Thursday, 6 January 2022

Winter in the High Country- Part 3

 Continuing on from Part 2    (and Happy Holidays to you all, I hope you've had a magical time)

Sunrise at the cottages next morning was spectacular! Just what I'd hoped for and the reason I'd wanted to return to there from Lake Pukaki and park up in the middle of a freezing cold hoar frost. 

Night Sky Cottages, Twizel, Mackenzie Country

It's not often that a sunrise can be captured during a hoar frost as usually the fog is too low or there's an inversion layer sitting between the sunny blue skies above & the frozen ground below. From experience I've found that a colourful sunrise usually happens on the last day of a hoar frost; the layer of fog has started to dissipate and the sun rays work their way through the thick cloud. 


Looking over the back fence, in the opposite direction to the sunrise, there was a beautiful pink glow over the landscape. A low bank of fog sits over Lake Ruataniwha behind the trees (click on the photo to check) and this is where it usually rolls in from, smothering us & Twizel town in a thick blanket of fog for several days at a time during winter. The fact that I can see this far today is another indicator that the hoar frost will be gone soon.


I head off early hoping that the it won't disappear before I've done my rounds. First stop is just down the road where the air is clear and the frost has coated the poplars & willows on Ben Ohau Station.

Glen Lyon Road, Twizel
Loch Cameron is much clearer than yesterday when all I could see was a ghostly shape of a tree on the edge of the pond. At least half of the surface is frozen which has pushed the NZ Scaups (diving ducks) to the end of the loch. 


Next stop is my favourite lookout above Lake Ruataniwha where there's a stunning winter wonderland on display in front of me.


The fog has retreated although it appears to be hanging around 'my' ponds below Benmore Range.


In the other direction Ben Ohau stands proud at the end of the range overlooking the winter scene below.


Of course the next stop is my favourite view over Lake Ruataniwha's lagoon, although I think my hoar frost photo from the winter before is still the better one.


The Lagoon- 2020

Another stop, another favourite view; the Old Iron Bridge over the old Ohau River pond below Lake Ruataniwha's spillway. I'm thinking up a plan here but...


...it's onto the Ponds to check them out first. This is the main highway, SH8,  just south of the salmon farm and where there's usually plenty of sightseers parked up taking in the amazing spectacle. I think I'm a little too early for them today, often there's black ice on the road north & south of Twizel at this time of the year and people wisely hold off travelling until later in the day.


The fog has lifted but the water is ruffled so there'll be no reflections here today.


There were several photographers (hidden behind trees & behind me in case you're looking) at another popular area of Kellands Pond where the water has also frozen over.


The raupo spikes (bullrush) look like giant popsicles. 


To shoot the highway culvert requires some careful stepping on drowned tussock mounds with icy patches in between. I should have worn my gumboots as I broke through the ice this time, brrrr!


The infamous nor-west arch was forming overhead and the fog had all but gone; once the wind & temperature picks up the frost will start to melt. I need to get moving.


This is another favourite view that I have several photos of during the various seasons; the brown rushes around the large tree over the far side remind be of an Elizabethan ruff.



I hurry on along the track, stopping briefly to take photos of the trees and their beautiful white icicles.


At the far end of the pond where the cold air is still & the water is sheltered from the wind, ice stretches from one side of the pond to the other.


After circling the pond I have one more place to return to before the frost disappeared. The nor'west arch is giving some great colour to the scenery but the still air is starting to move too.


While I was taking photos of the Old Iron Bridge from above, I thought to myself I really should head down to the pond and take some photos down there. But I wanted to get to the ponds first so on the way back I headed down to the bridge. 


And I was so glad I did, it was truly magical...


....and I captured, what I think, are my best photos from the three day hoar frost.


It was also very sheltered down below Lake Ruataniwha's dam wall so I was able to get my reflection photos.



And also one of my new favourite photos; the bridge from a totally different perspective and looking (to me anyway) very much like a Japanese scene. 


This photo also won me a place in the Creative Mackenzie Book & Art Festival photo competition and is now on display in Twizel's town square.


Along with a second hoar frost photo that was chosen too- it may look familiar!



As I headed home along Glen Lyon Road, I stopped across the road from the holiday park to take a last photo of the ice on the pines. The icicles were just starting to slide off the trees in great showers of ice crashing through the branches and knocking more off as it went.  I must take a video of this next time, it's quite magical listening to the noise and watching it fall.....as long as you're not standing right underneath that is! 

