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Posts tagged “West Coast

What to see in Oparara Valley near Karamea

Moria Gate, limestone formation in Oparara Valley near Karamea, Kahurangi National Park, Buller Region, West Coast, New Zealand

Moria Gate, limestone formation in Oparara Valley near Karamea, Kahurangi National Park, Buller Region, West Coast, New Zealand

Many tourists make a mistake of not taking on the northern part of the West Coast. Often, they would travel as far north as Westport, but leaving out Karamea area.
And that’s a mistake as this region is one of marvels the West Coast has on offer.
Oparara Valley is famous for its lush green rainforest and beautiful orange-brown tannin stained Oparara River but particularly for its famous limestone arches and caves.
One of the easily accessed caves is Moria Gate with Oparara River flowing through it.
The arch itself offers endless photo opportunities but using slow shutter speed enables us to capture wonderful reflections of the cave shapes reflecting into the slowly flowing river.

This is a very easy, short walk from the carpark and everyone visiting this are should come and enjoy tranquility of this wonderful location.
Not like in the where sadly, as far as you can see, there is always a pine grove in a view, spoiling these beautiful Sounds. Luckily some great work is being done to eradicate this trees from these hills where they don’t belong.
In Whanganui however, no pines at all. You’re surrounded only by native coastal forest just like what it was hundreds of years ago. …and that’s something we must treasure dearly.

Moria Gate, limestone formation in Oparara Valley near Karamea, Kahurangi National Park, Buller Region, West Coast, New Zealand

Thank you and Enjoy!


Whanganui Inlet on West Coast of New Zealand

Pastel colours of sunset over Whanganui Inlet on west coast with alpine vegetation, Nelson Region, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

Pastel colours of sunset over Whanganui Inlet on west coast with alpine vegetation, Nelson Region, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

There are many things that I like about this area; total lack of people is one of them.
Apart from a few farming vehicles, it will still surprise you when you meet with another freedom traveller heading towards you on this wonderfully narrow, dusty road.
Another nice thing is a beautiful silence. More often than not, in coastal areas you can hear boats’ engines reeving up but very seldom here…only birds echo through the air. But the main thing I’d like to point out here is my favourite one – it’s all about native bush here.
Not like in the Marlborough Sounds where sadly, as far as you can see, there is always a pine grove in a view, spoiling these beautiful Sounds. Luckily some great work is being done to eradicate this trees from these hills where they don’t belong.
In Whanganui however, no pines at all. You’re surrounded only by native coastal forest just like what it was hundreds of years ago. …and that’s something we must treasure dearly.

Pastel colours of sunset over Whanganui Inlet on west coast with alpine vegetation, Nelson Region, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

Thank you and Enjoy!


Photographing famous waterfalls.

Dorothy Falls near Hokitika with golden light of sunset reflecting in water, West Coast, South Westland, New Zealand

Dorothy Falls near Hokitika with golden light of sunset reflecting in water, West Coast, South Westland, New Zealand

When photographing a well known location or site, it’s always a challenge to come up with a new, fresh composition.
Dorothy Falls near Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand is a great example.

I have numerous frames of this waterfall with classic compositions but this time I wanted something a little different.
I decided to use a long lens to make a horizontal panorama of this waterfall.
Knowing that there will be some limitations with the depth of field I used focus stacking technique for each of the vertical frame to maintain maximum sharpness from the front to the background.

I’m very pleased with my new take on this notoriously photographed waterfall and hope that you’ll enjoy it, as well.

Dorothy Falls with golden light of sunset reflecting in the water, South Westland, South Island, New Zealand

Thank you for reading and Enjoy!


West Coast kayaking Magic!

Sunset scene with kayak in Okarito Lagoon, Westland National Park, West Coast, World Heritage Area, South Westland, New Zealand

Sunset scene with kayak in Okarito Lagoon, Westland National Park, West Coast, World Heritage Area, South Westland, New Zealand

When we, photographers, set our minds on one image it’s all too easy to forget about what’s happening around us. We have this magical scene in front of us, the light is changing fast, the heart is pumping with excitement so no wonder it can slip from our minds that there may be another magic happening behind our backs. In my case, I can get too concentrated on my photograph in front of me, that I don’t pay enough attention to what’s happening behind me…but I’ve learned this lesson number of times and am now much more careful not to miss an opportunity for some other photograph then to what I set my mind on.

