Being a ''determined old bugger'' paid off for hobby
photographer Simon Larkin, who spent endless hours sitting
silent and motionless inside a tiny bird hide to capture a
winning wildlife shot.
Mr Larkin (46) and his family live on 8ha at Queensberry
Hills, between Cromwell and Wanaka, where hawks routinely
circle the skies searching for the spoils of the area's
rabbit control efforts.
That setting sparked an idea which culminated, after a
two-year ''waiting game'', in one of Mr Larkin's hawk photos
winning the Otago Wildlife Photography Competition's animal
category and the event's 15th anniversary prize.
Using rabbit carcasses to lure his subjects, Mr Larkin
endures hours at a time squeezed into a 78cm by 50cm by 115cm
hide with his camera and tripod, mainly in autumn and winter
when the usually ''skittish'' birds seem more confident.
''My lens pokes out in the netting in front of me so that
they can't see me inside and I just sit there still as a rock
for three hours contemplating life and the meaning of the
The home-based graphic designer, who also passes the time in
the hide checking work emails on his cellphone, has
experimented with different concealment methods.
''I tried just hiding in a bush and that didn't work because
they've got amazing eyesight obviously and they can see you a
A wooden frame covered in tarpaulins was destroyed by the
wind, but his latest model made from concrete blocks is
proving effective, albeit cold and cramped.
''I've managed to really bling it out with a little foam pad
to sit on. That's about it.''
A friend had suggested his photography award now called for
''a really posh hide with a beer fridge and all this stuff
'', Mr Larkin said, joking.
He has learnt to fool the birds into taking his bunny bait by
walking to the hide with his wife, Julia, who then heads back
to the house.
''Once they see someone walk back they think it's all clear
... that's quite a neat little trick.''
His bird portraiture project has led to a real fondness for
hawks, which were ''magnificent animals'' but not the
''Whenever we're driving into town or something and we see a
[dead] rabbit on the road we stop and hoof it off the road
because we know the hawks will probably land on it and get
''It's strange how you can scoot past them in a car and
they'll stay put, whereas if you try to get out of the car
and take a picture of them and they see a human shape, they
just disappear so quick.''
Fellow photographers at the wildlife awards were keen to hear
the secret behind Mr Larkin's winning Hawk Fight image, in
which two birds are shown in mid-air battle after one is
interrupted while eating a carcass.
''They're really frustrating animals to try and get close to
so I think a lot of other photographers are quite interested
when they've had a try and given up quite quickly. I was
being a bit more determined and stuck with it.''