Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: swirling Stirling Point again

with 34 comments

Three years ago today we reached the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island in a town called Bluff.

At Stirling Point, which for my purposes should have been called Swirling Point, I set my shutter speed to 1/640 and photographed the bull kelp (Durvillaea antarctica or D. poha) surging in and out with the waves.

Not till this week did I notice that a gull had flown into the corner of one frame:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 24, 2020 at 4:41 AM

34 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. What a delightful surprise seeing the gull in your image!


    February 24, 2020 at 7:39 AM

    • It was quite a surprise to me, too. Several times in the past three years I’d looked through the many bull kelp pictures I took at Stirling Point that day, but only last week did I notice the seagull. I’d taken many of the pictures in bursts because the waves changed the configuration of the kelp so quickly. I checked just now and found that this picture was the middle one of three taken in less than one second. In the first one there’s no gull, and in the third one the gull has already half moved out of the frame at the top.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2020 at 7:54 AM

  2. Great shot. I can feel contrasts of texture when I look at it – the rock, water and the seaweed. The seaweed reminds me of expensive, novelty pasta. 🙂


    February 24, 2020 at 7:47 AM

    • I, too, had seen a resemblance to pasta, specifically egg noodles because of the yellow. For a photographer interested in shapes and textures, this was a great place. I took over 200 pictures of the kelp, hoping for a “prefect” configuration.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2020 at 8:03 AM

  3. Definitely egg noodles, or pasta made with a bit of tumeric in the dough. It looks attractive in these photos, and when I see that swirling water, the kelp’s toughness is really impressive.

    Robert Parker

    February 24, 2020 at 8:21 AM

    • You’re right that this kelp is hardy stuff. With all the wave- and rock-battering it endures, it would have to be. I assume that that hardiness, along with its size, led people to call it bull kelp.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2020 at 9:46 AM

  4. The clarity of the kelp swirling around in the waves is truly amazing.

    Peter Klopp

    February 24, 2020 at 8:33 AM

    • To get a clear (as opposed to blurry) image of the kelp I set my camera’s shutter speed mostly to 1/640 of a second. Any slower than that, and I was afraid the images wouldn’t come out sharp.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2020 at 9:48 AM

  5. Great pictures, Steve. I love “swirling point”! 😉 That Bull Kelp looks somewhat like Tagliatelle to me. 😀


    February 24, 2020 at 8:39 AM

  6. I thought I saw alligators swimming out to sea. In California, I am very used to kelp but the color of this kelp is nothing like anything we have here.

    Michael Scandling

    February 24, 2020 at 10:03 AM

    • No alligators in New Zealand, except maybe at a zoo. Or else you were Bluffing.

      This kind of kelp is also found in South America but doesn’t make its way into North America.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2020 at 10:11 AM

      • Not literal alligators. Like seeing a kitty in the clouds.

        Michael Scandling

        February 24, 2020 at 10:13 AM

        • I knew what you meant but couldn’t pass up the chance to say that maybe you were Bluffing, given the name of the town where I photographed this bull kelp.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 24, 2020 at 10:17 AM

  7. Nice, Steve! That’s a wonderful gold color on that kelp.

    Ellen Jennings

    February 24, 2020 at 10:41 AM

    • It is, and it’s one of the things that made the kelp at Stirling Point so attractive to me. Some of this kind of kelp that I saw elsewhere in New Zealand was a duller yellow or even shaded toward gray.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2020 at 10:51 AM

  8. In the second photo, I saw collapsed fire hose. The first is my favorite for the color; that deeper blue, combined with the gold, is compelling. But the splash and swirl of the last seems the most interesting to me — and it’s great that the gull was willing to contrast itself with the darker water, rather than the froth.

    So: three years ago, and three photographs this time!


    February 24, 2020 at 5:26 PM

    • I’m with you in seeing collapsed fire hoses. I’m glad you mentioned that vision, which has the kelp more realistic in size, as opposed to the pasta analogy. In the last picture the kelp was almost secondary as I focused on the vigorous waves frothing on the rocks. As for the second picture, if I’d anticipated a gull flying in I’d have set a higher shutter speed. While the gull looks okay at this size, a large version reveals it to be slightly blurred.

      Sometimes I match the number of pictures to the number of years ago, and other times I don’t.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2020 at 6:45 PM

  9. Swirling Stirling Point is swell.. fabulous kelp photos!

    Ms. Liz

    February 24, 2020 at 7:07 PM

    • You added to the sw- in swirling with swell, which could also describe the rising and falling of the sea. Yes, Stirling Point was a great place for a nature photographer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2020 at 8:53 PM

      • Exactly, knowing you I anticipated you’d pick up on where my words were heading 🙂 I love the idea of Swirling Point.. should’ve been named that to begin with!

        Ms. Liz

        February 24, 2020 at 9:01 PM

        • As a New Zealander and South Island resident you can get your fellow citizens all a-swirl to demand a name change to Swirling Point.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 24, 2020 at 9:06 PM

  10. Gold and blue so complementary and beautiful.

    Steve Gingold

    February 26, 2020 at 5:43 AM

  11. They look like giant fettuccine noodles!!


    February 26, 2020 at 8:30 PM

  12. My garden would love that seaweed Steve! In my dreams …


    March 2, 2020 at 12:45 PM

  13. I see I was wrong in an earlier comment when I said our Bullwhip kelp strands are wider – this looks just like ours. So in that other photo, I guess they were more on edge. Cool!


    March 9, 2020 at 1:41 PM

    • From what I’ve found online, it seems your bullwhip kelp is Nereocystis luetkeana. Is that right? The imaginative genus name is Greek for “mermaid’s bladder.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2020 at 2:32 PM

  14. […] Bull kelp, Bluff, Southland.  New Zealand: swirling Stirling Point again […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: