Welcome to Banks Peninsula, home of The Hector’s dolphins and eco-tourism pioneers Black Cat Cruises

Random Acts of Kindness

Four simple words that could change some-ones day, week or even life….

We at Black Cat HQ wanted to share a blog post covering this topic, as unbeknown to us, a member of our staff in Akaroa had quietly bestowed a random act of kindness onto a complete stranger (that is until the office received the most heart warming thank you email…which we will get to in a moment).

So what is a ‘Random Act of Kindness‘? Well according to that great source Wikipedia it is quite simply

‘A selfless act performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people.’

Our skipper Julian did exactly just that and here is the email that followed……

Hi there

I just wanted to write to say thank you to the lovely captain and crew member of the Black Cat for making my mothers birthday very special.

My mother and her husband have gone through a lot over the last few year. They lost a daughter, then lost all their possessions in the Christchurch earthquakes, had to give away their beloved dog so they could get accommodation, fight insurance companies and EQC but they have got by and they know they are better off than a lot of other people in Christchurch.

So for my mothers 80th birthday my brothers and I all put in and bought her a voucher for two nights accommodation and meals in Akaroa. At the time I looked at your website to see about getting them on a cruise too but we just couldn’t come up with enough money to do it. My mother and her husband went to Akaroa last week and decided to go for a walk on the pier. It was while they were watching the Black Cat getting ready to go out that the Captain came over and talked to them. The next thing my mother knew she was going on the cruise herself and she absolutely loved it. She has talked non stop about how great it was and how nice the crew was and she still cannot believe that she was invited on the cruise. You really made her day and I wanted to let you know that, as I feel that she has gone through so much in the last few years, that for a complete stranger to do such a lovely act of kindness was amazing. To see my mum so happy was really special for me as my father just passed away recently and my mum means the world to me. So once again thank you so much for your kindness and generosity.

So why offer a selfless act? If you’re getting nothing in return why bother, right? Wrong! Random acts of kindness not only reward the receiver, they reward the person giving. There is so much pleasure to be found in putting a smile upon some-ones face…and as the email above pointed out, you never quite know what some-one has been through or may be going through. So thank you Julian for making not only this lady’s day, but for reminding us of the simplicity and ability we all have to make a person smile!

Now you may wonder why we would want to publicise what is deemed to be a selfless act. Quite frankly we want to share the story to encourage YOU to perform your very own random act of kindness! Even businesses are getting behind the action of doing kind, random deeds. Check out this fun video from Coca Cola, who wanted to spread some free happiness…..Coca-Cola Happiness Machine

And lastly before we leave you…

Did you know New Zealand is the only country in he world to have a dedicated Random Acts of Kindness day? (September, 1st FYI )

 

There’s a whole website about it which contains some great ideas.

 

But why wait until then….it’s the weekend, go spread some kindness!

CHRISTCHURCH TO AKAROA A GREAT DAY OUT ON THE BIKE

The ride to Akaroa from Christchurch is my ‘go to’ ride when I’m in need of a great day out on the bike and some good quality miles, and it’s been even more valuable in recent times giving the fact we have two young daughters at home, aged 17 and three months, so it’s provided the opportunity to combine a great ride with some quality family time too.

The great thing about riding to Akaroa is that not only does it provide some great climbingfantastic views, fast descents and some good flat riding, meaning you get a range of cycling experiences, afterwards you get to hang out in Akaroa with the family and experience the charm of the historic village nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano.

There are loads a great accommodation options to stay overnight and Akaroa Harbour and the surrounding hills provides an enormous range of activities, including cruises on the harbour and the chance to swim with the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hector’s Dolphin.

Riding over and staying with the family who drive over combines training with valuable family time, and then there’s always the option of riding back the following day.

With the iconic Le Race cycle event looming it’s a great time to combine an awesome training ride over to Akaroa, an afternoon out on the Harbour and then an evening in Akaroa.

John competing in Le Race to Akaroa in 2006. 8 years on and he is still up for the challenge!

cycle to akaroa

The ride over includes 1800 metres of climbing so you really do get a good solid work out. The Le Race course heads up Colombo Street and then climbs up Dyers Pass, right past where we live, up into the Port Hills above Christchurch passing first the Sign of the Takahe, then the Sign of the Kiwi at over 300 metres above sea level – also the first spot for the King and Queen of the Mountains competition on race day – before turning right and heading along the Summit Road.

