Chasing the light Christmas 2011

It’s been well over a year since I’ve posted any of my trips on the blog, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve not been out on adventures with my camera, quite the contrary I’ve experienced many including an extraordinary trip to the South Island over Christmas which gave us a staggering 3 weeks of brilliant hot summer days and only one afternoon and one morning of drizzle to break an otherwise perfect run.
2 weeks on the West coast and Fiordland without a drop of rain is indeed extraordinary.
My intention with these blog posts is give fellow photographers and adventurers some general information on some interesting locations and what wildlife is available around those locations.
Each place we stayed at on our journey had to have had to either an outstanding landscape feature or some wildlife Steve Richards my fellow adventure traveling photographer or I wanted, to get images of.
Each destination or POI covered will be split in two posts over the coming months, one on the physical location its self and another post on the wildlife.
I hope you enjoy this series of posts, so let’s pick up the story and get into it.

What have you got planned over Christmas says Steve?
I’ve got absolutely nothing planned I replied.
Why don’t we head down south and chase the light for a few weeks over Christmas.
What a great idea, I’ve never been on a Light chaser trip down the South Island during early summer.
Winter has always been the premium time to tour the South Island of New Zealand; it would be very interesting to see the South Island in the early summer in pristine condition with the Rata trees in full bloom, the whole country should look green and luxurious before the hot summer sun burns the country to a crisp.
I used to partly own a small photographic tour business in partnership with another fellow adventurer Stephen (Wirehunt) Dickson which we named Light The name of the game at times was to wildly chase the light around Gods creation wherever it might lead us, these types of tours are high on adrenalin and hard on your body and camera gear as you race around seeking the best lighting conditions. At times, this can involve moving from one side of the country to the other depending on the weather.
Although we worked roughly to a plan and generally aimed at arriving at some predetermined location at the best possible time of the day to get some great photographs sometimes one has to improvise and stay mobile and the journey that is light chasing is half the fun and a great way to get to see some New Zealand country side and come to grips with your camera.
Our trip this summer turned out to be just this type of adventure, we hit the road each day with a general plan but we were flexible and often turned up at unexpected locations miles away from our intended route, sometimes experiencing disappointment and other times absolutely thrilled with the days events such is the nature of light chasing.
Anyway on with the journey.
With the Cook Straight ferry booked for a night sailing from Wellington to Picton we had timed our crossing to arrive at the top of the South Island around day break the morning before Christmas Eve and so it was.
Its 5am as I stare sleepily out the windscreen as the road from Picton to Blenheim slips quietly beneath the bonnet of the roomy Toyota Highlander an ideal photographic adventure/travel vehicle.
As usual the song “I’m on the road again” echoes through the empty caverns of my conciseness, a Light chasers tradition, this song is sung most mornings as we head out on to the road for yet another day of adventure not fully knowing what or where the day will take us. Three weeks of photography in the South Island lay ahead of us, what an adventure. Fully awake now from sleeping the 3 hour trip across the Cook Straight, our holiday had started, let the light chasing begin.

The small town of Blenheim awakes to a beautiful morning as we fill the wagon up with gas then turning sharp right halfway through town we head west for the top of the West coast of the South Island via the Buller Gorge passing the Nelson Lakes on the way.

Sunrise on the East coast a good sign of things to come.

To see a larger image click on the image

The plan for day 1.
Head west, past the Nelson Lakes, through the Buller Gorge and out onto the top of the West coast of the South Island at the smallish town of Westport.
Our first point of interest (POI) was the camping grounds at the Kohaihai River mouth north of Karamea, this is the northern most end of the long West coast highway that winds up and down the coast of the South Island, it is here that the road stops abruptly and the Heaphy Track begins.
From the camping grounds we would have access to explore the whole area over the next few days, esp the Oprara Basin a must see if you’re in the region, but first, just out of Blenheim heading west we had to go past Lake Rotoiti.
On a sunny day this beautiful lake should not be passed by without a stop for a quick cup of coffee and a few photos, so we pulled in to West bay for a few photos and a cuppa from the flask.

I was amazed to see long finned Eels (Maori name Tuna) under one of the jetties and a few good sized Rainbow Trout cruising past.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

The sun was hot, the sand-flies out in force (more on them later) and a few people out on the Lake in canoes offering picture perfect postcard shots for our enjoyment.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Welcome Swallows (Hirundo neoxena) were out enjoying the sun.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Soon we were feeling refreshed and got back on our journey westward making good time and it wasn’t long before we were through the gorge and the Tasman sea came into sight, so across the Buller river we went into Westport where we got food supplies to camp for a few days which would include Christmas morning.
Heading north out of Westport it became clear we had timed it right to see the magnificent Northern rata (Metrosideros robusta) in full flower. The West coast is well known for its flowering Rata trees and around Christmas is the time to see them at full bloom.

Northern rata (Metrosideros robusta) in full flower.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

An outstanding example of a Rata in full bloom

Click on the image to see a larger version.

We arrived at the camping grounds in the heat of the late afternoon; set up the tents explored the river and the Nikau palms at the beginning of the Heaphy Track and waited for the sun to set.

The picturesque bridge across the Kohaihai River

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a photo opportunity

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The Karamea area is renowned for its Nikau palms

Click on the image to see a larger version.

The last of the day’s activities was to soak ourselves in insect repellent and wait for the Sun to sink into the Tasman sea.

The mouth of the Kohaihai River at sunset

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Sleep would have come easy if it were not for the bloody Wekas calling all night for some reason.


2 thoughts on “Chasing the light Christmas 2011

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