Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Staglands Wildlife Reserve New Zealand

17 km (10 miles) north of Wellington, New Zealand nestled in the Akatarawa Valley lies a magical place – Staglands Wildlife Reserve and Cafe. Less than an hour from the capital this lovely valley hideaway awaits you.

The road to the park winds with sharp twists and turns, and with dramatic vistas revealed beyond the trees as you drive. At times the road is barely two cars wide, which adds a bit of drama to the outward bound journey.

For this photo report I visited on a perfect autumn New Zealand day, and I arrived just as the morning chill gave way to brilliant sunshine. 

Staglands Winding Road in the Akatarawa Valley
The road to Staglands Wildlife Park

Of course I took my camera, but this time I took two lenses. My 50 mm and a telephoto lens. It’s the first time I had taken photographs of wildlife with it apart from the Zoo but there the animals are further away.

One of the overall aims of Staglands is advocacy – by ensuring that all New Zealanders have access to their native wildlife, in as natural surroundings as possible

Staglands Wetlands area
The wetlands area of the Park. ISO 100 70 mm F 6.3 1/125 © Dash Kitten
Pony at Staglands, New Zealand
Staglands Pony ISO 200 55 mm F 4.5 1/50 © Dash Kitten

Camera Settings

My first chance to take moving animals at Staglands Wildlife Reserve made me think about my settings. As the animals would probably be moving quite quickly, I decided that Aperture Priority (A on a Nikon) was a good start for my Canon 1300D.

My aim this visit was to try for sharp photos without worrying about setting my aperture manually. Av mode let me concentrate on composition and focus.

Staglands Cafe Lawn and Lake
View from the Cafe towards the lake.
ISO 200 50 mm F 5.6 1/400 © Dash Kitten
Silver eye at Staglands Wildlife Park
The Silver Eye at the cafe feeder – ISO 200 200 mm F 5.6 1/200 © Dash Kitten

Entering the park I followed the wide path down towards the forest wetlands area. The sun shimmers on the water as you pass the friendly geese and make your way to the first of several aviaries that shelter Kea, and some small exotic species. The waterbirds delight children, who are often smaller than many of the geese. 

Staglands Piglets
Cheeky little piglets ISO 200 70 mm F 4.5 1/2000 © Dash Kitten

Around the lake are paths to explore, and there is a large Barn with an outside barbecue area. The large wooden building is available for events and functions like weddings.

Staglands Wildlife Fun

Visitors see bird-filled aviaries, a stable setting with donkeys and horses, including young Shire horse, small animals like guinea pigs and rabbits as well as several breeds of exotic pigs, and sheep.  On my visit I was mobbed by four tiny cute piglets, I did get a few photos of them afterwards.

Staglands Rookery
A magnificent blue black rook ISO 800 84 mm F 5.6 1/40 © Dash Kitten

The setting allows people to get closer to animals than they might usually and without the risk of danger you get in the zoo. It also allowed me to get a lovely photograph of the turkey’s feathers as well as the bird itself, who kindly stood still for one of my sharpest shots.

Staglands Settlers Homes
Settlers Buildings
ISO 200 55 mm F 5.6 1.50

I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into Staglands Wildlife reserve.

Their conservation efforts are part of a countrywide effort to preserve and encourage native species, while letting people get in touch with real animals up close.

Staglands Turkey Closeup
A Turkey ‘selfie – ISO 200 146 mm F 5.6.1/1600
Staglands Turkey Feathers coloured brown, white and grey
Turkey feathers – ISO 200 146 mm F 5.6.1/1600

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10 thoughts on “Staglands Wildlife Reserve New Zealand”

  1. What a wonderful place to have where you can get so close to wildlife in a natural habitat. The fact that they also have a cafe is great! Your photos are amazing, I love them all. I think they are National Geo worthy! Thanks for sharing this magical place.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  2. That was a special place to visit for sure!! You got a whole set of greast pics!! Those piglets made me giggle:)

  3. Such a cool place and a nice tour, thanks for taking us along to see those special sights and selfies!

  4. Thanks so much for taking us along on your photo tour of the Staglands Park. We love TW and are sending has purrs and prayers

  5. What a wonderful place to explore and to take photos! That turkey’s feathers are amazing, and the pigs are so cute. 🙂


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