Le Race course

Le Race in action – captured by Bruce Wilson

Le Race Christchurch

From high up on the Summit Road there are magnificent views across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps and eastwards to the sea up Lyttleton harbour.

The ride around the Summit Road really is quite special. With awesome views it never fails to impress me, and I know we can be guilty of taking it all for granted at times.

The road south along the Summit Road has a number of short power climbs and descents  before the first fast long downhill through to Gebbies Pass before turning right and heading towards Motukarara.

The downhill towards Gebbies Pass has several cattle stops, so taking it carefully is important, and after the recent heavy rain there is the odd section of debris on the road, but nothing too bad and you can be sure by race day on the 29th it will all be well tidied up.

Once on the flat you take the first left and head long Millers Road that takes you out to the main Christchurch to Akaroa Road. From here the road heads toward Little River and Cooptown, hugging first Lake Ellesmere and then the smaller Lake Forsyth. Little River is a great place to stop for a coffee and fuel up before tackling the six kilometre Hill Top climb.  There are a couple of nice cafes and an art gallery well worth a visit.

The climb up to Hill Top gives you a sense of the ‘Tour de France’ hence the Le Race being referred to as a ‘slice of the Tour de France.’

It’s a workout!

Although the uphill efforts are much shorter than the famous European climbs, there is a sense of real alpine efforts and once at the top of Hill Top there are magnificent views across the peninsula including spotting Akaroa in the distance.

That infamous view down to Akaroa and the bays

Akaroa images

The main road dips to the right but most cyclists follow the route for Le Race, turning to the left to follow the Summit Road as it loops high above Akaroa Harbour off to the right and Pigeon, Okains and Le Bons Bays to the left.

This section is where the business is really done on race day, but on a nice day on a ‘training’ ride its one of the most spectacular sections of road to ride anywhere, and well worth taking a moment to ‘small the roses’ and appreciate what a magnificent part of the world it is.

Eventually the road drops down into Long Bay Road and into Akaroa itself, where a well earned coffee and lunch with the family await.

After lunch there’s the opportunity to explore the town or head out on the harbour to get up close and personal with the marine life, including the playful Hector’s dolphins, and then stay the night, like the Tui adverts, ‘well earned.’

AKAROA AND HECTOR’S DOLPHINS IN THE PRESS

Akaroa has had a number of great features on TV this summer. From Campbell Live covering the cruise ships to 60 minutes covering the Maui and Hector’s dolphins, it’s been all go!

The recent 60 minute feature on Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins was a really interesting watch, so if you haven’t yet seen it please do take the time to watch the video. We have shared it on our Black Cat Cruises You Tube channel and placed a direct link for you here….New Zealand’s native dolphins in the press.

The feature highlights the plight and dangers of our native dolphins. There is no question about it – they need protecting. The NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust’s 100m Campaign is one of the latest initiatives that’s setting out to do just that.

Run by marine wildlife advocates Dr. Liz Slooten, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, and Prof. Steve Dawson, with the help and support of many other marine mammal enthusiasts, the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust has been working to figure out how to make the ocean a safer place for our cetaceans for many years. Their latest venture sees them collaborating with the interesting and relatively new sport of free diving.

Free diving is an extreme sport where divers go as deep down into the ocean as they dare without any help from a breathing apparatus – so by simply holding their breath. In December 2010, Kiwi freediver William Trubridge was the first person to freedive to 100 metres – no small feat by any means.

But what does this have to do with the little ol’ Hectors Dolphins? At the moment, we have legislation in New Zealand that protects dolphins around our coast – but the sanctuaries only extend to a limited area, and a limited depth. After three summers of observing dolphins’ distributions off our shores, the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust came to the conclusion that the current scope of our protected areas are nowhere near good enough to keep these creatures out of harm’s way.

Over their research, the trust found that dolphins are regularly sighted far from the protected waters – often in waters that go 100 metres deep. Because these areas are still open to gillnets, it puts dolphins at risk of being swept up in the bycatch of some fishing boat.

So when William Trubridge was training to go 100 metres below the surface, he called his mission “Project Hector”, so that he could bring about awareness around the issue. He, in conjunction with NZ Whale and Dolphin, are raising money for the cause. So far they have reached $2,300 out of a $10,000 target. NZ Whale and Dolphin thinks that if Trubridge can get to the bottom of a 100 metre deep part of ocean, gillnets should not be allowed there.

