Travel JournalTales from the Road
The drive from Hanmer Springs to Lake Tekapo is about a four and a half hour journey. During torrential rain and with a couple of restless kids in the car, this trip tends to take quite a bit longer (and seems even longer still).
Such was our journey to Tekapo.
To date, we had been quite lucky with the weather in NZ, but as we pulled away from Hanmer Springs, the skies very quickly darkened and we found ourselves spending the day in horrendous driving conditions. We took several stops along the way to try to entertain the children, but nothing could undampen their spirits and it seemed we were just destined to endure a miserable day.
As we reached the last 10 minutes of our drive however, the skies cleared just as quickly as they had blackened earlier in the day and we pulled into Tekapo on what by all accounts was a gorgeous day. It was almost like an old adventure movie where the lead actor was hacking their way through dense forest and with a final swipe of a machete, fell a wall of vines to reveal a perfect hidden oasis. It was a magical way to pull into this beautiful lakeside village.
Unquestionably, Tekapo’s most popular and most famous attraction is The Church of the Good Shepherd. This quaint little stone church was built in 1935 and was the first church in the Mackensie Basin area. It is so popular however, it is almost impossible to capture the church in an image without also capturing large groups of tourists within the same frame. These images here of the church are multiple frames that have been blended to remove the tourists. I was at this location from about 8pm until after midnight (the sun doesn’t set at this time of year until after 9pm) and there were no less than 25 people here at any one time.
Another great feature of Tekapo is that it is part of a Dark Sky Reserve, meaning there is virtually no light pollution in the sky from city lights and traffic etc, so at night the skies simply look incredible. At the right time of the month, this is a huge drawcard for photographers and the perfect place for astrophotography. Sadly, on a full moon like the night we were there, it’s not quite as impressive to photograph, but it is still stunning to experience.
Our next stop as we worked our way down across the South Island was Hanmer Springs. This picturesque alpine village sits surrounded by dramatic mountains and pine forests and is best known for its thermal pools and spas. Our stay was fairly short, arriving mid-afternoon and leaving the following morning and as such, the camera took second-place to spending some family time in this gorgeous village. I did, however, sneak out once the kids were in bed to shoot a few night landscapes. At this time of year the sun doesn’t set until after 9pm and it isn’t really dark until well after 10pm. The moon was just a few days from being full, which in many places would make it difficult to capture the night sky full of stars, however around here, with low levels of light pollution and dark skys, the stars look incredible. In the shot above, the moon was helpful in lighting the foreground.
Another day trip from Nelson was our journey to Lake Rotoiti. It was a rather dismal day as far as the weather is concerned, but it was a great day for exploring the New Zealand countryside. The largely unspoilt landscapes of New Zealand are as diverse as they are beautiful. It is an amazing country to explore and it is definitely on our list for future visits.
Lake Rotoiti is a mountain lake within the Nelson Lakes National Park and is surrounded by Beech forest. When we arrived at the St Arnaud end of Lake Rotoiti, it was lightly raining and so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time out of the car. The girls ran around for awhile until they decided it was getting a little too chilly, and I set up my gear for a few long exposure shots of the lake.
The jetty in these images is the only man-made structure in the lake (or at least as far as we could see), so it is easy to see why this is such a common shot of the lake. The jetty virtually begs to be the centre of attention as it points towards the undulating mountains and the Travers River that feeds the lake.
While staying in Nelson, we decided to take a day trip out to Split Apple Rock, a journey that’s about an hour by car. Just short of our destination at the seaside village of Kaiteriteri, we came across a wonderful playground for the kids. We stopped to let the kids expel some energy and then when it was time to head off to Split Apple Rock, no one wanted to leave the park. Looking at the map, the rock was only a few kilometres away, so I decided to venture on by myself, snap a few pics and be back in no time.
What’s that they say about ‘best laid plans’?
The stretch of road between Kaiteriteri and Split Apple Rock is the slowest stretch of paved road I have ever travelled on. It meanders around seaside cliffs and rocky hillsides and what I thought would be about a 5 minute drive was more like a 25 minute drive. Then it was a 15 minute hike down to the beach, so by the time I arrived, it was already close the the time I thought I’d be back to collect the family.
As a result, my time spent shooting the rock was very brief. I think I would have spent no more than ten minutes on the beach before making the trek back to the car, followed by the roller-coaster drive back to Kaiteriteri.
The rock itself is officially known as Tokangawhā / Split Apple Rock. It rests about 50m off the coast in The Tasman Bay off the northern coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
During the recent Queensland Epson Professional Photography awards weekend, I had a few hours to kill between watching the judging and catching up with colleagues for dinner. Luckily for me, the dreary clouds that had hung overhead all day were starting to clear, so I grabbed my gear and headed down to the Kangaroo Point cliffs to capture a shot of the city during sunset.
Kangaroo Point is a fairly popular spot for photographers and this day was no exception. There were several photographers scattered along the river banks but thankfully, none were in the spot I was hoping to secure. The location I chose can only be accessed by following an almost invisible track and climbing through a number of trees and bushes.
I set up my gear and waited. After a few minutes, I started wishing I had bought something to sit on as the ground was still quite wet from the rain throughout the day and I hadn’t planned on heading back to the hotel to change before dinner. Just as these thoughts were passing through my mind, I turned around and was pleasantly surprised to find a plastic chair sitting against a tree just a few metres away. And not a dodgy, half-broken type chair… this was a high quality, cafe style chair. I’m guessing from the discarded fishing line tangled around the chair’s legs that a local angler ‘borrowed’ it from a nearby restaurant or cafe and had left it here for future fishing events. Regardless of how the chair happened to make it here, I’m very pleased it did!
Today was my seventh and final day in beautiful Bali. The morning was spent packing most of my equipment away and checking out of the hotel. The airport had been closed for several days due to the volcanic ash in the air from Mount Raung. Today it reopened and airlines had added extra flights to fly stranded tourists home or onto their next destination. I only had a few hours before I would have to make my way to the airport and the one thing I had really hoped to photograph but had missed earlier in the week, were traditional Balinese craftspeople.
I loaded my bags into the car and we headed north towards the Gianyar region of the island. Bali has a great many talented artisans working in all different artistic disciplines. There are wood and stone carvers, basket weavers, textile specialists, gold and silversmiths, just to name a few. In Gianyar there are a lot of wood carvers and traditional mask carvers. Some of the craftspeople turn out hundreds of copies of the same thing, catering for the tourist market, while others may spend months dedicated to one particular piece. As such, the quality varies considerably. The good stuff however, is outstanding!
I found this craftsman particularly mesmerising to watch. The way he carefully fashioned the carving out of very basic tools, while using his whole body to secure the piece while he worked on it, was fascinating. He has obviously been doing this for quite some time. His feet look like they are very used to this type of work.
Below, a group of ladies stain and polish the carvings, preparing them for sale. This seems to be quite a social event as I noticed a few groups of women doing the same thing as I wandered up the street.
In Tegalalang, all the stores look like rustic versions of many Balinese homewares stores back in Australia. This area caters for large orders for the export market. These bookshelves made out of old fishing boats seem to be the most common new item and I’m guessing they will soon be flooding our stores back home.
It was time to make our way to the airport but along the way I noticed this lady working on log carvings in the front of her house. One quick last stop and I was on my way home. It’s been a great week. I can’t wait to return again sometime soon.
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