Saying that though, I still do think that concentration on making a photograph you came for should be priority, as I’ve also experienced this in a hard way, that if we want too much, we often end up with average, missing on the best moment on the intended image.

This photograph of kayak perfectly reflecting in sheets of gold light on a still Okarito Lagoon on the West Coast in New Zealand is a perfect example of an opportunity when you got your main frame in a bag and are hungry for more!

Kayak reflecting in Okarito Lagoon at sunset, Westland National Park, West Coast, World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Photograph ©Petr Hlavacek – nzicescapes.com


Coastal scenery from Okarito Lagoon in New Zealand

Pastel colours of twilight over Southern Alps with Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman from Okarito Lagoon, Westland National Park, West Coast, World Heritage Area, South Westland, New Zealand

Pastel colours of twilight over Southern Alps with Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman from Okarito Lagoon, Westland National Park, West Coast, World Heritage Area, South Westland, New Zealand

It’s hard to describe my feelings when I’m at pristine places like Okarito on the West Coast in New Zealand with its surrounding lagoons, wetlands and wild beaches. Without wanting to be too sentimental, I just can’t help it to say that my heart is always up my throat, filled with joy how beautiful this place is.
Regardless of the time of the day, you always can make a wonderful photograph in Okarito. For me though, my time I love to photograph is when the sun is near the horizon and the light orchestrates its play around you. Once the sun dips below horizon, the air fills up with pastel hues of pinks and purples, contrast balances out, remoteness with silence all around makes me feel this place belongs just to me….and it’s then, when photographs like this can be made.

Dusk at Okarito Lagoon with views of the Southern Alps on horizon, West Coast, Westland National Park, World Heritage Area, South Westland, New Zealand

Thank you for checking in and Enjoy!

Image ©Petr Hlavacek – nzicescapes.com


Highest mountains in New Zealand

The Southern Alps

Mt. Cook 3,754m and Mt. Tasman 3,497m, Westland National Park, World Heritage Area, West Coast, New Zealand

I’m sure that every photographer time time struggles with culling similar images down…which one to keep and which to throw into the bin…especially when each of the frame can stand on its own, has it’s own quality and charm?
I’ve always had problems with this but I think I’m getting better at it now.
Time to time however, I find a nut which is hard to crack…like this one.

When I get to this point where I simply am out of breath, I look at it from a different angle and try to find deliberate use of the images for portraying the scene, usually in a different quality light as it passes through… and I’m finding that this works best with scenes with strong and clear compositions and main subject….like this one.

Mt. Cook 3,754m, Mt. Tasman 3,497m of The Southern Alps, Westland National Park, West Coast, World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Taken with Nikon D300 and printed as high quality Fine Poster at 130cm x 60cm approx.

Thank you for visiting and Enjoy!


Wild rivers, creeks and streams

Wild Tekano Creek near Douglas Rock Hut in Copland Valley, Westland National Park, West Coast, South Westland, New Zealand

Wild Tekano Creek near Douglas Rock Hut in Copland Valley, Westland National Park, West Coast, South Westland, New Zealand

A week ago I spent several days in one of my favourite areas, in Copland Valley, on the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand.

Gorgeous Copland River runs through this beautiful valley which is penetrated with side creeks of all sizes; and they all have one thing in common – they are rough and wild.
Since these rivers, creeks and streams are in an area where the rainfall can exceed 500mm in 24hrs, one can only imagine the inferno happening when the heavy rain comes down and those massive boulders of bus sizes tumble down these creeks…

But on calm days, these creeks are not only very beautiful alpine gems to photograph but also great to wash down the blood and sweat from reaching them…not mentioning best water to drink!

Tekano Creek with sun rising on The Sierra Range and Welcome Pass behind, Westland National Park, West Coast, World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Taken with Nikon D800E and Nikkor 16-35mm f4 lens and is a stitch of 2 vertical frames.

Thank you and Enjoy!

For more similar images from this area, please visit our online gallery of Rivers and Creeks.


Lake Wahapo – scenic lake on West Coast of New Zealand

Lake Wahapo on West Coast in New Zealand

Sunset at Lake Wahapo near Whataroa with kahikatea grove and Mt. Adams in background, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

In my opinion, one of the most scenic lakes on the West Coast is Lake Wahapo.

Yes, I might be a little bit biased since the lake is only a stone throw away from my house near Whataroa and I feel extremely privileged and humbled to be able to live in such extraordinarily picturesque place.