If we can extend marine wildlife sanctuaries to include all areas of sea that are 100 metres deep, then we could protect all of the foraging space where the dolphins source their food. This would be a huge help to restoring the still declining population of this rare animal.

For more information on this campaign, including maps of the area around Akaroa and Banks Peninsula that are affected, check out the link below:http://www.whaledolphintrust.org.nz/campaigns-100m.php 

You can also donate to the cause by visiting this page  http://www.williamtrubridge.com/trublue/

5 GREAT VALENTINE’S DAY RESTAURANTS IN AKAROA

Wondering what to do for Valentine’s Day? Looking for a romantic getaway? Well we are here to help! Whether you plan to come to Akaroa for Valentine’s Day or simply for a weekend escape with your loved one, no stay in Akaroa would be complete without a sampling of the delicious local cuisine on offer.  So we have listed 5 of the best places to dine in Akaroa. With its French origins lending a taste of Europe to the seaside fare, Akaroa makes the perfect destination for a romantic evening of tantalising the taste buds. Try these great eateries for an authentic Akaroa eating experience. Remember, if you want a table for the 14th…book in advance!

Ma Maison

”Overlooking Dailey’s wharf and the Akaroa Harbour, Ma Maison is one of Akaroa’s hidden gems. The view speaks for itself!” Set right by the waters edge with its panoramic views and complete with a romantic open fire and terrace perfect for sipping champagne Ma Maison ticks all the right boxes.

Ma Maison restaurant Akaroa

2 Rue Jolie, Akaroa  Tel: 03 304 7668

The Little Bistro

The Little Bistro serves hearty, locally sourced, seasonal meals in a fantastic atmosphere.

Little Bistro restaurant Akaroa

little bistro restaurant akaroa

A Canterbury focused wine list completes the picture to wash down what we’ve termed ‘rustic european’ inspired cuisine. If wine is not your thing, there are many craft beers, artisan sodas or even peninsula roasted coffee. With service that goes the extra mile, the best bentwood chair collection in town and an outlook over the green to the sea and volcanic hills of Akaroa,  join them for an unforgettable evening.

33 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa Tel: 03 304 7314

The Trading Rooms

With beautiful architecture and interior design inspired by the Kaikoura store from which it gets its name, the Trading Rooms Restaurant and Pantryis dedicated to providing a wonderful eating experience. Locally sourced and hand-picked ingredients comprise much of what you’ll find in the Trading Rooms’ pantry, much of which is turned into quaint jars of jams and preserves for you to take home. And as for the menu, the impressive array of local and international chefs have created a list of items to suit the season. Catering to the catch of the day from the harbour and coming up with exquisite dishes from seasonal fruits and vegetables, the Trading Rooms is definitely one to try for an authentic local dining adventure.

A snap shot of The Trading Room’s menu

akaroa valentines menu

1 Beach Road, Akaroa. Tel:(03) 304 7656

Bully Hayes

Easy going during the day and romantic at night, this fantastic seaside restaurant and bar gives you good reason to come back for breakfast, lunch and dinner right through the week. With several indoor and outdoor dining areas to choose from, as well as a play area for the kids, you can pick your setting to enjoy the range of delicious meals while knowing that the little ones are having a good time too.

Bully Hayes restaurant Akaroa

Bully Hayes restaurant Akaroa

Highlights from the breakfast menu include the Breakfast Omelette, with several variations to suit your taste, or if you’re feeling ravenous there’s Bully’s Fatty Boomba Breakfast, which could keep you going for days with its bacon, eggs, black pudding, hash browns and grilled tomatoes on toasted grain bread. Lunch and dinner offer an array of pasta, bread, salad, and soup dishes along with mains crafted from locally sourced ingredients and cooked to perfection.

57 Beach Rd, Akaroa Tel:03-304 7533

Akaroa Fish & Chips

It doesn’t get much more Kiwi than Fish & Chips, and Akaroa is famous for theirs. Akaroa Fish & Chips serves up good ol’ Kiwi tucker to Cantabrians and tourists who are after a taste of classic New Zealand cuisine. Fish of the day comes from the harbour itself, and a good giant burger will give you plenty of energy for exploring the bay. Although it may not be the healthiest or most fine dining-esque option along the water front, it’s definitely one that allows you to do your own thing and choose your own waterfront setting.

