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It may well be the warmest start to winter for many years, but you wouldn’t know it in Skippers Canyon. It’s 15 minutes drive from bustling Queenstown but it’s a wild and forbidding world where the forces of nature are writ large.
Accessed by a narrow road – not for the faint hearted – that winds around and clings to rocky crags, with precipitous drops below, you see around you uplifted strata and sawtooth ridges. Only the hardiest plants – alpine tussock and introduced pine, cling to the rocky soil.
The road, cut by hand over a century ago follows the canyon down to the valley of the Shotover River, a slash of bright blue meandering far below, through it’s own ravine.
We went there twice last week for photo tours. Climbing the Coronet Peak Road out of Queenstown at dawn and turning off at Skippers Saddle we looked back to watch as the Remarkables range was lit by the rising sun. Signs warn of the dangers ahead for unprepared drivers.
Over the ridge the temperature dropped. It was was minus five most of the way and what would have been a muddy, rutted and slippery track was frozen solid and dry. Hoarfrost sparkled on leaves and branches and glowed ethereally through distant trees.
For the photographer, this is a dream. Here geological history is laid bare. Diagonal layers of rock point to the sky. Glacial terraces, flat as football fields, are cut through by the mountain river. Patterns are everywhere.
On the bright, clear days of summer – in the afternoon, as the sun lowers behind the mountains they fall into a shade of dark, soft blue, bluffs and valleys just visible.
It took 20 images stitched together to make this panorama that captures the extraordinary light.
Spring in Queenstown and the Wakatipu has to be the most exciting season. As the world awakes from it’s winter sleep, Spring is a celebration of new life. In this series of posts I have talked about the distinct stages that create a sense of growth, change and evolution. The first signs as daytime temperatures lose some of their bite and nightfall reaches a more reasonable hour are a green fuzz of buds appearing on trees. Then as we start to experience short bursts of tantalizing warmth, the arrival of spring is heralded by mass of pink. Apples and cherries, especially ornamental varieties, line roads and byways, bare skeletons clothed in rose and white garlands, like so many balloons – decorations for the coming festival of colour.
We are focussed right now on the horror and sadness of the events that unfolded in Paris this weekend. Let us also remember that this is the latest chapter in a campaign to destroy civilisation. Only a week ago, 44 people were killed in twin bombings in Beirut. Before that, a Russian airliner – bombed out of the sky. The last decade and a half has seen terror strike innocent populations around the world.
Civilisation has come a long way in the last thousand years. Extremists and terrorists seek to seduce us through fear and outrage into abandoning reason, compassion, and peace. Retribution and destruction are tempting responses to these acts of terror. But we must beware, where these responses lead us. Let it not be back to cruel medievalism, but to a brighter, kinder, reasoned, community of nations working to solve the great challenges humanity faces.
This image is a panorama taken outside of Kingston, at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu, where 10,000 years ago this was the terminus of a great glacier. The remains of its massive moraine and outwash plain stretch some twelve kilometres south. Fields of giant boulders are testament to the glacier’s bulldozer force. The cloak has the colours of France, Lebanon, Kenya and India, countries that have recently been targets of barbaric attacks. Could this field of boulders be the wreckage around us now and the distant mountains be the brighter future we are all working for?
Spring in Queenstown and the Wakatipu has to be the most exciting season. As the world awakes from it’s winter sleep, Spring is a celebration of new life. In my last post I talked about the distinct stages that create a sense of growth, change and evolution. The first signs as daytime temperatures lose some of their bite and nightfall reaches a more reasonable hour are a green fuzz of buds appearing on trees. Then as we start to experience short bursts of tantalizing warmth, the arrival of spring is heralded by mass of pink. Apples and cherries, especially ornamental varieties, line roads and byways, bare skeletons clothed in rose and white garlands, like so many balloons – decorations for the coming festival of colour.
Spring in Queenstown and the Wakatipu is always the most joyous season. The excitement of seeing the mountains covered in their white blanket has faded and cosiness of evenings by the fire has become a yearning for bright blue skies, warm sun and lengthening days.
One of the things that fascinates me about the Wakatipu is how the region had been such a pristine wilderness of unspoilt lakes, rivers and mountains since glaciers carved them out ten thousand years ago.
The history of gold mining in and around Queenstown and the Central Otago goldfish adds a fascinating, intriguing and sobering dimension to the rugged beauty of this region. The hunger for gold tamed this pristine wilderness of jagged peaks, crystal blue lakes, deep, green forests and windblown alpine plains. The men who came here in their thousands truly struggled and suffered for the promise of a little wealth. Their legacy remains in silent ravines of clay and gravel washed out by sluicing jets, piles of tailings overgrown with foxgloves and lupins; ancient rusting tramways that wind nowhere and old stone dwellings tumbling and decaying alongside rushing rivers.
Contrasts abound in this image. The rounded, sharp edged pattern of shapes in the frangipani flowers contrast the soft, more geometric pattern of the branches. The flowers are rich warm, reds and orange, while the background is cool, blue green. Note that the patterns in the image are also complimentary and tie everything together.
In any effective composition, contrast is one of the key underlying elements. This applies in any area of design, painting or photography. As a your graphic design student I spent countless hours with scissors and colored paper, exploring the power of contrast. Now as a photographer, it is visual contrast I’m looking for in creating a successful image.
We all know Queenstown Lakes abounds with incredible landscapes and impressive views – during the day. In the golden hours of early morning and dusk when hues of orange, pink and magenta bathe the mountains and lakes the effect is even more memorable. This year though, the night sky has been the star. With the sun currently in a phase of heightened activity, our southern skies glow often with the light show of the Aurora Australis.