Due to the silty rivers and wetlands around, the lake has coloured murky water but sustains a great numbers of fish. From brown trouts, eels to even salmons.

It is however it’s settings which make this lake a hot spot to photograph.
Surrounded by rare kahikatea grove and with Mt. Adams, most westerly mountain of the Southern Alps in the background, there is no chance to pass the lake without taking a photo.

This photograph was taken in this years winter only few minutes after sunset, which is my favourite time to photograph.
The air starts to be filled with those magical hues of purplish colours, often hues only camera’s sensor can reveal during longer exposure times. You have to be quick though, as those colours usually disappear quickly.

Dusk over Lake Wahapo with Mt. Adams in background, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Taken with Nikon D800E and Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 lens

For more images of beautiful lakes in New Zealand, please visit our site and gallery
Stock images of scenic lakes in New Zealand

Photo: ©Petr Hlavacek – www.nzicescapes.com

Thank you and Enjoy!


Nikau Palms of New Zealand

Nikau palms in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Nikau palms in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

One of several distinctive trees in New Zealand are Nikau Palms. These palm are endemic to New Zealand and grow in abundance in warm, coastal forests on the North Island.
In several grows, they are also scattered on the South Island, as well. Some of those spots on the Mainland is Nelson area and places on Banks Peninsula near Christchurch. On the West Coast you can see these beautiful, juicy green Nikau grows near Karamea on top of the West Coast, in Punakaiki and some are even occurring as far south as Okarito.
They grow up to 15m tall, with fronds up to 3m long.

Thanks to their distinctive, sharp look and vibrant green colours, these beautiful palms are great subject to photograph. The best time to photograph them is on dull, overcast day and ideally after the rain, which adds the extra shine and deepens the colours.
It is often said to use polarizing filter to get rid of reflections but in this case I prefer no polarizer at all.

It’s that shiny wet and cold dark green colour which make this photograph for me.

This photo was taken in Punakaiki with Nikon D800E and Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 lens.

Photo: ©Petr Hlavacek – www.nzicescapes.com

More images of Nikau Palms in New Zealand are available from our gallery Nikau Palms Stock Photos from native forests of West Coast of New Zealand

Thank you and Enjoy!


Ice Lake, gem hidden in mountains.

Sunrise over Ice Lake in the Southern Alps with Shackleton and Whataroa Glaciers in the background, alpine herbs in foreground - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Sunrise over Ice Lake in the Southern Alps with Shackleton and Whataroa Glaciers in the background, alpine herbs in foreground - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand


I guess every photographer has a list of places he/she wants to photograph.
My list stretches over many pages but often I’m forced to postpone/re-plane some locations for variety or reasons.
With this place it wasn’t any different until last year, when I finally managed to visit this, one of my “on the top of a list” locations –
the Ice Lake at my backyard in Whataroa Valley on West Coast of South Island in New Zealand.

I’ve been planning this trip for many years but somehow didn’t manage to make it up there until last year…and what a place! I knew that it’s a quite a special location but reality exceeded my expectations.
Alpine garden of herbs and berries with fascinating rocks around a small lake tacked under massive, steep ranges of the Southern Alps with hanging glaciers truly reminds of Peter Jackson’s hobbit film location. It’s not easy to photograph there, however. All area the lake is in is very enclosed and the place doesn’t receive much sunlight, especially when days are shorter and sun lower.

I’m not HDR photographer I have to say, but in this instance I didn’t have many options (D800 wasn’t in my hands at that time). To be frank, I actually haven’t tried an HDR image before, so I was quite keen on trying it here.

For this image I merged 7 exposures to create this 1 frame using Photoshop CS5.

Taken on Nikon D300 with Nikkor 12-24 lens

Photo: ©Petr Hlavacek – www.nzicescapes.com

More images of Ice Lake in New Zealand are available from our gallery Alpine Lake Stock Images from West Coast of New Zealand

Thank you and Enjoy!


Wild West Coastline!

Sunset and limestone formation in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Sunset and limestone formation in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

During past several months I’ve been making regular-ish trips to one of the popular coastal locations on West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand, to famous Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, in Paparoa National Park.
These amazing, “pancake layered” limestone formations were created some 30 million years ago. Formed from dead marine creatures and plants about 2 km below the surface, immense water pressure transformed these marine fragments into hard and soft layers, which were then by tectonic activity lifted above sea level. The weather elements have been doing the rest – shaping these rocks into wonderful limestone formations.