Akaroa, a romantic escape in New Zealand

Akaroa romantic escape new zealand

The Morning After…

If you are spending the night in Akaroa L’escargot Rouge Deli is the perfect place to start the day, the following morning! L’escargot Rouge Deli serves delicious French Style breakfasts. ‘Le Parisien’ breakfast is a popular choice, including a baguette, croissant, pain au chocolat and a side of fresh fruit for a classic sampling of a French morning’s cuisine. Other quintessentially French dishes on offer are the Croque Monsieur, which is Brioche served with Dijon, ham, Swiss cheese and Mornay sauce, and can be upgraded to a Croque Madame with the addition of a poached egg on top. L’escargot Rouge also offers an extensive range of sweet and savoury bakery items to snack on throughout the day. You’ll be ready for a day of exploring Akaroa.

67 Beach Road, Akaroa

We’d love to hear what your favourite romantic Akaroa spots are…leave us a comment below 🙂

BLACK CAT’S PICK OF WAYS TO CELEBRATE NEW YEARS IN BANKS PENINSULA

Although it may lack the glitz and the glamour of a big city celebration, there’s nothing quite like bringing in the new year in Canterbury’s own little piece of paradise. Whether you’re spending the night with family, friends, or that special someone, Banks Peninsula has got you covered for the perfect way to welcome in 2014.

Happy New Year

things to do in christchurch

1.)    Sea Shanties – On the 31st the Hilltop Tavern welcomes in the New Year by bringing lovers of oceanic folk not only the Wellington Sea Shanty Society, but also the much-loved French sea shanty band, Croche Dedans. Bust out the peg legs and eye patches for a night full of some of the finest seaside songs the world has to offer, and see in 2014 overlooking the best views of the bays with a cold beer in hand.

The Hill Top Tavern

The Hill Top Tavern Akaroa restaurant

2.)    Dinner and Bubbles – The French Farm on Winery Road in Akaroa is putting on quite the spread to send off the year. With your ticket you’ll receive a four-course meal, live music from XFilesDuo, and the obligatory glass of bubbly against this gorgeous backdrop.

The French Farm Winery

The French Farm Winery Akaroa

3.)    Golfing – Once you’ve recovered from the New Years night festivities, why not get out and about at Akaroa Golf Club? On the 2nd of January they hold their annual Men’s New Year Tournament, and on the 3rd it’s a ladies affair with the ‘Wine and Roses’ tournament out on the green.

4.)    Back to the Future – Just over the hill from Lyttelton, you can celebrate the New Year by pretending it’s an old one. The Watershed, situated next to the estuary, is putting on a 70s and 80s Retro Themed party. Grab a ticket, dig out that pantsuit or those bellbottoms, and party it up by the water.

5.)    Camping at Corsair – If you’re after a little getaway with some mates, book a spot and pitch a tent at Corsair bay. Perhaps the best place to watch the sunrise on a new year’s morning, the beautiful beach and gorgeous scenery are sure to make it a very happy new year indeed.

corsair bay

new years eve christchurch

5 PLACES FOR A BANKS PENINSULA CHRISTMAS PICNIC

If you’re keen to get out and about in Banks Peninsula with the family this Christmas there is plenty for you to do. Between chilling in Lyttelton or Akaroa, swimming in the gorgeous bays, or taking a ferry out to Quail Island, you’ll never be short of something fun to do. But every adventurer needs to break for food. Luckily for you, Banks Peninsula offers plenty of places to pull up a rug and relax in the sun with a picnic basket – here are just a few favourites to choose from.

Picnic the afternoon away in style…..

things to do in Christchurch picnic

Quail Island Beach – After a walk around the former farm and leper colony, head down to the beach to set up your banquet. A great place to have a pre-lunch swim, or just rest your feet with a good book in the sand.

Quail Island Picnic

Things to do in Christchurch

Akaroa Domain –

Akaroa

things to do in akaroa

If you’re out and about in the French seaside town, there’s plenty of room down at the Akaroa Domain to throw down a blanket and enjoy those sammies. Bring a ball or the cricket set and while away the afternoon with games on the grass.

Le Bons Bay Beach –

Le Bons Bay

things to do in christchurch

Another great location for a summer dip, Le Bons Bay Beach is a beautiful piece of kiwi paradise. Secluded from the hustle and bustle of the busier Banks Peninsula hangouts, a picnic here is perfect for those who are after a quiet getaway.

