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New Zealand Photography Tour – Day 3 – Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook

New Zealand Photography Tour – Day 3 – Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook

April 26, 2020

Well sunrise was a beauty on this morning, don’t you agree?! I was up super early, and it was bloody chilly! I waited in bed until the first light started, confident that I had time, given we had managed to park the motorhome right next to the edge of the lake. It was about a 30 second walk to my sunrise shoot location, which is just the way I like to do travel landscape photography! The sky lit up for me, it was epic. I had numerous compositions in mind using interesting foreground, and ended up with this beautiful angled rock in the middle.

 

After my sunrise shoot, I wandered back to the Motorhome and found Amanda and Aria (my daughter) still asleep! I jumped back into bed for half an hour before Aria woke up.

With breakfast over, we planned out our day. There was a small lake we had spied on the edge of the road yesterday with some beautiful Autumn tree’s around it, so we decided to head back that way on our way to Mt Cook.

We got there in the morning, and it was beautiful and tranquil. It was a brief stop so Amanda only ducked out for a minute or so and Aria stayed in her seat while I did my shooting. We were able to drive right around the lake and the Autumn colours and reflections were among the best we had seen so far on this trip. The still lake water really took my breath away with the detail I was able to achieve.  We think this image will make an excellent NZ jigsaw puzzle!

From the little lake, we headed back towards Mt Cook. We stopped for some morning tea at the first, iconic lookout. Probably the most photographed piece of road in NZ! I couldn’t resist, but we didn’t spend too much time here as it was really crowded.

This beautiful grass covered drive runs along the side of the Tasman Glacier run off. I can’t tell you how many tourists were stopped on the side of the road, including people trying to do full on model shoots with lights etc! We made do with a quickie and kept on.

Our plan for the night and morning here was very much up in the air, and both weather dependent and dependent on what we found when we scouted the locations. We first headed to the Tasman Glacier, and did the steep walk up to the top to see our first ever Glacier! The water was much dirtier grey than we were expecting from photos we had seen, but it was still breathtaking. I decided I didn’t like that location for Sunset, and we had plenty of time still. We returned to the car park below and had some lunch in the Van. Motorhomes are so amazing for this type of travel and photography, in about 2 seconds we had the gas on and were able to cook a delicious lunch in the carpark.

We drove the short way over to the White Horse Hill campsite and went for a walk to checkout the Hooker Valley. We got to the first Swing Bridge about 20 minutes down the track and unfortunately found that the track had been destroyed by an avalanche and wasn’t open. I looked around anyway, and decided that it was a good spot for Sunrise. We walked back to the van and headed back to the Tasman Glacier for Sunset.We drove the short way over to the White Horse Hill campsite and went for a walk to checkout the Hooker Valley. We got to the first Swing Bridge about 20 minutes down the track and unfortunately found that the track had been destroyed by an avalanche and wasn’t open. I looked around anyway, and decided that it was a good spot for Sunrise. We walked back to the van and headed back to the Tasman Glacier for Sunset.

This was a lot of back and forth and extra hiking, but with Landscape photography, scouting locations can really be useful, especially for sunrises. If you haven’t been to a spot before, rocking up in the dark and expecting to shoot a beautiful composition is a big ask.

We took off from the Tasman Glacier car park again, and this time headed out towards the boat dock. We took a few wrong turns but ended up down near the waters edge, where the glacier lake runs down into the river towards Lake Pukaki. It was a really steep scramble down a rocky slope to the waters edge, so Amanda decided to stay up the top with Aria (sensibly). I had the tripod legs deep into the lake, and spent a bit of time searching for compositions. The moving ice and the challenging lake edge made it difficult.  I grabbed a few shots but then the sun disappeared into cloud and darkness started falling without any interesting colours. My best photo from the evening was on my phone!



We did the climb back up the slope and walked to the Motorhome before driving back to White Horse camping ground to make dinner and get to bed early before our cold pre-sunset walk the next morning.