Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Planning For Sunsets

Planning For Sunsets


I have been a Fiordland fanatic for more than 30 years and have scoured the fiords searching for photographic opportunities.

In the early days I begged myself onto deer recovery helicopter flights to scout for photo locations. One that I found was from the summit of Mount Pender overlooking the entrance to Dusky Sound. 

To make this work for me I needed to have the sun setting exactly over the entrance, so when I returned home I studied my Fiordland map and calculated with the aid of a GPS, the exact time of the year when the sun was where I wanted it at sunset.

This calculation told me that I needed to be there in the second week of January (I can't remember exactly but you get the point) so I planned a one week camping trip  at that time.

Well, to cut a long story short, due to bad weather I did not get my photo so had to wait a year to return. The bad weather taught me that I could not afford to camp on the exposed mountain again as I had my tent fly torn to shreds by the gale force winds on that first trip. Being older and wiser, I camped about half an hours walk down the mountain.

The weather was still volatile, but one night things fell into place for me. It had been raining and I had abandoned any hope of getting my photo and was trudging back to my tent.  Without warning the rain stopped and the mist began to clear as I raced back up the hill and with bumbling hands set up the tripod, clamped the camera on top and took this photo just as the last of the mist cleared. I was over the moon, all that planning over a couple of years came to a climax for just 5 minutes at exactly the right time.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Be Prepared

We should listen to the Boy Scouts. They have some good mottos, one of these  "Be Prepared" is an expression that I too often ignore in my many fits of enthusiasim when seaching for photographs.

A recent brainwave of mine was to photograph the rock formations in the Whataroa River Gorge in South Westland. I had been through the gorge on a commercial rafting trip and I was very taken by the shapes of the river sculpured rock. It was no use trying to photograph from a raft loaded with five other passengers, there was just no room to move, nor would have the other rafters been very happy for me to stuff around for an hour or more looking for a photograph.

The other problem was that there was so much water roaring through the gorge that it would be impossible to stop the raft where I needed to be. Careful planning was called for.

Winter was the right time as most of the precipitation in the mountains would be falling as snow so the river would not flood. A rainfree period of a week or two would also help lower the river level and slow down the flow.

How to access the inner gorge? A kayak is too unstable and I could not use my heavy camera gear, or get out on rock ledges very easily in the gorge itself.

I decided on a two metre inflatable raft with a 3 HP outboard and an anchor should I wish to stabilize myself somewhere in the gorge. I hired a helicopter, loaded it with my raft, camping gear, food, stove and camera gear and was dropped off at the entrance to the gorge.

Sounds good so far. Right?  Well all went well until I pumped up the boat, loaded my gear on board, started up the motor and puttered up through the gorge. I was only two minutes into my journey when I noticed that one side of the raft was losing air quite rapidly. No repair kit and the helicopter would not be back until the next day.

What was meant to be a leisurely inspection of the gorge turned into a nightmare. I did have the hand pump with me so when I selected spots to photograph I would toss out the anchor, set up my camera and as the raft listed more and more I would frantically pump until the little boat was stable again.

Of course I needed to wait for the right light so by the end of the first day I was exhausted from pumping. I needed only a couple of minutes when the light was right but I also needed to pump almost continuously to stay afloat.

I did get a few photos but it was not the relaxed exploration that I had planned. Back to the Boy Scouts, I should have joined up, I might have had a more relaxing  trip.