Cass Bay –

Cass Bay Lyttelton

things to do in christchurch

With walks, sand, and playgrounds galore, you’ll be sure to work up an appetite with a day at Cass. There are three beaches to choose from for splashing about for a bit, or get active and bring along the kayak for a scenic tour of the bay.

Orton Bradley Park –

Orton Bradley Park

things to do in chirstchurch

For a taste of Banks Peninsula’s history and quintessential Kiwi greenery, take the family over to Orton Bradley in Charteris bay for the day. Known for its beautiful tracks that lead to stunning views over the harbour, packing a picnic basket and heading for this destination is a winner for any summer afternoon.

We would love to hear where your favourite picnic spots in Banks Peninsula are….leave and comment and share it with us……

AKAROA BLOG PRESENTS PROFESSOR STEVE DAWSON’S ROUND UP OF THIS YEARS INTERNATIONAL MARINE MAMMAL CONFERENCE

Biology of Marine Mammals AkaroaIt’s over, and, according to everyone who spoke to us, the conference was a resounding success. The first day of “plenary talks” – held in the Dunedin town hall – was excellent. Nine outstanding speakers, mostly international but some local, gave us an overview of conservation successes & failures, distilling the key reasons why. The star of the day was New Zealand’s ex-minister of fisheries Pete Hodgson.

Pete Hodgson Dolphin Conservation Champion

Pete Hodgson Dolphin Conservation Akaroa

Deservedly hailed as a hero of NZ conservation for being the first minister of fisheries to take dolphin conservation seriously, Pete gave a funny and inspiring account of how he put into place the protected area for Maui’s dolphin. His account of what science made the difference, and how science and politics often collide, but need more to co-operate, made everyone think hard.

This year we celebrated as after years of campaigning the proposed marine reserve for Akaroa was finally approved.

Akaroa Harbour map

Akaroa marine reserve map swim with dolphins

The next four days of the conference were held on Otago University’s campus. With over 348 talks in four concurrent sessions, it was impossible to go to all the ones you wanted to. And there were some really fabulous presentations. So many that it’s hard to single out one or even just a few that were especially good. Terrific, innovative science presented really well by dedicated researchers. Hearing these, and talking to the presenters afterwards, asking questions and sharing ideas – perhaps over a glass of wine, is what conferences offer that is so different to reading each other’s scientific papers.

Two poster evenings, on Tuesday and Thursday, allowed conference goers to view 400 posters summarising research, mostly by students, from all over the globe. Many were excellent, showing that the future of marine mammal science is in good hands. The space available was too tight on the first evening, but a nimble reshuffle by the poster organisers made the second poster evening much more effective and enjoyable. Poster evenings are not passive – the poster author stays with their poster, so they can explain what they did and answer questions. It’s a great way to communicate science.

The last day’s presentations finished at 3pm, and everyone put on their glad rags for the conference dinner and dance. We’d hired Mojo, a band from Queenstown, to get everyone dancing. mojo queenstown akaroa blogThey did a great job. When the advertised end-time arrived, they were not allowed to stop. It’s great to see very well-known scientists letting down their hair (those that still have hair) prancing around among the students – without too much fear of embarrassment.

All in all, it was a great occasion. Many said it was the best conference they’d ever been to. Also, for many conference goers it put New Zealand on the map. Most were first time visitors. Many said they would be back.

For our team, it was a lot of work to organise, but deeply satisfying. We’re looking forward to some decompression, however!

____________

Websites
Marine Science Department
http://www.otago.ac.nz/marinescience/staff/stevedawson.html

NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust
www.whaledolphintrust.org.nz.

Steve Dawson PhD

Professor

Dept of Marine Science

University of Otago

310 Castle Street

(P.O. Box 56)

Dunedin 9016

New Zealand

Trustee, NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust

STEVE DAWSON KICKS OFF THE INTERNATIONAL MARINE MAMMAL CONFERENCE

Professor Steve Dawson

Steve Dawson dolphin science akaroa

This past Saturday was not quite the big day, but it was the first of the big days. Several hundred marine mammal scientists, from all over world, assembled on Otago University’s campus in Dunedin for a set of pre-conference workshops.

