Nothing else quite says ‘Alpine’ like the last rays of sunlight reflected on snow capped mountains. With temperatures plummeting to a frigid -19 degrees Celsius as the sun dipped below the horizon this was one of the last frames I reeled off from the small mountain helicopter before we returned to base for the evening (for some serious thawing out!). This photograph includes Mount Cook (on the right) and Mount Tasman (on the left) as well as the Fox Glacier and for me captures the essence of New Zealand’s grand Alps. To be at an altitude of eleven thousand feet over the Alps in a small helicopter with the doors off in the dead of winter with perfect weather and light is remarkable to say the least.
It’s December and it is now summer here in Australia – my least favourite time of year for photography. Autumn and Winter are my preferred seasons for landscape work. I far prefer the cooler weather and the snow and ice of the alpine regions to the blazing heat and humidity of the Australian summer (I should live in Scotland!). During Autumn and Winter the air is usually cleaner and the light tends to have a more transparent quality to it that lends itself very well to landscape photography. Looking back at some of the photography from the cooler months of the year this one jumps out as one of my favourites.
This photograph was taken at a location known as ‘The Castle’ at Mount Buffalo in the Victorian alps at sunrise. The location is not often visited as the walk in is fairly steep and arduous; particularly in winter. This is not the first time I have photographed here but it is the first time I have been lucky enough to get really beautiful light in combination with a lovely hoar frost. Combined with the reflection in the icy pool and the wildflowers this is a photograph I like very much.
One of any glacier’s most unique and remarkable structures are it’s seracs and Fox Glacier was and is no exception. Its crevasse and serac field is littered with unique and unusual ice formations. This natural ice spire caught my eye as we skimmed over the glacier in the small mountain helicopter. I focused my attention on it trying to capture it from just the right angle to show its precarious stance and unusual flutings. These ice formations are often very unstable and dangerous. Pound for pound glacial ice weighs about the same as concrete so these formations are really only accessible safely for photography by helicopter. I photographed this with a 24mm wide angle lens to capture enough surrounding ice to keep the spire in context. The sense of scale gets somewhat lost in a small jpeg – but you could have driven a semi-trailer through the ice cave with ease.
The glacial plateau at the base of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman is spectacular for its unique ice formations. This photograph particularly appeals to me with the soft blue light in the foreground and the juxtaposition of the soft snow and jagged ice formations. This photograph also gives a very good indication of the immense scale of the mountains and ice structures. Another helicopter can just be seen just left of centre at the top of frame – look close its just a dot!This photograph was taken hand held from the small mountain helicopter we chartered during our time at the Fox Glacier. Shot with a wide angle lens the pilot was able to get us in very close to the ice structures to fully take advantage of the lens’s wide angle of view.
With an elevation of more than eleven thousand four hundred and seventy feet Mount Tasman is the second highest peak in New Zealand. It sits proud in the southern alps, nestled next to its larger and more famous brother – Mount Cook. This photograph was taken by helicopter over the Fox Glacier in New Zealand’s South Island about half an hour before sunset. Together with my local New Zealand guide and fellow landscape photographer from Texas we chartered a small mountain helicopter to get us up close and personal with Fox Glacier and the Southern Alps. We had the pilot remove the doors from the helicopter and strap us into harness’s so we could freely photograph without plexi-glass in front of the camera lens. Strapped into the helicopter we were then able to photograph the amazing mountains and ice formations that are part of New Zealand’s spectacular Southern Alps. This photograph was taken at an altitude of approximately eleven thousand feet with an ambient air temperature of -14 degrees celsius. Despite wearing multiple thermal layers, hats and gloves we were still numbed to the bone after just over an hours photography in the frigid mountain air.
Aerial photography as it turns out can be very addictive and we found ourselves chartering the same helicopter and pilot the very next morning for another ‘doors off’ photography session over some of the Fox Glacier’s Seracs and Crevaces. I hope to post more photographs from this remarkable trip as time permits.