Former sailor captures sea life each day

Last updated 11:44 12/02/2014
david barnard
COASTAL WATCH: Photographer and former merchant navy man David Barnard's passion for the sea means he has amassed thousands of photos recording shipping and wildlife on the Timaru coastline.

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Every morning Timaru photographer David Barnard goes down to the beach with his camera, attracted by the ships and the wildlife - "anything that moves, basically".

The former British merchant navy man is fascinated by ships and has thousands of photos of the tug Te Maru but still takes them "because it's there".

"No two photos are ever the same, it doesn't matter how many times, they're always different."

He has been taking photos for about 20 years and, since moving back to Timaru from Oamaru four years ago, has been down at the shore virtually every day.

"It's absolutely my passion."

Before that, in Oamaru, it was the North Otago coast. When he had photographed as much as he could there it was time to shift back to Timaru, he said.

The Englishman was captivated by New Zealand when arriving at Timaru on a merchant ship in the 1970s.

"As you come in from the sea what you see is a little band of houses then the mountains behind. I thought it looked really quaint."

He discovered it wasn't just a little band of houses after all, with the city stretching out behind, but it was enough to tempt him to emigrate.

He loves photographing anything to do with the ocean, anywhere where there is wildlife or shipping, and the time of day he heads down depends on the weather and the light.

"Nice cloudy days like this (when we photographed him last week) would be good. It depends, whatever takes my fancy."

The northern breakwater is his favourite place.

"Normally I'll head out there, it's good for taking photos or being on my own. It's a great spot."

He likes photographing seals and seabirds, and occasionally the odd leopard seal or sea lion. He compares seal photos from year to year looking for familiar markings.

"People tend to think seals can be boring and don't do much, but if you spend enough time they'll give you a growl or a smile, or whatever adds something extra."

"I've had a couple of close calls with a seal, maybe going a bit close. I do tend to have a small lens because I like its wide angle."

He remembers one encounter with a leopard seal.

"He didn't want me to get any closer and let me know it, for sure."

That is one of the photos on his Facebook page where he has posted many of his pictures and attracted 1500 likes.

He has also just started loading them on to YouPic which he likes because people can't right click on his photos and disregard his copyright.

Although he watermarks his photos, across the middle nowadays, they have been lifted off Facebook. He said it's very, very difficult to make money from his art.

"It all comes down to exposure."

And he's not a fan of people photography.

"Give me a flower or a bee or anything like that any day. People are just too awkward."

But he has been asked and says he does give it a go.

He spends two to three hours a day at the beach followed by the time it takes to process the photos and put them online. He has thousands of photos, "I wouldn't even like to stab a guess at it," kept on external hard drives and online.

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Occasionally one is printed out and displayed at home.

When he gets a photographer's equivalent of writer's block, he takes a break from ships and seabirds and captures flowers and pets, which freshen his outlook.

"I'm always on the lookout for something a wee bit different."

More of Mr Barnard's photos can be seen at


- South Canterbury


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