Order calendars via zakshawphotography@gmail.com or the secure Paypal option below.

Order calendars via zakshawphotography@gmail.com or the secure Paypal option below.
My 2014 calendar was entirely photographed on the western side of New Zealand's Southern Alps. "Land in the West" is printed at a size of A4 with twelve calendar month pages displaying stunning outdoor environment photographs. Take a look at my Facebook page to view all twelve 2014 calendar images! Order here via Paypal or email me at zakshawphotography@gmail.com if you would prefer to pay with online banking. Thanks for your support!
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2012 Zak Shaw Photography Portfolio

2012 was a big year!
All images copyright of Zak Shaw Photography

Mt Tapeoenuku stands tall over Marlborough's Clarence River. 

At midnight with a full moon blazing the Mokihinui River took on the texture of melted chocolate.

Mollymawk Albatross, South Westland, NZ 

Mahitahi beach break! South Westland

Mikonui homestead, Westland.

In late Autumn the sun’s rays come from a low angle. On a Rafting NZ “South Island Safari” I knew my best chance of getting exciting images would be before we entered the Perth River’s lower gorges. Standing in the middle of the river I tried to compose an image that made good use of the lighting.  I got excited when paddler Kim Dodd and a raft working their way downstream though the rocks broke out of the shade. The contrast between the subjects and the dark background gives the image impact.   

 To capture this image of Phil Palzer I positioned myself a mere 30cm from where I anticipated his kayak to travel.  Using an 11-16mm wide-angle lens I wanted to shoot the kayaks path off the drop. Phil’s line was fast and he raced past me in a lightening fast curve. 

Green’s Beach is located on a remote section of coastline very typical of Westland.  When a southwest swell rolls in off the ocean the beach comes to life. Overlooked by unstable cliffs the coarse gray sand is littered with huge logs cast high by the tide. Using a slow shutter speed I leaned hard on the legs of my tripod. Heavy waves threatened to drag both the log and my camera out to sea. 

Keith Riley leans on his blades during descent of one of NZ's best multi day river journeys - Clarence River

Kotuku, Wanganui River mouth, South Westland, NZ

Bruce Bay is where Maui first landed in New Zealand. Legend has it that two massive Taniwha sat on the headland protecting the bay and Maui was forced to fight a fierce battle before setting foot ashore.  During a visit to the Marae I spent time photographing the mouth of the Mahitahi River. Vibrant light provided great saturation in both the rivers current and the rocks. On offshore wind ripped the tops off the waves. 
 Minutes from Hokitika a steep trail leads walkers above the bush-line to Mt Brown. Considerable community, volunteer input and donations made it possible to shift the hut from the Arahura valley.  Whilst visiting from Matawai Robyn and Duncan Shaw enjoyed the “wicked” new hut with expansive three hundred and sixty degree views. 

 The Thousand Acre plateau in Kahurangi National Park is one of my favorite places to explore. The ancient peneplain is covered in rolling tussock and dotted with deep boring sinkholes. Lenny McGirr and Watson Green students on Tai Poutini Polytechnic’s Outdoor Education program enjoy an alpine adventure in their wild classroom.  

 Idilic sea kayaking in the Abel Tasman, NZ

Waking after a night of snow flurries and wind gusts the dawn was exceptionally calm. As we approached the tarn; mountains caked in fresh powder grew in size until they were completely mirrored in a crisp reflection. Stationed at the waters edge we remained mindful that any disturbance of the waters surface would break the spell.

Frew saddle provides a link between the Whitcombe and Hokitika Rivers. After ascending eleven hundred metres up Frew Creek our team moved over the lower tussock slopes of Mt Frieda. Here camouflaged from view Spaniard grass sat waiting for an unsuspecting victim.    

 Determination and focus. Sara Dwyer gets it right in the upper reaches of the Mokihinui. 

A fantastic alternative to walking the fifty-one kilometer Abel Tasman Great walk is to paddle it! Many crescent shaped coves, white sand beaches and rocky headlands are not accessible on foot. Tai Poutini Polytechnic students enjoy idyllic conditions for sea kayak guide training at Mosquito Bay. 
Nina/Doubtful - Lewis Tops

Blue Eyed Cormorant - Abel Tasman National Park.

 Alpine Tarn, Doubtful valley. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The first descent of Toaroha Canyon, New Zealand

"If you start running some class IV drops in a rapidly descending river bed you've gone to far and are starting into the Toaroha Canyon. Continue to ensure certain celebrity status, but beware it will most likely be posthumously" NZ Whitewater guide 1999.
A skull and crossbones have hung over the Toaroha river map for over a decade. History has seen the best kayakers in the world visit the Kokatahi area but those with the skills to paddle it didn't. Myth held them away. Rumored to hold waterfalls ranging from 40ft to 100ft in height in an excessively steep walled in gorge people acknowledged there was whitewater there but talked about it acceptingly like it was an unrealistic project. People had given up on the Toaroha.   

