Brian Chudleigh – nature photographer
above: A montage of a small selection of Brian Chudleigh's photography of flora in the Katikati area.
Brian Chudleigh's house lies down a right of way in suburban Katikati. It would be easy to drive right past. You have to really look. When you enter the property you are struck by the way that every single space both in and outside the house seems crammed full. Yet, everything has a sense of meticulous order and purpose. A closer inspection might reveal rare plants or cacti and succulents – valued amongst other things for their own structure and order. Animal life may include tadpoles of lesser known frogs or butterfly caterpillars which have been bought inside to be photographed. They efficiently suspend a row of pupae under the kitchen table. Everywhere there is a sense of discovery and wonderment for the alert visitor.

Brian is one of those people who can show us, really show us, what is special about the place we live in. His lifelong passion for photography and the documentation of nature has provided those of us living in Katikati with a rich resource. A bush walk on well maintained and easy walking tracks in the Kaimai Ranges behind Katikati may take a couple of hours to cover a few hundred metres in Brian's company. The walker constantly discovers the diversity of nature. Brian notes the detail. Closer inspection of fungi shows pattern, structure and colour. Fellow macro photographer, nature enthusiast and local science teacher, Shirley Kerr has discovered a cicada. Seemingly captured by fungi, it hangs upside down cemented to a branch. It's the Katikati version writ small of Pompaians captured forever frozen as they also fled the ravages of nature so long ago. Such comparisons are easy to make when one becomes immersed in the macro world. Meticulous notes are recorded, documenting photographic and other details. Brian will return if necessary to capture the 'perfect photo', spending long hours to get the right image. One of the advantages of photographing in New Zealand bush is not having to worry about poisonous insects or reptiles.

In the world of publishers Brian is well known for his contribution to the documentation of shorebirds, especially wading birds. Earlier on identification of birdlife was from books full of drawings. Brian found that the only way to get an accurate identification was to take good pictures. Where once early Australasian photographs were taken by European photographers, now Brian Chudleigh is sought by prestigious overseas publishing houses. Brian's work can be found in Hamlyn's book Photographic Guide to the Waders of the World published 1995. Batemans, a New Zealand publisher, have produced The Bird 1993 which contains around 36 photos by Brian. Other material can be found in both Australian and New Zealand geographical magazines as well as numerous gardening magazines.

The shores around Katikati have provided a constant source of photographic and editorial material. Over the years Brian has been able to document changes in the environment and at times has needed to take an active role in managing change bought about by developmental threats. Areas of salt marshes on the shores of Katikati have been surveyed and secretive wildlife like the Fern Bird documented. The New Zealand dotterel has used reclamation areas at the nearby Port of Tauranga for nesting. This is despite the same area being increasingly used as a recreational area by local people. As development of the port and associated industrial area has increased, the birds are being forced to look elsewhere for nesting sites. Brian's lens documents the changes.

Brian's feature article in The New Zealand Geographic, No. 7 July-September 1990 on Tauranga's coastal birds features migrant wading birds found in the Tauranga Harbour which nest in Siberia and Alaska. Flocks of Knots in bright chestnut breeding plumage roost on mudflats near Matahui Point, a few kilometres southeast of Katikati, just days before migrating north to Siberia.

Both bush and sea bounding Katikati are areas well worth taking a closer look. For Brian it is a year round pursuit. Autumn and winter provide material for fungi, while spring and summer will find Brian on the shoreline.

Brian Chudleigh helps show us that the place we live in is a very special place. For visitors too, either Siberian birdlife, visiting photographers or lovers of nature, the immediate area is a great place to explore.

Brian Chudleigh's book Shorebirds of New Zealand A photographic showcase is available. This 72 page book contains over four hundred full colour photographs of shorebirds and is accompanied by the author's personal notes and observations.

To order:
Phone or fax 64 7 549 0916. The book costs $NZ 24.95 plus $NZ 3.50 postage and packing.