Last week I got back from my last trip, for a while at least, and what a trip that was.
I was able to reach some secret but dangerous spots but I wouldn’t recommend to follow this, especially if you don’t know the area and potential hazards… and this goes to this image in particular.
The constant danger of unpredictable waves and falling rocks kept me alerted at all times and my senses were all over me. I waited away from this place for the right moment to come and gave myself only a couple of minutes for the shot before I backed off to the safe side.

I’ve had this photograph on my mind for a long time. I kept coming back to see variety of light on this spot during last 12 months and it was so tantalizing that I couldn’t resist this evening. My waiting was over as all the elements I was after came spectacularly together – amazing light hitting right place, out of this world limestone formations and shapes with drama of incoming tide.

I couldn’t have been happier!

This image is not online yet but for more and similar coastal images from New Zealand, please visit our photo stock gallery Coastal Stock Images from West Coast of New Zealand

Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Nikon D800E with Nikkor 16-35 lens


Rainforest on West Coast

Hiking track through juicy green, native rainforest towards Robert Point, Westland NP, West Coast, New Zealand

Hiking track through juicy green, native rainforest towards Robert Point, Westland NP, West Coast, New Zealand

It’s well know that there is some decent rainfall on the West Coast. Must be, otherwise we wouldn’t have any rainforests, glaciers, wild rivers etc here.
With an annual rainfall of up to 16m at places, the West Coast of New Zealand belongs among the wettest places on Earth.
That sounds quite frightening but it’s actually is not too bad, as everyone thinks. Due to the predominant weather patterns, the South Island faces the weather coming in from the Tasman Sea and it’s the West Coast which receives all the water load. As the front passes through, the clear weather usually follows and we all here on the West Coast, bath in the sunshine…which very few people know …and we’re very happy to keep it that way!

This image has been taken on a track near Franz Josef Glacier in area where the precipitation can reach up to 7-8m annually. Hence lush, juicy green mosses, lichens and overall temperate rainforest vegetation.

More images from native forests of New Zealand are available in our photo stock galleryNATIVE FOREST of New Zealand

Enjoy!


Nikon D800E vs Gradual ND filters?

Punakaiki Coastline

Weathered limestone formations in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Neutral density gradual filters have been an essential accessory tool for every landscape photographer since photography beginnings.
There has been a simple, well known reason for that – it’s been far to impossible for the film to record some particular scenes landscape photographer can often face – scenes with extremely wide dynamic range. What that is?

Simply put; its the span from the brightest to the darkest points in the scene. And this span can be in nature extremely wide even for the human eye.
Both human eyes working together for example can perceive range of approx up to 24 f-stops. I’m saying working together because should we look only with one eye, the ability of our single eye would drop to between 12-14 f-stops. There is more to this topic but its not a purpose of this post.

Now I’m getting to the core of this article.
With approx 5-8 f-stops, the ability of the film (negative or positive) to record those extreme ends of the light range is quite limited. Some may argue that this goes beyond 8 f-stops but to me, the resulting image quality after adjustments doesn’t support this. Therefore we need to use ND gradual filters to balance out these extreme ends of light closer together so we can capture as much detail of the scene as we can.

With an astonishing development of new cameras, photography techniques are developing and changing, as well.

Since my Nikon D800E arrived, I’m amazed again and again with capabilities of this technical marvel. It’s been said a lot about its DR capabilities, resolution etc but it is only when when you capture your own image and see the result you wouldn’t expect.

On my latest trip I encounter a scene which I decided to bracket exposure on. I took 5 images each with 1 f-stop difference and which I was going to process as HDR (although I’m not an HDR photography guy, I have to admit). I opened those files in LR4 and then processed them as HDR image. Well, like I said, I’m not an HDR kinda guy…image was ok but I didn’t like all that fuzziness in clouds and other artifacts which occur with HDR. Don’t get me wrong please, I’m not against HDR, but you got to have right image for it to work.
Anyway, then I though why not to try to process a single file from a stack with best suitable exposure using new LR4 and to compare results.
Well, when I did that, I immediately deleted the HDR version without even a blink of an eye. The result out of D800 are just amazing.

I used only 2 sliders – highlights and shadows. I didn’t even need to go all the way with either of them. With highlights slider I landed on 70 and with shadows on 70 also to be happy with adjustment.
One may object, ok but what about image quality, noise, sharpness, artifacts etc…well, judge for yourself below.