Image above - Keith Riley leaps off a boulder within the canyon. I took this image a few minutes after Keith pulled down our rope which would have provided our escape. At the time I seriously questioned the decision. 

Sitting on the front country above Kokatahi just outside of Hokitika the Toaroha canyon has sat waiting patiently for a team to question past reports. Interest surged again early this summer with kayakers venturing into the base of a 45-50ft cascade within the heart of the canyon.
Within days of my return from the Antarctic I found myself agreeing to join Keith Riley, Justin Venable and Dylan Thompson on a reconnaissance scout of the canyon. Equipped with drysuits, harnesses, ropes and climbing gear  our team set out to descend through the canyon at low water for the first time.

Image Zak Shaw
Within the confines of the bedrock walls our speed was regularly halted. On the forefront of our minds was "can we get back out from here" By committing down into the canyon we had to be sure we could climb back out. In shot Dylan Thompson repels off a giant rounded rock to inspect our next move. 

Once our front person has looked ahead they made a call. If they believed we would in fact be able to retreat we were all encouraged to move forward. Using a combination of jumping, swimming and climbing we began to piece the puzzle together.

Image above - Committing forward, Dylan Thompson launches himself into an emerald pool. 
Image  - Zak Shaw
As we progressed the walls began to squeeze us in. 
Image - Zak Shaw
This section of the canyon signaled a point of no return. Leaping 15ft into the pool below Dylan swam and climbed his way into a position where he could peer around the corner. The rest of us held back and waited for his response. Dylan deliberated for ten minutes but was unsure of our options should we over commit. Keith joined him and they discussed the uncertainty of what lay around the next corner. 
Justin and I sat waiting discussing what we thought would happen. I think our gut feeling was that we would retreat back upstream. Dylan looked at Keith one final time before beginning to run across a smooth low angled wall. Speed helped him continue to move as the wall began to slant vertically. Launching off one leg Dylan sprung out of sight leaping 15 ft off the canyon wall and around the corner. It was a little unbelievable. Justin and I had no choice but to accept it. Persevering solo as far as he could downstream Dylan was confronted by multiple problems and wanted to return upstream. Keith managed to get a rope to Dylan and haul him up out of a cauldron pocket and back into his ledge. Dylan was very unsure and Keith heard to many maybes. "Maybe we can climb along the right wall and jump clear of another waterfall"maybe we can climb a break in the left wall to get past, maybe we would get stuck down in that eddy" Keith had to have a look for himself. The climber in him wanted to find a solution. I thought the solution was desperate and unfeasible but then I wasn't the one seriously considering climbing out from there. 
The upshot of it all was that we disregarded all cautious thinking packed the ropes away and one by one we ran and jumped the cauldron into the depth of the canyon.

Committed proper - Keith, Dylan and Justin stand inside a section of the gorge that barely spanned five metres. Image - Zak Shaw
Looking at our options we found one that would work. Justin straddled a bedrock slab mid current before diving flat at a submerged boulder on the lip of a waterfall. At first he fought to gather his balance but then found good footing as was able to stand waist deep. The force of the current ripped at my legs before I jumped at JV as far as I could with one arm outstretched. He latched on anchoring me stable. Keith and Dylan followed suit and we all moved on. 

Image above Dylan attempts a protected swim. Being attached to a line gave us confidence that should we fail to swim across the pool that a mate on the end of the line would belay us to safety above the 50ft falls.
Image - Zak Shaw 
Keith Riley - When I'm past the point of focus KR is always super chill.
Image - Zak Shaw

Dylan and Justin gingerly negotiate slick rock above the canyons most epic plunge.
Image - Zak Shaw
T Canyon falls - a project for someone brave.
Image - Zak Shaw
Once we had escaped the upper canyon we knew we had reached halfway. Our problem wasn't being halfway it was that the time 7.30pm. I felt amazed with the fact that we had made it through the top half and my gut instinct told me to escape while you can!
We knew the lower canyon's gradient backed off and so a call was made to race and to try and get out before dark. With swimming, jumping and quick decisions we made good time through the lower gorge. At times we ran along the smooth bedrock banks before launching back into the flow.
After a further 1.5 hours we emerged clear of the last waterfall stoked in knowing that we would soon sleep in comfort and not in a huddle beside the water.

17/01/2012 - First descent of the Toaroha canyon in kayaks.

Image below - Justin Venable takes on fluid on his way back into the Toaroha canyon.
The hike into the Toaroha canyon is long and the track climbs. After three hours we arrived at a huge landslide which signaled our descent route into Toaroha falls. 

Image above - Jordy Searle
Myself and Barney Young on route into Toaroha Canyon.
Image - Zak Shaw
The slip was lose and we desperately tried to avoid showering each other with rocks. After another forty five minutes of bush bashing and onga onga (stinging nettle) negotiation we could see the river.