Just 2kms further on the frost had long gone; the fog hangs around town a little longer than out in the open. 


And that was that for the year, another spectacular hoar frost done & dusted!

Sunday, 19 December 2021

Winter in the High Country- Part 2

 Continuing on from Part One...

I was up early the next morning to check on the weather. Our camp site on the edge of Lake Pukaki was shrouded in thick fog, which, while not great for camping, was a positive sign that the hoar frost was still in residence and continuing to form back in Twizel, 15kms away.


By the time I was ready to head down the road to check on the frost the fog had once again withdrawn down to the south end of Lake Pukaki leaving mirror reflections and a stunning scene behind in its wake.


The fog swirled about in heavy drifts as I reached the Pukaki canal gates on the main highway. 


I stopped for a few quick photos just as the fog disappeared leaving behind frost covered bushes and blue skies. It wouldn't be long before the ice disappeared here as the sun's weak warmth started melting it right before my eyes. I hurried on down the road, fingers crossed that this wasn't going to be a short-lived hoar frost. 


Not a chance! It's hard to believe but just around that corner in the photo above and near Lake Wardell, it was once again thick fog. I pulled into the lake- actually a small pond- where freedom camping is allowed and was surprised to see that someone was indeed camping there in their caravan beside the frozen pond. Brrrr!


I drove around the lake and took a few more photos before heading on towards Twizel, I was keen to get to my favourite ponds. 

Lake Wardell
But not before a quick stop at the Twizel River.

Twizel River
And then onto Wairepo Arm, one of the two ponds on either side of the main highway just south of Twizel.


I drove into another world; dry, still & crisp and not a person in sight. Every branch of every tree was coated in thick white ice crystals. What a magical winter wonderland it was. 



I followed the 4WD track around the edge of the lake until I reached a favourite spot. I'm usually taking reflection photos here-


Winter reflections
...or the autumn colours. This is what I love about the Mackenzie, every season is special in its own way and every season has fabulous scenery. It's a photographer's paradise!



Back on the main road, the fog was very dense so I decided to give Kellands Pond a miss and drove from Wairepo Arm around to boat harbour on Lake Ruataniwha.

Lake Ruataniwha
Just after I arrived 3 or 4 vehicles pulled in behind me and disgorged a dozen or so photographers who peeled off into the gloom looking for the perfect shot. Probably a photo workshop or photography club from out of the area on a hoar frost photo shoot. Every now & then as I moved along the waterfront I'd spot a wooly hat or scarf covered face peering out from a bush beside the lake. 

Boat Harbour
But the last thing I expected to see while out chasing a hoar frost was a person swimming in the lake! And in a bikini too (see black dot under the willow). And I'm sure the last thing she expected to see was a bunch of photographers arrive to take photos!

Lake Ruataniwha
I spoke to her & she told me she swims in Lake Tekapo everyday (which would probably be colder as it's an alpine lake fed directly by snow melt). I asked if it was warmer under the water & she replied 'not really'. It was on her bucket list to swim in a hoar frost so she'd driven down with her husband who was standing nearby, ready with a big thick towel. 


I took a few more photos around the lake before leaving the photographers behind and then carried on along the top of the ridge stopping for a few more photos looking down on the lake.


The fog was getting thicker by the minute though, moving in and swallowing up my wonderland scenes.


I drove on, along the canals to Loch Cameron and found another favourite scene fog bound.


Next were a stop at the Ben Ohau Station ponds alongside Glen Lyon Road; they were frozen with frosty icicles everywhere.


I pulled into our cottages- the guests now gone- and checked out the garden. I'm sure the log burners would have earnt their keep over the last few days.

Night Sky Cottages
It looked like Spaghetti Junction at the tussocks.


Well, I thought to myself, we weren't going to de-camp and return to our park-up site beside one of the cottages until the next morning, but a plan was forming in my head. I headed back up the highway... 

SH8 near Twizel Airport
...back into civilization, blue sky...

Lake Pukaki & Hayman Road
...and wispy fog...


..past the lake pond that was now showing signs of freezing and pulled up in front of the 5th-wheeler, calling to David as soon as I stepped out of the ute.


And that was how he found himself at the dump station in the middle of a hoar frost! Something he's keen not to repeat.  I figured if we were back in town & all set up, I'd be able to head off early the next morning instead of having to bring the rig back to town before I could head out again.

This fog wasn't letting up & this frost was going nowhere.



To be continued...