The Clutha River Area (inc. Wanaka), Otago, New Zealand

Clutha River near Wanaka. And California Poppies

Upper Clutha River near Albert Town Wanaka. California Poppies in December are a delight!

The Upper Clutha Basin, and the Clutha River.

The Cardrona, Hawea, Makarora and Matukituki rivers all feed into the Clutha Mata-Au (formerly Molyneaux). The longest river in the South Island of New Zealand. Wanaka airport is to the left, and Wanaka township, out of sight to the right.

Hawea Flat, New Zealand aerial photo.

Tangential winter lighting reveals the ancient fluvial processes associated with rivers and streams. And now overlaid by relentless Europeanisation in the name of agriculture.

Paddling the Cromwell Gorge, Clutha River, New Zealand

Paddling the Cromwell Gorge, Clutha River, New Zealand. Circa 1985.

This wild river was no more when Lake Dunstan was formed, beginning in April 1992. It is a man-made lake and reservoir and was formed on the Clutha River as a result of the construction of the Clyde Dam.

Wanaka, Hawea and Upper Clutha Trees

that wanaka tree

Cabbage trees/tī kōuka and Harakeke/flax

New Zealand landscape. They will often reach a height of 12-20 metres. Very popular in Britain, Europe, and the U.S. In the former they’re known as Torquay palm.

The flowers are very scented in early summer, and turn into bluish-white berries that birds love to eat. It is very fire-resistant. Māori used cabbage trees as a food, fibre and medicine. The leaves were woven into baskets, sandals, rope, rain capes and other items and were also made into tea to cure diarrhoea and dysentery. Lastly they were also planted to mark trails, boundaries, urupā (cemeteries) and births, since they are generally long-lived.

There are two identified species of flax in New Zealand – common flax (harakeke) and mountain flax (wharariki). (Harakeke is really a lily).They are unique to New Zealand and is one of our most ancient plant species. It grows up to 3 metres and its flower stalks can reach up to 4 metres. Tui, bellbirds/ korimako, saddlebacks/tīeke, short tailed bats/pekapeka, geckos and several types of insects enjoy nectar from the flax flower.

Flax was a valuable resource to Europeans during the 19th century because of its strength. It was New Zealand’s biggest export by far until wool and frozen mutton took over. Today, it is used in soaps, hand creams, shampoos and a range of other cosmetics. Flaxseed oil can also be found for sale.

Flax was the most important fibre plant to Māori in New Zealand. Each pā or marae typically had a ‘pā harakeke’, or flax plantation. Different varieties were specially grown for their strength, softness, colour and fibre content.

The uses of the flax fibre were numerous and varied. Weaving is now very common. Clothing, mats, plates, baskets, ropes, bird snares, lashings, fishing lines and nets were all made from flax leaves. Floats or rafts were made out of bundles of dried flower stalks. The abundant nectar from flax flowers was used to sweeten food and beverages. Flax also had many medicinal uses.

The outer layer represented the grandparents, whereas the inner layer of new shoots – the child – remained and were to be protected by the next inner layer of leaves, the parents.

Infrared of poplar trees

Poplars were first grown in New Zealand in the 1830s. Although ornamental in Central Otago they were primarily planted upwind in rather mundane straight lines to provide shelter for stock and houses. Especially from wind, but also to provide shelter from the intense summer sun .

This is probably the Lombardy poplar, given its column-like form. And was also often planted to mark boundaries and river fords as they could be seen from a distance. This planting is very grouped thus supplying quite a magical feel, in the gathering dusk of a summer evening.

That Wanaka Tree!

A willow that was once a fence post. Now a “must see/photograph” for every tourist that comes to New Zealand.

A year of photography – 2019

Autumn at Glendhu Bay, Wanaka, New Zealand

There were various reasons for lots of local NZ travel in 2019, and fortunately I had the time often to not rush trips across the likes of Central Otago, e.g. Wanaka to Dunedin and return.

The images below are very roughly in chronological order, but being lots of them I’ve uploaded with speed in mind – life in 2020 is nice and full, and sitting at a keyboard is best kept to a minimum. Enjoy!

Silver Peaks, Dunedin
Silver Peaks range behind Dunedin on a day tramp in the damp, which helps engender a sense of mystery
Sheep on a Southland Road
On various days I’d help an old friend Wayne survey road upgrades in Southland, and so I got to see lots more of rural NZ than I knew existed, as usually the surfaces that needed to be marked out for upgrades were on anything but main roads.

