Glamour shots

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Richard Robinson

As a kid, Richard Robinson was, well, a kid—he threw the odd stone at a seagull. But now he cringes when his own children chase tarāpunga/red-billed gulls on the beach. After decades spent documenting the oceans, he has developed a reverence for the birds many of us dismiss as pesky chip-stealers. Gull aesthetics delight him, but it’s deeper than that.

“I love them,” he says. “I could watch them all day. They’ve got funny family dynamics—they all bicker and fight and then the next minute they’re all getting along again. They’re loud [but] I don’t find the noise unpleasant.”

Perhaps the birds sensed his devotion—not a single sandwich was nicked during his long days with the gulls.

Robinson likes to keep a talisman close when he’s shooting big stories and in this case the honour went to a puppet, dubbed “Red Beak” by his kids. Squawks just like the real thing—without the smell.

Robinson’s summer was spent hopping back and forth between two seabird stories: the red-bill colonies at Kaikōura, and the new fairy tern hand-rearing programme run by Auckland Zoo and the Department of Conservation. “I was conscious at the time that I was photographing one of our most common seabirds and our most endangered. And that they’re both obviously in a hell of a lot of trouble.”