Central Otago, New Zealand High Country.

Middle Earth, or so it has been dubbed since the filming of the Lord of the Rings movies, is really in New Zealand.

During December and January I spent a few weeks at home for the holidays. While I was there I spent some time with my brother-in-law exploring some fascinating high country landscapes in Central Otago. Growing up in the Cardrona Valley and Wanaka imbued in me an appreciation for these vast and seemingly desolate areas.

The sun rises over the spear grass covered hills of Central Otago
Early morning sunrise over the tussock and spear grass hills of Central Otago, New Zealand

Leaving Lake Wanaka before dawn on two occasions we drove up through arid farmland and then on to the tops of some ranges as the sun broke over the horizon. The sunrise sent spectacular rays of light penetrating patches of fog that blew up the valleys.

Fog rolls around photographer
Wispy tendrils of fog curl up the valleys and soften the early morning lighting.
Spear Grass with fog formed dew drops in the morning light.
Spear Grass with fog formed dew drops in the morning light.

Large format image paradise.

This area lent itself perfectly to expansive panoramic images.  So I created a lot of large format images made up of multiple frames stitched together. There is not a lot of obvious detail in many of the scenes but with this photographic technique it allowed me to capture the essence of the landscape perfectly.  Wide expansive vistas combined with the ability to look closely at the images and see detail that is easily missed.

Fragments of schist are all that remain after eons of erosion.
Fragments of schist are all that remain after eons of erosion.

On our first foray we left town in shorts as it was the middle of summer after all. As we reached an altitude of sixteen hundred meters the temperature dropped to one degree celsius. Another couple hundred meters and it started snowing and we wished we had dressed a little warmer.  Shooting moonlike landscapes in the summer while snow blew sideways made for quite a contrast.

Hiking along the moonscape like terrain at 1800 meters above sea level.
Hiking along the moonscape like terrain at 1800 meters above sea level.
Summer snow storm in Central Otago High country
Sideways blowing snow and monolthic rock formations made for interesting shooting conditions.

The diversity of life and subtle beauty can easily be over-looked with a quick glance. By spending time in this alpine environment one can witness bird life and many varieties of unique plants.

A surprising snow and sleet storm coats alpine plants with ice.
A surprising snow and sleet storm coats alpine plants with ice.
Hardy New Zealand alpine flowers can withstand the occasional summer snowstorm.
Hardy New Zealand alpine flowers can withstand the occasional summer snowstorm.

Pied Oyster Catcher in New Zealand alpine countryTypically a seabird, this Pied Oyster Catcher seems out of place in the alpine environment.

Hardy alpine plants can withstand drought and cold.
Hardy alpine plants can withstand drought and cold.
Mounds of alpine plants in New Zealand high country.
Mounds of mossy like plants that take hundreds of years to develop. They look soft but are surprisingly hard.

Geography.

The most striking topographical feature in these areas is the Tors. These are Mica Schist rock formations that seemingly rise up out of the ground and are weather beaten and dramatic. Many years of wind and freezing temperatures have shaped these rocks into fantastical shapes. As time wears on the relentless forces of erosion break them down into ever smaller pieces.  Due to the mystical looking landscape the area has consequently been used as location for many movies over the years.

Tussock, Spear grass and rock Tors.
Tussock, Spear grass and rock Tors.
Endless miles of flat and rolling hills above 1500 meters.
Endless miles of flat and rolling hills above 1500 meters.

To see the full gallery of these and other large panoramic images from New Zealand go to www.largeformatimages.com/image-galleries/scenes-of-new-zealand

 

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