Perhaps everyone knows how glaciers work…a lot of snow (and I mean a lot of it, up to 50m to gain a compressing weight of its own) compacting into the ice with gravity pulling this mass down the hill. It may however be a bit harder for everyone to imagine the scale of the area where all this compacting happens.
Franz Josef Glacier is one of the smaller glaciers by world standards but quite a sizeable chunk of ice in New Zealand landscape.
On this photograph I’ve been hoping to show the vastness of the upper parts of this currently about 10km long glacier. With 2 highest peaks of the New Zealand’s Southern Alps dominating the background – Mount Tasman on far top left 3,497m and highest mountain Aoraki/Mount Cook 3,724m next to it on right, the vastness of the Geikie and Davis Snowfields of the Franz Josef Glacier is quite apparent.
This wonderful scene has been photographed just as the sun was dipping over the horizon of the Tasman Sea on right and I love the beautiful light bouncing over about 30 square km large NEVE in wonderful hues of purple, pink and orange. Hope you enjoy this image, too. Thank you.
This shot is from last winter on Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand.
It was a beautiful day, as it always is on the West Coast and which is why you wanna be on ice, right?
I was on one of my explorations of this glacier. Since the glacier’s changing literally every day, you can keep coming back all the time and always see some new magic.
On this day, it was these turquoise fringes of the crevasses which caught my attention, as they were shining from a distance at me.
I love these ice colours but it is not easy to get around locations like this, especially in winter when every crack, deep crevasse or whole is covered with snow. These adventures can truly be deadly if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve been tip toeing around these crevasses, poking the ground in front of me before I put my next step down. I wanted to get as close as I could to get a nice wide angle shot with a lot of detail.
Standing on the slippery edge of the crevasse I made this exposure with my 12-24 mm wide angle lens at 12mm and with +1.3 EV exposure compensation.
Only very little of touch up on this RAW file in Lightroom was required to finalize the frame.
I hope you’ll like it as I do.
I’ve been wondering for quite some time how Franz Josef Glacier looks under the moonlight. As you know, there is only 12 or 13 full moons in a year and not each of moon’s appearance is on a clear sky for maximum light. Also, I might not always be able to chase it…but eventually, I managed.
Couple of days back it looked like its going to be a good full moon and because I was around, I decided to give it a go and hurried up to climb the hill and spent a night under the stars…and what a night it was!
I’ve been just starting and experimenting with night photography so I was very excited to see what can be captured. I managed to get several exposures ranging from 30 to 40 min but I can see that there is much more potential. It was full moon and that’s why I went up – to get well illuminated glacier but next time I might go somewhere in the middle of the moon cycle. That should allow me to add some nice, stronger star trails into the frame, as well, as this time the sky was too bright.
Since this image is not online yet, the link from it will take you to our STOCK galleries where you can explore more on New Zealand’s landscapes!
This seems to be a very nice way to share those past twelve months of photographic adventures with all our friends, followers and supporters. Therefore I also decided to point out 12 images, one for each month, which I feel very good about. Most of them are already online and you may have come them across on our stock website but even if so, I reckon these frames deserve to be showcased again.
In January I had some great times with my models on Franz Josef Glacier.
It is not common to be able to walk through this deep ice crevasses but on this occasion, we were very lucky to be here. Actually, this has been the deepest crevasse I’ve ever walked through. It might have been 15-20m deep at places and possibly 100m long. It was absolutely amazing and my massive and grateful THANK YOU goes to the Glacier Guides from Franz Josef, who made this possible!
It wasn’t easy to pick my favourite shot as the ice colours and patterns were changing along the way but this image has a great combination of being lost amidst the ice and “Alice in the Wonderland” feeling. Totally surreal place to be in!
In February, on one late afternoon I drove from Wanaka toward the West Coast. It was very dull and the sky was heavily clouded with no light at all and it started to rain slowly, intensifying into downpour. It felt like you were under some dark blanket. Except for one moment when a sudden burst of light broke through the black clouds. Luckily I was able to grab this image before it started to bucket down again.
In March I had my friend, a fellow photographer over to visit and we decided to take a heli ride over the glaciers in Westland NP. With doors off, we spent nearly an hour of the golden hour of the day flying over the Southern Alps and making images. For this image in the upper parts of the Fox Glacier I asked pilot if he could get as low and as close to these crevasses as he could, so I could emphasize them. They remind me of fingers pointing to the second highest mountain in NZ – Mt. Tasman 3497m which dominates the background. The orangy colours are partially from setting sun but they’re also enhanced by the dust which by the end of summer reaches NZ from Australian outback.
April was an exciting month, as I was able to visit one of the locations I’ve been having on my list for many years – the Ice Lake.
This lake is hidden behind ranges only a few km away from my home and is an absolute gem. It is also very difficult to photograph since the lake sits in between high ranges so not much light gets there and one faces a massive exposure differences. In this image I didn’t have many options but HDR.
Frankly, I’m just starting to learn a little about HDR as I’m not a huge fan but do understand its benefits, which I appreciated in creating this image.
May, that’s when the winter starts kicking in. And winter on the West Coast is just magnificent. Brilliant skies and best light. I love going on the glacier in winter because you get all sorts of frozen patterns in puddles made by melting water from the sunny days.