In my photography, I’m producing imagery which has to be suitable for printing. Suitable for printing large and I mean LARGE. Our images have been reproduced in sizes of up to 15m so it is my foremost objective to produce images in the highest quality possible.
With this in mind, I’d be more then happy to let this file to be blown up big.

Below, there are 2 images – first compares look on the entire image before and after adjustments.
The second comparison shows a crop out of the same images at 100%.

Punakaiki Photo

Untouched, out of camera file on left and highlights/shadows adjusted on right.

At small sizes many images look fine but the problems creep in when enlarged for printing. But that’s not the case with D800 files.
If exposed ideally with view in mind of further adjustments on file, note I’m not saying exposed correctly, and processed with care, the file looks amazing.
You would be hard pressed to actually find an issue with it. To my huge surprise, I can’t find any sign of any noise in the lifted up shadows. Image remains sharp with enough contrast and without any artifacts.

Please note that this file was taken as a single RAW file with no filter used.
It has 0 sharpening applied, no contrast, no noise reduction, chromatic aberration correction or any other adjustments apart of for this purpose lifted shadows and corrected highlights.

The lens for this shot used – Nikkor 16-35 with camera mounted on tripod.
Exposure 1/10s at f16, ISO100, -1EV for exposure compensation.

This second comparison shows a crop out of the same images at 100%.
Adjusted file for highlights and shadows on left – untouched out of camera on right.

Artifacts can often creep in after sharpening is applied. To show how this file holds up after a medium sharpening was applied, see the same crop below.

Punakaiki Photo

Nice and crisp detail without any sign of noise.

So what remains to be said;
Firstly, this post is only my personal opinion based on findings I’m getting with this fantastic camera.
Secondly, the purpose of this writing is to ponder over the use of Gradual ND filters or use HDR techniques while shooting with latest wave of digital cameras, especially with Nikon D800 with its DR of 14.4 f-stops. More on this you can read on DxO website.

Yes, there definitely will be a need for ND Gradual filters for some time yet. However, what I’m now certain of is that I’ll be thinking twice or tree times when I’ll be reaching for my filter, as I’ll be avoiding putting an extra layer of glass or plastic in front of my lenses every time I can.

I’d be happy if this quick comparison would help to those photographers still on a fence…upgrade or not…?

Thanks and Enjoy!


Wilderness of Copland Valley in New Zealand

Copland River in Copland Valley, West Coast, New Zealand

Copland River in Copland Valley, West Coast, New Zealand


Despite this place being right on my doorstep, I’m quite ashamed to admit that it’s been a long 10 years since I visited this location last time. But this long gap won’t happen again, I can promise you that!
This said, you can well imagine my excitement planing my trip back into the wilderness of this spectacular western part of the Southern Alps, part of the Westland National Park in New Zealand.
Copland Valley is simply amazing. Jugged skyline of The Sierra Range on southern side of the valley keeps your mind in awe pretty much all along the way toward the first, well known hut – Welcome Flat Hut, which is reached after around 8hrs. A lot of the time you’re hiking along beautiful Copland River as it runs through this valley. River originates in Copland Glacier and gathers its waters from magnificent peaks of the Southern Alps, especially from The Sierra Range. And it is its glacial origins which gives this river stunning turquoise-blue colour of water.

It was late on a summer day when I took this photograph of the Copland River. As the sun went lower and lower, the Copland Valley lost its light completely and the blue chill of river gave the air its coldness. Combination of these qualities, warm sunlight on the peaks, coldness of the river and with addition of the juicy green rainforest made this frame for me.

This panoramic photograph is a merge of six frames, processed using Lightroom 4 and stitched in Photoshop CS6.


Photo Tours through New Zealand!

Photo Tours

Photo Tours through fascinating New Zealand


It’s been cooking and boiling on our table for quite some time but now we’re done and ready to roll ahead.

We’re introducing our new product – Photographic Tours.

We have prepared 4 kinds of tours to chose from, each at different lengths to suit variety of clients. And of course, tailor made tours are available as well.

