Monday 12 October 2020

Winter in the Mackenzie- A Hoar Frost; Part 3

 Continuing on from Part 2  

The next morning dawned cold and bleak.....if you weren't interested in a hoar frost that is, for me it was magic! I was out of bed at first light and off to photograph Day 2 of this amazing weather event. Many people have mentioned that is must have been very cold but in fact it wasn't too bad. The temperature hovered around -5c for most of the day and the air was very dry so you didn't feel any of the usual dampness. Nothing like the wet, foggy -11c temperatures we'd had for several days earlier in winter. 

Fraser Stream, Twizel

Before heading off in the ute, I walked down to Fraser Stream which is just across the road from us. The willows and grasses were coated in frost and the tall stand of pines (Douglas Fir?) looked like something off a Northern Hemisphere Christmas card.

Lyford Lane, Twizel

Neighbourhood photos, clockwise from the top-
Friendly Clydesdales waiting for their breakfast.
An ice covered pine cone looking like it's straight off the cover of a Christmas card. 
Neighbour's house overlooking the Fraser Stream willows.
Kea Cottage and our frost covered natives.
Nearby farmland
Night Sky Cottages driveway & Fraser Stream willows

Then it was into the ute and off to the first of many stops for the day, just down the end of the road at Loch Cameron. 

Next it was along the canal to the lookout above Lake Ruataniwha and the boat ramp where the cloud hung low and the water was a beautiful milky turquoise. Don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge them.

The red rosehips on the briar bushes provided a splash of contrast amongst the white, taupes & green of the surrounding landscape.

A little further along and of course I had to stop at one of my favourite views, a gap in the pines providing a view of  Lake Ruataniwha's Lagoon.

And through another gap, a tiny little island known locally as Birdsh*t Island.

Then it was out onto SH8 and down to Wairepo Arm & Kellands Pond to what turned out to be the epicentre of the hoar frost for five days solid. The highway was covered in dry ice, a very fine ice dust that had been ground to a powder by the passing traffic. Everytime a vehicle passed it flew up into the air in a great cloud before settling back down onto the roadside.

And now here's a multitude of photos from my slow crawl around the ponds. A couple of small narrow ends of the pond were frozen over.

Kellands Pond framed by ice covered Birch branches.

State Highway 8, part of the scenic loop through the South Island, runs between the two ponds, behind the row of trees and over the bridge.

Below is one of my favourite photos, I'm usually here during the summer keeping an eye of a pair of nesting grebes. Quite and peaceful, it's very rare not to have the place to myself through all the seasons.

However over the days of the frost I met several other photographers on the tracks at the back of the pond, others keen to capture this unique and rare phenomenon. Although it was a bit embarrassing after about the 4th photographer I came across asked if I was Shellie Evans. Most of them belonged to the same photography Facebook pages I do and had travelled to photograph the frost. Chat was kept to a bare minimum though as we were all keen to keep shooting, but it was lovely to put faces to names.

Then I found the most stunning scene possible; the water so calm and the reflections perfect. And yes there are pylons, but in the Mackenzie you have to embrace them rather than see them as a flaw in your photos. 

After all if it wasn't for the power stations, manmade lakes & canals we wouldn't have so many bodies of water to provide us with dozens of  photo and recreational opportunities. And this is my top fav photo from the hoar frost, and the one that a Canterbury weather page shared from my Instagram page where it received over 3,000 'likes' and 550 shares within a couple of hours. 

After finishing the Kellands Pond loop I headed across the road to Wairepo Arm...

...where looking across the pond towards Twizel there was a hint of blue in the sky, it appeared that the low cloud might be lifting and I might get my sought after 'blue sky, white frost' shot afterall (no such luck).

I headed off along the track behind Wairepo Arm...

...where many of the the large pine trees were coated in icicles. The frosting was on one side only on some of the trees, this caused by the moisture laden fog being blown in from the south. Deep in the little coves and backwashes of the pond the ice coating was even more random. 

From Wairepo Pond I headed south along the highway until I reached Lake Ohau Road and Benmore Station. 

It was amazing to see the huge trees around the woolshed and home paddocks covered from top to toe in ice, frozen in time it seemed.

Benmore Station horses

Some of you will recognise this photo, it was the cover shot for the recent NZMCA Motor Caravanner magazine- an old stone cottage on Benmore Station.

From Benmore Station, I headed back towards Twizel. While there was frost further south, it is mostly farmland until Omarama, 25kms away so I decided to head back into the thick of it.

It was a quick stop at another of my favourite views; from the spillway across Lake Ruataniwha to the pine covered peninsula that juts out into the lake.

Not ready to head home just yet, I gave a toot as I drove past home and headed down towards the canal, stopping at Ben Ohau Station and the iconic (for Twizel photogs) red shed...

...just as the farmer came out the gate and headed up the road to deliver baleage to hungry stock.

I stopped along the canal road above Dry Stream to take a photo looking out towards Twizel....

...and busted a mob of sheep who had found a break in the temporary fence around the silage stack and were helping themsleves.

Some of them certainly looked a little guilty.

The final drive past for the day was Lake Poaka which was also covered in hoar frost.

Hard to imagine but just a few short weeks later, the Pukaki fire ravaged through the pine trees in the background. The Twizel River, where the fire started, flows into and out of Lake Poaka on it's way to Lake Benmore.

To be continued...Part 4


  1. Beautiful stunning "once in a life time" pics and a great read Thank you

    1. Thanks Helen, hope you enjoyed the final part, I think the photos in that one are something else! :)

  2. Shellie, your hoar frost photos are so gorgeous and have been so inspirational to me. They made me get off my bum and get back into my photography. I have since had two photos win places in exhibitions, one in Scotland and one in Berlin. I can't thank you enough. If you are ever in Hawke's Bay I'd love to meet you!

    1. I'd love to meet you too, if I knew who you were ;) Congratulations on the exhibition placing, that's quite an achievement & thank for your lovely words.


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