Winter is Back

IN QUEENSTOWN AND THE SOUTH ISLAND OF NEW ZEALAND, IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE WEATHER. A WINTER BLAST CREATES NEW CONTRASTS, TEXTURES AND COLOUR COMBINATIONS.

ABOVE: A light dusting of snow over ploughed fields, morning glow through low clouds, caught with 10mm wide angle to create some dramatic perspective, and you have a magical scene.

Here in Queenstown and Central Otago, the cherry trees have started to blossom and spring is well under way. Winter was light-on this year, as it was. Sure, the mountains got their coat of snow, we skied a few weekends, and we got some great shots of an icy morning in Skippers canyon. But winter came late and left early, so it was exciting when a polar blast hit the country yesterday, forcing us all back into puffer jackets and thermals. We awoke yesterday to a “winter wonderland” with snow from the bottom of the garden to the mountaintops. There were occasional blizzard-like gusts right through to afternoon. Low cloud swirled, occasionally letting bits of sun and blue sky through, making for interesting light and expressive skies.

I couldn’t let these conditions pass without getting out and capturing them, so I headed south to Pukoraki, an imposing range of hills standing sentinel over the headwaters of the Mataura River, before it winds on past Garston and Athol into Southland.

ABOVE: The road south from Queenstown passes the little hamlet of Kingston and then heads arrow straight across the the boulder strewn moraine of an ancient glacier toward a range of mountains – Pukoraki, the triangular headstone of which, leads you into Southland. This imposing feature reminds me of the mountain in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. I have alluded to the movie with the shot, above, of the road taking you toward the mountain.

With so much low cloud around, this was not a day for venturing high up. The colours and textures of this rural landscape, just waking from winter sleep and juxtaposed against a backdrop of white mountain walls, were what caught my eye. Verdant hills, blocks of felt green, next to rectangles of corduroy, fences separating them like dotted lines – an abstract vision, seen best through a long lens.

This was a day for testing out my new 70-300mm Nikon lens. At long focal lengths, the elements in the landscape become compressed. Whereas with wide-angle glass, perspective is enhanced, a telephoto removes it. A flatness is introduced that imposes a different and often poetic reality.

ABOVE: Rural landscapes can appear as abstract compositions of colour, shapes and texture. These were taken with a 300mm telephoto.

Within these abstract planes and patterns, are glimpses of rural life in full swing. Farmers mending fences. Sheep are lambing. Giant tractors trundle up and down the highway, delivering feed to hungry stock. I love the honesty and closeness to the earth. It’s our food and clothing being wrought from the land. Only 45 minutes south of the beating metropolitan heart of touristy Queenstown, this series of images feels like a relief from the dramatic, super saturated, sunrise/sunset, mega cloud form, glowing astro nightscape images that seem so de-rigeur there.

ABOVE: In this scene I liked the retreat from horizontal, strong lines and colour to the triangles formed by hills further and further away.




Martin Kohn
Martin Kohn

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