Being based on the spectacular, colourful and diverse wild West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand, which is by large part under UNESCO protection, we feel our tours should reflect that.
The West Coast region is a pure gem in overall breathtaking landscapes of a whole New Zealand but it is its overwhelming variety of sceneries, this 600km long stretch of land sandwiched between Tasman Sea and almost 4,000m high Southern Alps, offers to keen traveler/photographer to savour.
This is one of reasons why 3 of our tours are largely taking place in this magnificent corner of the World, giving options of magic sceneries to photograph in.

From 3.5 days through 4.5days, 10 days and up to 15 days long premium trip, our trips are available to wide range of clients.

For more info, please visit our site at: New Zealand Photo Tours

We sincerely look forward to welcoming you on our precious West Coast!


Once more from Punakaiki!

Beautiful limestone pools at sunset in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Beautiful limestone pools at sunset in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

As I’ve been processing new images for our next upload, which happened last week, I just can’t go by and not to share with you one more frame from Punakaiki coast.

It is also from the area of limestone pools I photographed after the sun went down.
On my first visit, I pre-visualized all these pools playing with colours as the sun goes down so you can easily imagine how excited I was now when I saw all those coloured reflections around me when shooting time came.

With my camera solid on the tripod and mirror locked up, I decided to leave polarizing filter on as I wanted to get both versions – with colourful skies reflecting in water and without reflections, showing the shapes and forms hidden under the water.
Here I’m posting image without polarizer working. Image gained interesting contrast of nice colder blue hues from the sky reflecting in the pool to the warm tones of twilight colours.

You can see polarized version of the same frame on our site by visiting STOCK gallery “NEW IMAGES”.

Thank you and Enjoy!


Limestone pools in Punakaiki

Seewed in limestone pool at sunset in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Seewed in limestone pool at sunset in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand


Just a few days ago I came back from my another trip in Paparoa National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand.
On my last, mostly scouting visit, I found several locations I’ve been eager to photograph. The amazing limestone formations can stir your imagination quite well.
I had this frame in my head for quite some time so I waited for the right conditions of the right tide with some clouds and colour in the sky.
This beautiful pool with green seaweed in it together with an amazing ornamentation on the rock’s surface suggested for this beautiful photograph. Using ND Gradual filters was necessary to balance out bright skies against dark foreground and, to let the greens of seaweed shine.
Needless to say, there is much more awaiting to be captured, and my pre-visualization of other frames can’t stop.
That means I’m already planing my next trip to this location to be very soon.

I’m thrilled with this capture and I hope you’ll like it too!
Cheers and Enjoy!


Icy Fringes

Beautiful shapes of deep, freshly snowed up crevasses on Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Beautiful shapes of deep, freshly snowed up crevasses on Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand


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.

Enjoy!


12 Months – 12 Favourite Images

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!

Man walking through deep and beautiful ice crevasse on Franz Josef Glacier - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Man walking through deep and beautiful ice crevasse on Franz Josef Glacier - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

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.

Sunrays piercing throught thundery skies above Lake Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand

Sunrays piercing throught thundery skies above Lake Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand

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.

Mt. Tasman 3497m decorates skyline and massive seracs of Explorer Glacier in foreground. Orange color on the ice is actually dust polution all the way from Australia, emphasized by setting sun - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Mt. Tasman 3497m decorates skyline and massive seracs of Explorer Glacier in foreground. Orange color on the ice is actually dust polution all the way from Australia, emphasized by setting sun - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

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.

Sunrise over Ice Lake in the Southern Alps with Shackleton and Whataroa Glaciers in the background, alpine herbs in foreground - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Sunrise over Ice Lake in the Southern Alps with Shackleton and Whataroa Glaciers in the background, alpine herbs in foreground - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

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!

Frozen air bubbles within ice on Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Frozen air bubbles within ice on Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

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!

Castle Rock Hut perched on Defiance Ridge above Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Castle Rock Hut perched on Defiance Ridge above Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

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.

 Views from ice cave on Franz Josef Glacier with sunburst, Westland NP, West Coast, New Zealand

Views from ice cave on Franz Josef Glacier with sunburst, Westland NP, West Coast, New Zealand

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.

Twilight at Gillespies Lagoon with reflections of highest NZ mountains - Mt. Cook (3754m right) and Mt. Tasman (3497m left), Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Twilight at Gillespies Lagoon with reflections of highest NZ mountains - Mt. Cook (3754m right) and Mt. Tasman (3497m left), Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

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.