Toaroha Falls! - Image Zak Shaw
In shot Jordy Searle, Justin Venable and Kevin England gear up.
From our vantage point we launched into the pool below and accessed the river left wall beside the falls. Several of our team climbed out to their kayaks and scaled the rock before considering paddling the falls. At our river flow the line off the top curled within the lead in chute casting huge doubt over what influence it would have over a paddlers control. As yet the drop is un-run.

Keith Riley probes downstream into a world of constricted water and inescapable bedrock.
Image - Zak Shaw

Image - Jordy Searle - Go through or don't go at all...
Paddler - Zak Shaw

Daan Jimmink finds an unlikely place to chill.
Image - Zak Shaw

Jordy Searle joins Daan and progress resumes.
Image - Zak Shaw

Watching your teams last paddler emerge from a boxed in drop like the one above is....bloody good to see!

Boofing clear! Zak Shaw replacing his sea kayak for a creeker finds a groove.
Image - Jordy Searle

Keith Riley forever present on west coast adventures! This image captures Keith in a fantastic moment. Location drama and commitment all in one. 
Image - Jordy Searle

Image - Jordy Searle
Paddler - Barney Young enjoys a little rest and good value for his scenic dollar.

Play resumes! Breaking down "T Canyon" Shot on an 11-16mm wide angle lense I was stoked with this image of Barney Young. Good kayakers tend to paddle where you want them to!

Image - Zak Shaw
Kayaking out of the Toaroha canyon took around four hours. I suspect that future descents will be much faster once the lines become familiar. Our team photographed the canyon extensively and this took time. The whitewater within the canyon is of exceptional quality. Completing the Toaroha felt like we had safely passed through a slot in the earth.  Our team recognise the privilege of being some of the select few who will ever see the inside of the Toaroha canyon. Lets hope that in the future its "value" will simply be because it exists.

After negotiating a trick entrance Barney Young fires off the canyons last test piece.
Image - Zak Shaw

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Antarctica 2011/12 - Zak Shaw Photography

Photography from a kayak is a challenge but it also offers a unique perspective.
Image - Borris Kester

King Penguins numbering around 60,000 breeding pairs congregate at Salisbury Plain. 

That was the best Antarctic season I've had! Anyone lucky enough to go once doesn't have the privileged position of comparing one visit to the next. My polar environment work is often overwhelmingly stunning and reminders of how good life is are frequent.
Upon returning home I've been considering why this recent visit was so powerful and is having such a profound effect. Images speak louder than words, its in the pictures.

Paddling in brash ice, kind of like sea kayakers candy...
Image - Borris Kester

Cape Disappointment - dramatic lighting bursting through dark storms clouds over South Georgia's most southwest extremity.

 Elephant Seal "weaner" In this image I used a Nikon 2.8 17-55mm lense. As much as I could I focused on the seals whiskers with a very shallow depth of field. I wanted the whiskers to stand out and have great definition.

 On my first visit into Antarctic sound a katabatic wind kicked up violently and plastered the ship precariously on edge. The pressure driven wind speed peaked at 96 knots/hr. Waves reached heights of 2m and the volcanic rock of "Brown Bluff" added scale to an intense scene.

"I prefer the belly-flop" With patience, predicting the moment and luck I managed to capture this image of an Adelie penguin mid flight.

Night light - Stay up late and get up early. The key to photographing fantastic lighting conditions is to burn the candle at both ends!

Fantastic evening light helped me land this image of a Striated Caracara. I wasn't really interested in the beach behind the bird so I overexposed the image. This burns out the background giving the body good separation from the sand. What I was most stoked about was that the talons are displayed mid-stride.

Switching to monocrome I wanted to show a dark roof over the ocean. The dark areas of the shot close down the viewers perspective of rugged gloomy mountains.

Orca in hunting mode!

Cape Renard panorama.

A very rare sighting - Tale fluke, Southern Right Whale

Lemaire channel mirror reflection

To capture this image I set my camera up early. From a distance of 30m away I paddled silently towards this Imperial Cormorant. The water was so calm that I made no sound. At a distance of 10m I stopped taking strokes and drifted in close. The oil slick texture on the waters surface is interesting with the blue ring of the eye giving the image a bright focal point.

Penguin muncher - why what fine teeth you have!
Distance to leopard seal = 3m

Humpback whale - Gerlache Strait - Antarctica

Imperial Cormorant - New island - West Falklands
I was getting tired of waiting but eventually the Cormorant turned into the light. This was the single best image out of more than fifty attempts.

Bailey Head is the single largest Chinstrap colony in the Antarctic. 100,000 breeding pairs use the surf beach to access their breeding and feeding grounds. Standing on the wave line I leaned heavily on my tripod pushing it down into the sand as the waves rushed in. A deliberate slow shutter speed blurs the waves and birds and gives the image movement.

Slow shutter image of Chinstrap penguins in the surf-zone 1/15 sec at f/29

Cape Renard wind squall. Violent winds ripped down from the surrounding peaks tearing up the surface of the water.