One of great example is here – frozen air bubbles in a small crack in the ice filled with water. Unfortunately, the limited colour space of your screen doesn’t show you the real colours of this image but just imagine intense blue-turquoise hues. Love it!
In June I visited another of my favourite locations – The Castle Rock Hut.
This hut is perched on the ridge overlooking Franz Josef Glacier with some spectacular views. Can’t wait to go back!
July was again – the glacier time. With fresh blanket of snow, everything looks so pristine and pure. Then all it takes is to walk and walk and walk around very carefully, looking for some nice frame to make an image. And if the sun and caves works together, some great images are to be had.
Using a small aperture gives you this nice starburst effect, which ultimately makes the image shine.
There is still plenty of snow on the mountains in August and it’s a great time to get some fantastic imagery done. This image was made on the Gillespies Beach with reflections of highest NZ mountains – Mt. Cook (3754m) right and Mt. Tasman (3497m) left.
The Tasman Sea is just a few meters behind my back so one has to watch ones back if the tide is high.
In September I was working on assignment to get the panorama of the Southern Alps with as little shadows as possible – sometime you have to listen to your client. Despite that brief, the image turned out quite nicely. We waited several days for some fresh snow to dust up the already warming mountains and that’s why I picked this image for this month, as it shows gently snow covered mountains with a lot of detail and all the beauty of Fox Glacier sliding down through the middle of the frame.
October was month of sunsets. One of these has been taken from Okarito lookout. Image overlooks the Three Mile Lagoon and leads your eye further along the coast south. Great skies made the frame.
In November I travelled a little north along the West Coast, to Punakaiki. This great location is famous for its “Pancake Rocks” and fabulous coastline. This image has quite common and popular framing of the location but despite that I pick this image because I like the light and sky in it. It’s been very windy evening and clouds were chasing each other and when the sun sinked below the horizon, it threw its last rays onto those clouds and gave us one more opportunity to make an image.
Lastly, in December I went with my friend for several days into the wilderness. We hiked toward the Copland Pass in the Southern Alps and needless to say, the trip was just brilliant. Not only we had a great swim in freezing cold waters of Copland River on scorchingly hot day but we came home with some great imagery, as well.
One of my favourite frames from the trip is this panorama of the Copland River.
Franz Josef Glacier is hugely popular to all kinds of visitors. And that’s no wonder, when one realizes the facets this stunning piece of Mother Nature’s work has on offer.
Besides its pure, mesmerizing blue, translucent beauty hitting us from every direction, Franz Josef Glacier has also its rough face, challenging many people with its ice climbing opportunities.
The characteristics of this icy beast, combined with comfortable access, make this very easily possible. The steep and narrow valley works as a funnel into which Franz Josef slides from almost 3.000m above sea level. Once the body of ice gets into lower, steep and uneven valley floor, massive waves of ice are formed. These waves can be as high as 15-20 m and just scream to be climbed…and there is always plenty of those who can hear the call!
New Zealand sits on the famous “Ring of Fire”, which is one of the reasons for its astounding natural diversity and why this country has some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world – The Southern Alps, dominating the South Island along its West Coast and only a few km at places from the Tasman Sea. But it is also the reason why this magnificent country is very prone to the earthquakes.
The Earth’s crust is made of (more…)
If the current average temperature were just 4° C lower, we would be living in an ice age. During the last, 18, 000 years ago, Franz Josef Glacier stretched its tongue some 10km beyond the present coast line. In this period the sea level was around 100m lower than today, as an immense amount of water was locked up in the glaciers all around the world. On the West Coast there were (more…)
As with all the rest of the glaciated world, New Zealand is also losing ice mass at a rapid rate, with 61% lost since 1850 (Hoelzle et al. 2007), and 11% in the last 30 years (T. Chinn, pers. comm.).
Most of this loss is from the large glaciers calving into pro-glacial lakes, such as the Tasman Glacier. This lake formation is the result of glacier thinning in response to climatic warming in the 20th century. As well as these large dynamic changes in glacier volume, there are smaller annual changes in volume due to changes in the amount of snow accumulation and snow and ice melt. An idea of how much mass is lost or gained each year throughout the Southern Alps is given by measurements of the end-of-summer snowlines since 1977. These measurement indicate that there have been positive mass balances at times during this period balance (Chinn et al. 2008) and the very sensitive and responsive Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers have advanced as a result.
The advance of Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere Franz Josef Glacier since 1984 has been extraordinary given the global pattern of receeding glaciers during this period. Recent work (more…)
The Franz Josef Glacier is one of the fastest moving glaciers on Earth. Unlike most of glacier in the world the Franz Josef Glacier travels down very steep slopes of the Southern Alps. In the upper and very steep parts of the glacier, where the ice in the huge neve is squeezed into a narrow valley, the ice can move up to 5m each day during period of advance. (more…)
One of the attractions of the glacier is the beautiful blue colour of its ice. In the upper reaches of the glacier the ice can be up to 300m thick. The upper layer is snow. When this reaches about 16 – 20m deep the snow compresses under its own weight and all the air is squeezed from between the snow crystals, forming glacial ice. (more…)
The unique environment of Westland National Park is responsible for the formation of the local glaciers. These powerful remnants of an ice age manage to survive warming temperatures due to the very special weather conditions on the West Coast of the South Island. Up to 16 metres of precipitation falls on the tops of the Southern Alps every year, most of it falling as snow. This massive amount of snow (more…)