Southern Alps with highest NZ mountains - Mt. Cook (3754m right) and Mt. Tasman (3497m left). Fox Glacier in middle, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Southern Alps with highest NZ mountains - Mt. Cook (3754m right) and Mt. Tasman (3497m left). Fox Glacier in middle, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

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.

Sunset from Okarito lookout with views south and over Three Mile Lagoon, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Sunset from Okarito lookout with views south and over Three Mile Lagoon, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

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.

Blowhole at Pancake Rocks - limestone formations in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Blowhole at Pancake Rocks - limestone formations in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

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.

Copland River in Copland Valley, West Coast, New Zealand

Copland River in Copland Valley, West Coast, New Zealand


Heaphy Splendour!

Forest interior of Nikau Palm Grove at Kohaihai - Kahurangi National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Forest interior of Nikau Palm Grove at Kohaihai - Kahurangi National Park, West Coast, New Zealand


Heaphy Track is one one of my favourite ones. It also belongs to an exclusive group of “9 Great Walks” in New Zealand and traverses Kahurangi National Park in top left corner of the South Island. With its 82km, it’s the longest track of these “Great Walks”.
Why I love this tramp? Simply because at one starting point you are on the West Coast by the Tasman Sea, then you climb through juicy green bush and along rivers ans streams, cross alpine plateau with its karst landscapes before finishing in Nelson Region near Takaka.
The variety of scenery is amazing. Starting on the coast, the track begins to wind its way through beautiful Nikau palm grove and follows the remote coastline before it turns uphill towards karst, alpine landscapes of the park.
These Nikau palms are usually common up in the North Island, whereas down south its a little too cold for them. Therefore it is only this corner of the South Island where they grow, with an exemption of a small grow, little further down in Punakaiki.

In the image above, I photographed these Nikau palms on the rainy day with heavy overcast. Yes, that’s the best time to go out into bush to make some great images full of detail because the low contrast and diffused light allows for that.
As it rained quite heavily with some brief breaks, all the bush was beautifully rich in colours. It is well known that polarizing filter reduces reflections which is often good to get rid of but in this instance I choose not to use it as I loved that shiny, steel like sheen on the palm leaves, together with its rich, dark green colour.
…and of course, I also have a polarized version of the shot…..
Next time we get higher up to explore some karst scenes…


Brewster Glacier Area – Day 1

Last rays of the sunlight over Mt. Brewster and its glacier - Mt. Aspiring National Park, South Westland, New Zealand

Last rays of the sunlight over Mt. Brewster and its glacier - Mt. Aspiring National Park, South Westland, New Zealand

In this mini series of 2 posts, I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite but not so well known corners of the Southern Alps – the Brewster Hut and Brewster Glacier.
This is a very special place to me. Not only because it is one of the jewels of the Southern Alps and photographers paradise but also because I’ve experienced some close calls while exploring it in winter, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about here.

Generally, people would hike up the ridge to reach the Brewster Hut and stay the night there. It’s quite short hike, around 3hrs, but it can be steep at places so if you’re not well trained, you might be just happy to spend the rest of the day around the hut. And no one can blame you as the hut’s location is spectacular and offers some superb views. On fine day, if looking south you can see all the way to Mt. Aspiring while just behind your shoulder is Mt. Brewster over 2500m asl itself dominating the skyline. Around the hut, there is many opportunities for explorations for everyone. After all it’s an alpine environment with beautiful rocky outcrops, fauna and flora and if you feel like, you can climb Mt. Armstrong nearby.

After spending night in the hut, you may want to venture further toward the Brewster Glacier but that’s something I’ll leave for the next week.


Hiking through West Coast Rain Forest

Welcome Flat Hut track through rainforest near Fox Glacier - Westland NP, West Coast, New Zealand

With an annual rainfall of up to 12,000mm on the West Coast of the Southern Alps, it’s not a surprise that the rain forests here are lush and green. These forests belong to a group of temperate rain forests with vegetation made up of coniferous podocarps and broadleaf evergreen trees, with rather cooler temperatures, usually around 10 degrees C. These are some of the factors distinguishing temperate rain forests from tropical ones.

Some of the best examples of the temperate rain forest on the West Coast of the South Island are easily to be seen in the Westland National Park, on a beautiful track toward the Welcome Flat Hut, not very far from the Fox Glacier Village. Hiking for several hours through the juicy green bush, as we call it here, offers not only soothing on one’s soul but also a reward at the end of the day – natural thermal hot pools by the hut. But I’ll post about this feature next time.