Kāruhiruhi Spotting by Elise Manahan

A Kāruhiruhi or pied shag rests on a barnacle covered rock during low tide at Piha Beach in Auckland, New Zealand. (Elise Marie Photography)

A Kāruhiruhi or pied shag rests on a barnacle covered rock during low tide at Piha Beach in Auckland, New Zealand. (Elise Marie Photography)

The first time I spotted a Kāruhiruhi, which is Maori for a pied shag, on the beach at Piha I was taken in by the austere manner and bright yellow marking on its face. While most seabirds take flight when I approach to take a photo this fellow did not seem to mind if I came a bit closer to admire its feathers. I’m an absolute novice when it comes to birds but I like to think that I made up for that with admiration and interest. Moving to New Zealand has offered a complete change from the birds I know back home. I used to wake up to cardinals, blue jays, crows and woodpeckers eating from feeders outside my window. In Auckland I wake up to the sounds of seagulls, blackbirds and tuis calling to one another in the morning. I was interested to read about the New Zealand Bird Atlas, a five-year long project that asks people help map and report birds they spot around New Zealand. I think I will have to keep my eyes peeled and follow along to see what other incredible birds I have yet to discover here.

Losing Track of Time in Paris by Elise Manahan

 
A group of visitors at the Musée d’Orsay are silhouetted as they look through the clock face to see the city of Paris. (Elise Marie Photography)

A group of visitors at the Musée d’Orsay are silhouetted as they look through the clock face to see the city of Paris. (Elise Marie Photography)

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris offers visitors an astounding collection of art to view as they pass from gallery to gallery. The bright light pouring in from the clock face that occupies a corner of the museum seems too intense to behold, but makes for a lovely silhouetted image as visitors pause to look out over Paris and take photos of the ticking hands.

 

Hobbiton by Elise Manahan

 
A Hobbit home on the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata. (Elise Marie Photography)

A Hobbit home on the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata. (Elise Marie Photography)

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit or There and Back Again

It’s hard to visit or live in New Zealand and not know that the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, were filmed here. A popular tourist destination is the Hobbiton village where visitors can take a guided walk through the permanent set to admire the craftsmanship and scale of the little hamlet. With colorful doors and explosive gardens it is sure to enchant and delight every guest.

 

Surfing Piha Beach by Elise Manahan

Piha Beach in New Zealand offers breathtaking views and epic surf. (Elise Marie Photography)

Piha Beach in New Zealand offers breathtaking views and epic surf. (Elise Marie Photography)

Piha Beach, located on the west coast of the North Island, is famous for its black sand, epic waves and deadly undertows. Moving to either side of Lion Rock, a towering formation jutting out from the shore, visitors can watch surfers ride the waves or fishermen casting their lines into the salty waters. It is one of the stunning landscapes New Zealand is famous for, and a must-see for those visiting the country.

Waiheke Island by Elise Manahan

Waiheke Island is painted in an array of colors as the sun begins to set on the island. (Elise Marie Photography)

Waiheke Island is painted in an array of colors as the sun begins to set on the island. (Elise Marie Photography)

The calm waters of Putaki Bay were a canvas of color as the sun set on Waiheke Island this past summer. Boats dot the water and gently roll to and fro in the evening breeze. Sea birds make their final calls of the evening as the stars begin to appear in the sky. The moment is all too brief and nearly too heavenly.

Waiheke Island is home to many and a cherished get away for others. Oenophiles looking to sample some of the famous wine produced on the isle can find award winning bottles as they wind their way through the vineyards scattered across the island. After exploring local wineries many hop on a bus or continue on foot to trek along the coastal pathways, relax on the beach or go shopping in the village. Those without their own boat or seaplane take the ferry from downtown Auckland to the island and return home the same way.

We’ve visited the island several times since we moved to New Zealand and have been delighted every time we go. Be sure to put it on your travel list, and keep a weather eye for the setting sun. It may just be the most exceptional part of your visit.

Travel Photography - Austin, Texas Edition by Elise Manahan

When I’m getting ready to travel to a new place I can’t wait to research unique features of the city, determine what camera gear I want to bring along and start dreaming about the shots I hope to get on my trip. I’m usually thinking about getting photos while checking out cool restaurants and bars, local parks and gardens, things I see on the street and trying to get some candid photos of the folks I’m visiting or travelling with. Basically anything that will give me a visual reminder to take me back to that trip. Sometimes my pre-planning ideas and mental debate about what gear to pack can start to feel like it’s getting slightly out of hand. To cope with that I try to be mindful about finding a balance to allow myself to be present and just enjoy the moment without holding a camera up to my face while also fulfilling the creative joy I find in travel photography.

A great solution that works for me is to take along my dslr, a 35mm lens and if space allows a macro lens to double as a telephoto lens pretty much everywhere I go. I then try to keep several categories of images of interest to me on my radar. That usually includes documenting the local wildlife, great local food and drink I tried, the locals I see and friends I am visiting with and if the season is right some of the local flora. I also subscribe to the philosophy that variety is the spice of life. If I only have space for one lens I know that doesn’t mean I’m limited in what I can shoot. I just have to move my feet to get close up, medium and pulled back shots. It adds depth to my final selection of images and it can be a great creative challenge.

I find that there are always so many moments to take photos and the truly compelling moments usually grab your attention so fiercely you can’t ignore it. But it’s good to drop that camera back in the bag and enjoy that beer while it’s cold, to laugh with your friends while you get to see them and to take in all the wonderful things surrounding you on your travels.

It’s all about finding the right balance that works for you.

I took the photos below while visiting family in Austin, Texas. Spring was around the corner and you felt it everywhere you turned. I was lucky enough to have a local tour guide take me to some great locations around town that felt off the beaten path.

  • McKinney Falls State Park

  • Mayfield Park and Preserve

  • Radio Coffee and Beer

  • The Salt Lick BBQ

Do you have a method you like to use when shooting travel photography? Let me know what grabs your attention when you plan your travel photography trips.

Cheeky Smiles by Elise Manahan


I highly encourage cheekiness in my clients. I mean, how could you not?

This little Kiwi was a guest at a party I had the pleasure of photographing. I had been taking photos in another room when I noticed she was playing peek-a-boo with a balloon, checking to see if I had noticed her. I was able to move around to get a few frames before it was time for cake and she ran to join the others. It was an adorable moment of playfulness that I loved being able to capture.

The Clock Tower of the University of Auckland by Elise Manahan

One of the most iconic architectural sights on The University of Auckland campus is the Clock Tower. The tower was built in 1926 by Chicago architect, R.A. Lippincott. Inspired by the design of a church in Oxford, the clock tower has been cleaned, refurbished and is a beautiful sight to behold. Have you explored inside this historic building?

The 2019 Auckland Lantern Festival by Elise Manahan

The 20th Auckland Lantern Festival celebrated the Chinese New Year with over 800 lanterns on display throughout the Auckland Domain attracting thousands of visitors. Food trucks, musical entertainment and carnival rides were spread throughout the park for visitors enjoyment as they joined in celebrating the pig.