The workshops cover a wide range of topics, some predictable – gatherings of scientists who work on particular species (e.g. right whales) or in a particular region (e.g. Hawaii), and others not. Firmly in the “not” category is “What can the Cloud do to save whales”. This was a group concerned about vessel collisions with whales, hoping to develop ways that real-time monitoring and internet technology can be applied to reduce the likelihood of collisions. One development is to have folks in the shipping industry log their sightings with a mobile app called “spotter” which uploads those to a constantly changing map of where whales are – so that area can be avoided by ship captains.

Other workshops focussed on impacts of tourism, bycatch in fishing, and assessing effects of coastal development. And that’s just Saturday, a further set of workshops run tomorrow.

The really big day is today, Monday. About 1200 people will be gathering in the Dunedin Town Hall to listen to a set of  “Keynote” addresses by world experts. Today sets the theme of the conference “Marine Mammal Conservation, Science making a difference” by having talks on conservation successes, frustrations and failures, with local and international case studies presented by scientists who are true conservation heroes. The idea is to map out ways to more effectively turn science findings into conservation action – to bridge the gap between science and politics.

It’s an exciting time. The biggest scientific conference ever held in Dunedin. Many, very smart people, working on the most interesting animals on the planet, together in one place. Very cool!

For us on the organising team, there’s some relief. First hurdle cleared. So far, no problems.

Steve Dawson

____________

Steve Dawson PhD

Professor

Dept of Marine Science

Websites
Marine Science Department
http://www.otago.ac.nz/marinescience/staff/stevedawson.html
www.whaledolphintrust.org.nz.

NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust

BLACK CAT SPONSOR INTERNATIONAL MARINE MAMMAL CONFERENCE

Our work and efforts to sustain and preserve New Zealand’s delicate marine wildlife extends beyond both Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula. As one of New Zealand’s leading eco-tourism operators we are extremely proud to sponsor the 20th International Biennial Marine Mammal Conference, being held in Dunedin this year.

We hereby extend to you, by way of our blog, an invitation to come along to this major international conference. Knowledge is power and what better way to be inspired and educated than by the world’s leading professionals. Over the next three weeks the Black Cat blog will be publishing guest blog posts from the conference so watch this space.

Liz Slooten & a Hector’s dolphin

liz slooten hector's dolphin akaroa

Dr Liz Slooten, Chair of the Conference Organising Committee, Otago University has kindly written us an overview of what’s in store and how you can get involved…..

Organising an international conference for more than 1200 Marine Mammal scientists is an intimidating thing. But, what an opportunity to show off our marvelous dolphins, whales, seals and sealions!

The conference theme is Marine Mammal Conservation: Science making a difference.

The conference is five days long, from 9-13 December. It starts with a Plenary Day, with everyone together in the Dunedin Town Hall (one of the few places in Dunedin that will hold 1200 people).

Here, nine international experts will give talks about science-based solutions to global marine mammal conservation problems. The speakers will be emphasising local examples, including Hector’s dolphins,

The worlds most endangered dolphin

Swim with dolphins akaroa new zealand

New Zealand sealions and Australian sealions. To help us do a better job of getting science translated into conservation action, we have ex-Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson to give us the low-down on the interactions between scientists and politicians.

For the next four days, there will be four conference talks on at any one time, with the audience split over four large lecture theatres on Otago University’s Campus. About 1200 people will be giving and attending talks on almost every aspect of marine mammal science, from almost every corner of the globe.

There will also be two poster evenings, on Tuesday and Thursday night. We have 400 posters in total, with half displayed on the Tuesday and half on Thurday night. This also provides an excellent opportunity for wine and cheese, a bit of mingling, talking and brainstorming about all sorts of issues. This sort of social event is where the real business of the conference is conducted.

”You are warmly invited to come to the conference.”

It is open to the public. All you have to do is come to the Registration Desk in the Link Building at Otago University and sign up. The Link Building is on the corner of Cumberland and Albany Streets.

See: www.marinemammalscience.org For more information about the conference (including registration fees)

5 EASY STEPS TO TAKING A GREAT PHOTO…

Point and shoot – how hard can it be? Despite the seemingly idiot-proof design of the modern camera these days, it can be harder than it looks. That blurry, dark, shot of half your thumb, or the washed out, blindingly bright one of what you thought was the sunset are endless sources of frustration for the amateur photographer and tourist alike. New Zealand is internationally famous for it’s picturesque landscapes. Akaroa and Banks Peninsula deliver many picture perfect locations so it’s a must visit destination for some of the best places to photograph in New Zealand. It’s also no secret that when it comes to landscape photography, getting your lens to reflect the beauty your eyes can see is quite the challenge.

