Monday, January 11, 2016

15. Day of 24 in New Zealand: Mt. Cook says ‘No’

Today we got up at 3:30am. No, not because there was yet another fire alarm, but because we wanted to capture the sunrise and the stars. Of course it’s not as easy as getting out of the door. You have to get to a specific spot in order set the scene. So we had to get up at 3:30 to be early enough at the Lake Matheson to capture it in the perfect light. The Photographer's Ephemeris is btw the perfect app to scout the location for sunrise or sunset times.


As we got out the door, we saw only stars. Not one single cloud. Normally I like some clouds as they set the mood for the landscape. But in order to capture the night sky a clear sky is best. Although the initial plan was just to capture the sunrise.


So we got up, drove half an hour to the Fox Glacier and further as near as possible to the lake Matheson. Saw one goat and one possum (alive) on the way – still didn’t kill it. 


As we arrived at the parking space, we were not the only ones. Unfortunately there were already another car ready to capture the sunrise – ready to steal my spot. ;) So we packed our backs, switched on the flashlight and walked around 30 minutes around the lake, until we found a spot that had the perfect balance of foreground, water, mountains and sky. On the way I was thinking about taking one shot before arriving at the perfect spot, to capture the stars, but as we were kind of chasing one another for the perfect spot, I didn’t do it – and I could kick myself for not doing it. Of course when we arrived at the scene, the sky was already dimly lit and the stars not as clear as earlier.  Note to myself: Don’t hesitate taking a shot and do not focus on others.


After walking around the lake and arriving at the so called ‘view of the views’ we set up and took a few test shots to see which the best composition was and which lens to use. After taking a few photos and waiting for 30 minutes I didn’t like the spot completely. We were not as close to the water as I would’ve liked it and the mountains were not as clear. So I left the tripod for the moment and investigated the location. I found a place further below, took a few photos, but still didn’t like it as the water was not perfectly still. Now already a few other photographers arrived and walked by us. And we noticed that there was another spot called ‘reflection point’ – duh! So we went there where already a few people set there tripods up and waited for the sun to come up. After quite some time the sun went up behind the mountains, so we already thought that it would now just get brighter. But another half an hour later the sun flares were coming through the mountain peaks and lit up a beautiful scene. The water began to live and steam floating on the water was illuminated, trees lit up and the sunrays peeked between the mountains.


After this we went back to the car and drove to the next coffee shop to warm up, back to Franz Josef, where we ate breakfast and prepared for the Mount Cook Glacier Landing helicopter flight – the only way to get to the glaciers now. Unfortunately, as we were already getting the safety instructions, the flight was cancelled due to the weather. Looking out of the window we saw that the sky had really began to vanish into thick clouds. So we had to postpone the flight a couple of times today and unfortunately to tomorrow morning – our last chance to do this. Hopefully we will be lucky.


As the flights have been cancelled throughout the day, we decided we take a look at another glacier close to the Franz Josef called the Fox glacier. Like the Franz Josef glacier you cannot walk anymore on the glacier without a heli, but you can walk close to it. So we drove to the Fox and walking as close as we could get. Next to it there is a Fox Glacier Viewpoint, which also enables a nice view onto the glacier and if you see a sign called ‘warm spring’ don’t bother getting out of the car. It’s a bit more than a water puddle.


That’s pretty much what we did for the day. We checked out the Hot Pools, as this was what we initially planned to warm up after the glacier hike and are getting to bed now, as we maybe get up tomorrow really early again to take another shot at the stars.


Btw. forget all the weather apps and website for this locations. They are all wrong…




  1. Jan this brings back memories of exploring the South Island in 1968, time to go to New Zealand again.

  2. Jan this brings back memories of exploring the South Island in 1968, time to go to New Zealand again.