These were long days with lots of water needed to keep hydrated.
Cook Strait looking back at the South Island
An evening on Cook Strait heading to Wellington on a roadie with an old and dear friend. This is looking back at the South Island
Rowing on Wellington harbour
Wellington harbour
A relocated railway station in Central Otago now serving as a musterer's farming hut
A relocated railway station in Central Otago now serving as a musterer’s farming hut. Bordering the Oteake Conservation Area
Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden
Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden, in Dunedin. The garden commemorates the contribution of Chinese people to the history and culture of the city.

I met my cousin and husband down there so it was a delightful family outing looking at some strong history, with them both and my son
On the Rock and Pillar Range looking west
A side trip and camp out in my Land Cruiser camper, to altitude on the Rock and Pillar Range – the last of the block mountains between the Cardrona Valley, Wanaka and Dunedin. A very windy area.
Camping on the Rock and Pillar Range
Luxury with a cold beer out of the vehicle fridge, on the Rock and Pillar Range watching the sunset.

It got very windy in the wee hours though, and despite turning the truck around so it faced into the wind, to get a good sleep I drove a few km and parked up in a gully out of it, and woke to heavy rain.
And when needing a bathroom
old gold diggings on the Hawkdun Range, Oteake Conservation Area
Another evening camp out – this time at old gold diggings on the Hawkdun Range, Oteake Conservation Area.

I’d climbed up to here in very cold winds to get some photos, and then descended in the dark back to my welcome little mountain hut on wheels, aka Cafe Toyota.

Mt Aspiring in the background
Lower Rock and Pillar Range
Lower Rock and Pillar Range – Butterfly country once experienced and now imagined
awning on Land Cruiser. camper
My new awning on the camper – should have made one years ago for the simple reason that in rain the end of the bed would get wet.

Note no poles and my 100 year old industrial sewing machine got an airing
Sunset from the Hawkduns
Sunset from the Hawkduns.

Just myself, my three legged tripod and some nearby cattle to enjoy a perfect evening while on my way to Dunedin
The now empty Cadburys chocolate factory in Dunedin
The now empty Cadburys chocolate factory in Dunedin.

Site of a new hospital coming up.
Classic car in Wanaka
During the year I finished off a new tire related web site in Wanaka, and so was delighted one day to spot this beauty outside the new building
Frog at Glendhu Bay, Wanaka
Best image from a sunset photoshoot at Glendhu Bay, Wanaka
University of Otago clock tower
University of Otago where my son has studied for several years. A truly beautiful campus
Christchurch cathedral statue
I had to visit Christchurch a few times during the year and since I’d never seen the city post earthquake I predictably ended up visiting the Cathedral ruins in the Square
Christchurch public toilets near the Square at night
Christchurch public toilets near the Square at night
Christchurch Art Gallery
Christchurch Public Art Gallery
Historic gold reserve cottage at Macraes Otago
Historic gold reserve at Macraes Otago
Luna Light Festival fairies - midwinter, Queenstown
Luna Light Festival fairies – midwinter, Queenstown
The smog of winter in the Manuherikia River Valley, Central Otago
The smog of winter in the Manuherikia River Valley, Central Otago
Mt Tutoko, Fiordland National Park
Mt Tutoko, Fiordland National Park – photo from the jet service into Queenstown from CHC
Wintery tarn and Hawkdun Mountains, Oteake Conservation Park
Wintery tarn and Hawkdun Mountains, Oteake Conservation Park, on the edge of the Maniototo
World Loppet Merino Muster race 2019
The front runners at the annual World Loppet Merino Muster race, the Snow Farm, Cardrona Valley, Wanaka.

These world class athletes on cross country skis are well into their 42 km race, and typically average speeds of up to 22kph over that distance
native kaka at Orokonui Sanctuary near Dunedin
During the year I was appointed onto the Otago Conservation Board where we represent the public and advise the Dept of Conservation on select matters and strategic decision making.

As such I get to do field trips, and here is a native kaka at Orokonui Sanctuary near Dunedin.
Young lovers in the sunset, near the mouth of the Catlins River, Coastal Otago
My son and girlfriend near the mouth of the Catlins River, Coastal Otago.

I had a large print done for him of this image as a Christmas present, and it was well received.
Nevis Valley gold dredge pond tree
Yet another visit to a certain tree in the Nevis Valley – it’s my photo nemesis I think: satisfaction eludes me capturing the cold emotion of this old historic gold dredging pond, but I’m getting closer.

