovered just above it and I jumped out. The Orca were swimming around unhurriedly, most of the time under the water and occasionally coming up for air. There wasn’t any “action” or any sign that anything interesting might happen. Just half a dozen Orca in cruise mode.

However, I was ready. I kept my camera, with 80-200mm lens, focussed on the calm sea in front of me, continually moving the camera either by intuition or guessing where the Orca might be [it’s hard to tell the difference between guessing and intuition]. But ….. just empty sea, and more empty sea. I hadn’t seen the Orca for some minutes ….. more empty sea….. and more empty sea.

Suddenly, three Orca rose majestically out of the sea in my viewfinder, exactly from the piece of sea I was focussed on. In perfect unison they reached the top of their spyhop, took a good look at me [“It’s a human, we don’t eat humans, remember”], and sank out of sight. I didn’t see them again. Rob picked me up and we flew back to McMurdo Station. Had I got the photo? Was it sharp? It was film, remember, and so I didn’t know the answer until a month later, back in New Zealand.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Welcome to Kim Westerskov's blog

Welcome to the photos, photo techniques, thoughts, adventures and photo workshops of Kim Westerskov – that’s me J

So what can you expect from this blog? For those of you on my newsletter mailing list, expect more of the same, but more often. Plus anything else that seems a good idea, whether it be an inspirational quote I’ve come across, a photographic technique or approach I’d like to share, an adventure you might like to share with me, plus news of the upcoming photo workshops and field trips I run. These focus primarily on outdoor photography: landscapes [including seascapes] and wildlife, especially sealife.

I live in Tauranga in New Zealand’s beautiful Bay of Plenty, close to the clear seas where I enjoy swimming with Orca, Minke Whales, Right Whales, dolphins, fur seals, blue sharks – and occasionally encounter the mighty Blue Whales, the largest animals ever to have lived on Planet Earth.

I have been “cuddled” by a humpback whale, got caught in a diving sperm whale’s downdraft, dived under the Antarctic ice and photographed at minus 50 degrees Celsius in Antarctica. Plus many other exciting adventures! I love these wild, wet, cold and lonely places [I’m still not sure why – maybe my Viking ancestry has something to do with it] and have an equally strong commitment to capturing some of the soul of these places as well as the plants and animals that live there.