‘Akaroa foggy morning’ Black Cat photo competition 2013

photo competition akaroa

Of course that’s not the story for everyone. The winners of our recent photography competitions know a thing or two about taking a pretty picture, and you can see the artworks their lenses have captured further down our blog. But for those of you who are aspiring to have a shot at next year’s prizes, here are a few tips on how to capture that perfect photo of Banks Peninsula’s breathtaking scenery.

Now, how complicated this gets depends on what kind of camera you’re using. If you’ve got the simple, good ol’ point and shoot, and it’s been bought in the past few years, chances are you’ll have a setting on there specifically designed to make taking a landscape shot a breeze. In this case, all you’ve got to do is make sure you have a steady hand – or even better yet, a tripod – make sure the shot is in focus, and then take the snap.

These days the cameras on mobile phones are producing some fantastic images, and with so many high quality filter apps everyone can be the next budding National Geographic photographer! Check out some awesome shots on Instagram by Jim Richardson. A National Geographicphotographer who has been shooting around the globe with his i-phone.

But if you’ve mastered that aspect of the basics, going a little further with fairly inexpensive equipment isn’t as hard as it seems. If your camera has a manual or custom settings option, there are several things you want to think about before making that shutter click.

Step 1

 

Framing a picture on an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise

Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise Black Cat

Firstly, arrange your frame. It’s important to scope out the composition and of what you want to capture before you start clicking. Use the rule of thirds as a general guideline for finding ways to balance out your shot, and play with the zoom to focus in on the best parts of the scene in front of you.

Step 2

Next, you’ll want to consider the lighting of the shot. How does it look to your eye? How does it look through the camera? Depending on the feel you want to give to an image, adjust the brightness and contrast using your camera’s settings to subdue colours or make them pop. Although these can be adjusted in post-production software, getting the shot as close to how you want it to look as possible at the scene makes life a lot easier in the editing phase. Try playing with the different tones and pick your favourite later on.

Step 3

 

Sunrise in Lyttelton Harbour by Carolyn Nicholl

things to do in christchurch lyttelton harbour

Also because of the high contrast and brightness while the sun is high in the sky, many photographers recommend picking your times for landscape shots carefully. If the sun is in danger of overexposing your pics, go for an early morning or late afternoon expedition – you’ll get some amazing hues at these times of the day too. Sometimes it’s worth the 5am wake up call for a beautiful sunrise.

Black Cat Dolphin Swimmer Surprise Shot

Black Cat Dolphin Swimmer Surprise Shot

Step 4

When it comes to action shots, especially on the water, you’ll want to have your camera’s shutter up to speed. If you have a sports mode setting, or the ability to set the shutter speed really high, this will assist in getting clearer, crisper shots of moving subjects. It’s best to go for these when there is ample natural lighting, or a scene where your flash will work, as because the shutter is so fast, there isn’t much time to let a lot of light into the lens. If you get your timing and lighting right, capturing that mid-air dolphin shot shouldn’t be too strenuous.

Step 5

It’s also important that you try your best to ensure the shot is in focus before you press that button. There’s nothing worse than going back through a batch of what would be beautiful shots just to find that something’s out of focus. Using the auto-focus setting is a great way to see that the focal point of your image is in fact just that, but if you’re more confident with your eye, play with the manual focus to blur out the background or foreground, and get a little more creative with your camera.

But finally, what matters most of all is that you get out there and give it a go. The more shots you take, the more comfortable you’ll become behind the lens, and the easier it’ll be to figure out what works, and what doesn’t. There’s plenty to see out there, and even more to capture.

Send us your photo’s…

Black Cat love to see and share your pictures from Banks Peninsula. If you have ever been on or are going on a Black Cat cruise within the next few weeks be sure to upload your favourite photo and share it. We will send an A4 print to you at your home address and your photo will go into a competition to win an Ipad mini! Check out the competition here.

Do you have any great photography tips? Share them with us below and we’ll give away a pair of Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise tickets to the one we think is best!

Tickets will be awarded by Dec 31st 2013.