This visit represented the coldest I’d been in 2019.
Nevis Valley gold miners cottage
Nevis Valley gold miners cottage
Lake Hawea from a day trip up Isthmus Peak
Lake Hawea from a day trip up Isthmus Peak
Otago Conservation Board field trip Matukituki Valley 2019
Otago Conservation Board field trip Matukituki Valley – me on the right
Proposed conservation land on Glenaray Station
Proposed conservation land on Glenaray Station Otago/Southland. An inspection visit by helicopter pre submission.

One huge area – one hour flying only covered a fifth of the farm.
Lake Wanaka flood Dec 2019.
Lake Wanaka flood Dec 2019.

Last event 1999, and thankfully this one stopped short of the shops, just!
Glendhu Bay autumn ripples
My favourite capture for the year – there I was all set up at Glendhu Bay for a more sedate shot and a jet ski came by causing some ripples I did not think I’d benefit from, however they made for something much better.
Dunedin Gardens rose
Wishing you all the very best for you and yours for 2020 – may you always have time to smell the roses

Some thoughts on how to enhance sustainability in photography

Mount Aeolus from Isthmus Peak track

One of the goals of Photo Quest NZ is draw attention to our unique New Zealand landscape in such a way as to do something tangible towards not only protecting it, but ensuring people grasp the need for habitat restoration for our native species.

NZ tomtit
NZ tomtit

Along the way though we leave footprints – not so much in the way of the obvious nasty chemicals used to make images pre digital, but in more subtle and insidious ways such as the need for electronics (with planned obsolescence, not to mention packaging), batteries and data storage.

With these thoughts in mind, and already being off the grid (all Photo Quest studio work is done via solar power) with equipment chosen for it’s potential longevity (can you believe a ten year old iPhone) thoughts recently have gravitated towards travel – the simple act of getting to remote locations and back again.

Duffers Saddle in the snow - Central Otago
At least I have accomodation with me

It’s been a habit in the past to go to a new locations, take a few images and then retreat back to the office where they’re evaluated pending another trip to said location. The thought being to be there for sunsets and sunrises, or a snow storm or two.

However recently good friends invited me to have a day trip up Isthmus Peak – a viewpoint popular with young back packers, which gives great panorama views of both Lakes Wanaka and Hawea.

View from Isthmus Peak track
View from the lower section of the Isthmus Peak track
Mts Castor and Pollux from near the top of Isthmus Peak
Mts Castor and Pollux from near the top of Isthmus Peak
Lake Hawea on the left, Wanaka on the right,  from near the top of Isthmus Peak
Lake Hawea on the left, Wanaka on the right, from near the top of Isthmus Peak
Lake Hawea on the left, Wanaka on the right
Lake Hawea on the left, Wanaka on the right
Near the top
Mount Aeolus from from Isthmus Peak
Looking across Lake Wanaka we could see the Wilken Valley peaks such as Mount Aeolus, but unfortunately the noon light did not make for a photo equal to the majesty of this view

On seeing the panoramas offered by this walk, it can come to mind to return for the golden hour after the sun has set, or better yet in this case, be there for dawn. Which actually means burning more fuel.

Mount Aeolus from Isthmus Peak track
So one way to improve the light photographically is to use post production software, thus getting a competent image on one visit which goes someway towards sustainable photography. The dull image immediately above was the basis for this one

None of these blog page images are listed in our shop. Nor are they likely to be. But if you’re interested in purchasing, please note which image and email Donald so I can advise you with a price and options.

Some little known Lake Hawea and Wanaka history of gold mining back in the 1880’s

As tourists when we tick the boxes on the must-visit places it can be a bit of a rush. Then it’s easy to overlook other rushes accommodated by the past.

Close to Wanaka and on the very busy road beside Lake Hawea that goes to Haast and South Westland it’s easy to rush by a little creek on the left called Craigburn, and it’s accompanying Dept of Conservation interpretation board, which alerts us to some history of gold mining endeavours upstream back around 1880, mainly in a tributary called Long Gully.

Now days called the Matatiaho Conservation Area it once sported 200 miners, three stores and a butchery, but this development was not long lived as the hope of finding the source of the gold in the very rugged and deeply incised headwaters upstream came to nought. Sadly little evidence of this has survived.

Flowering kanuka and lupins as seen from the DOC track, with a backdrop of Lake Hawea…

About an hour in, the track comes to an end as it drops into seclusion down by the river at some signage, and a small gate in a deer fence…
Craigburn 2

Hunters [permit required] usually frequent the rugged country further to the west [through above mentioned small gate], and to the much steeper southern areas including Mt Burke…
Craigburn 4

Craigburn 3

Lupins by the carpark…
Craigburn 5

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