Sunday 27 June 2021

Misty Mornings & Aurora Magic- Poolburn Dam; Part 3


Continued on from Part 2

The next two blogs from Poolburn will be more of a photofest than anything as I have so many lovely photos I want to share with you. The photo opportunities were endless from one end of the day until the other and beyond! Misty sunrises, stunning night skies and I was even lucky enough to have Lady Aurora dancing for me.

Best viewed on a large screen, click on the photos to enlarge & scroll through them from there.

Looking like something from Mulan (a movie based on Chinese folklore); it was a misty sunrise over the Poolburn cribs this morning (I have never seen Mulan so I have no idea why I think this, it just looks Asian)

Half an hour later and the dusty pink had bleached from the sky.

With no wind to disperse the mist, it hung low over the dam and clung to the rocky tors, swirling in and around the cribs & rock stacks for much of the morning.

Two early morning photos of the generously sized crib near our campsite, taken five days apart & on my way back home after less than stunning sunrises. 

Poolburn famous; That Bus

Take a seat...either to catch sunset or wait to use the longdrop.

Another misty sunrise with thick cloud cover.

This is sunrise at the shepherds hut (one of my favourite cribs), high up on a rocky knoll overlooking the range to the east (and the dam in the other direction) it was a good place to shoot the sunrise. Except that it's was quite a haul up there in the pre-dawn gloom and after experiencing mediocre sunrises for three mornings in a row I gave up climbing & stuck to the cribs around the dam. 

Sunset on another day. Always look behind you when shooting a sunset often the scene is just as stunning with syrupy tones of pink and coral coloured clouds. You'll have to wait until the next blog to see the actual sunset that I'd raced across to the otherside of the dam to capture, it was spectacular!

With no light pollution and stunningly clear night skies I had a great time shooting the stars, in fact such a great time on this particular night I didn't make it to bed until 4am! That's airglow (aka nightglow) above the horizon.

'Out There' under the Milky Way

What is airglow? "Airglow is the faint luminescence of Earth's upper atmosphere which is caused by air molecules' & atoms' selective absorption of solar ultraviolet & X-radiation"

My 'on my way home from sunrise' crib features again during the night.

The airglow is strong in the following photo taken looking south. The two white 'clouds' are the Large & Small Magellanic Clouds, they are dwarf galaxies & orbit the Milky Way galaxy; the LMC is approx. 163,000 light years away, the SMC 206,000kms.  

In the opposite direction to the rising Milky Way, the star constellation Orion, better known to me and many others Downunder as the Iron Pot (or The Pot) can be seen in the following photos. Named after Orion, a hunter in Greek Mythology, Orion is upside down to us here in the in the Southern Hemisphere hence it looking more like a pot.  

I had no idea of the names of the other stars around the Orion but thanks to some experts on my Aurora Facebook page I now know that the bright star top left is Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky and the yellow one down on the horizon and to the right of Orion is Betelgeuse. 

The bright one to the left of The Pot is Rigel, a star that is 863 light-years away from us, 120,000 times more luminous than the sun, 79 times the diameter and twice as hot at 11,600 degrees Celsius. Can you tell I had fun reading all the interesting facts about the stars? 

Another photo of the magnificent Milky Way, a last one before I returned to the van just before 4am. 

There's the  'on my way home from sunrise' crib again

Two nights later and I was lucky enough to capture the Aurora Australis and with not a soul about to share it with either. Not surprising that everyone else (all half a dozen of them) were tucked up in bed, these were taken between 2-3am. The aurora didn't last too long and it wasn't very strong but I was perfectly positioned to capture the reflection in the dam. 

And I was finally able to photograph 'Out There' parked up with the Southern Lights playing in the background. Usually I've had to drive to the best viewing sites to see an Aurora or we've been parked in the wrong place to have the rig in the shot.

The morning sunrise crib makes another 'star' appearance... does the next door neighbour's longdrop.

And finally a couple of sunrise photos (to whet your appetite for the next blog), these ones taken from the rock stack beside our camp. The rocks provide great elevation and a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape. They also have 'easy to navigate in the dark' stepping stones to reach the top. 

Although I have to clap & shout at the rock stack before I attempt the ascent. I saw possum poo up there this time...hmm, I wonder if he was our midnight visitor.

To be continued... Sunrises & Sunsets Part 4

Monday 21 June 2021

Cribs & Clouds- Poolburn Dam; Part 2


Continued on from Part 1

Along with peace & solitude (most of the time) Poolburn offers some spectacular Central Otago scenery which is often topped off with some fantastic cloud formations. 

Not only is the natural scenery awesome but there are also some very quaint & quirky cribs located around the reservoir. Cribs is 'lower South Island' speak for fishing huts or baches. Baches, to my overseas readers, is 'the rest of NZ' speak for holiday homes. Rustic holiday homes not those flash jobbies either. I am an avid photographer of cribs & baches and have built up quite a collection over the years. I love their weather worn character, many of them cobbled together with old & excess building supplies. Inside, old magazines & groaning bookshelves, discarded fishing tackle and collections of kiwiana kitsch banished from everyday suburbia. And all of them holding generations of memories & tall tales.

Following are a selection of photos taken during our two weeks at Poolburn.

On a very clam day the dam is a mill pond perfect for reflections and spotting those elusive jumping Brown Trout. 

If you click on this photo to enlarge you'll notice three busy men going about their fishing business (well two anyway). One of them, Danny, is an honorary Poolburn custodian. He may pop in to say hello and if you're lucky you may get invited over for a yarn & happy hour.

I have three favourite cribs & this is one of them. Actually I probably have more but these ones make great subjects. This little one is actually on an island.

The sky seems to be closing in on us with this cloud cover. Cloud like this never seems to stay around long, the sun soon burns it off if it's early morning or if appears at sunset (like this one) and it disappears overnight.

In between his fishing trips I asked David to take me in our Takacat inflatable on a tiki-tour over to the far side of the dam, up a long narrow arm that ends at Long Valley Creek (top right photo, below). It's a favourite place for fly fisherman but unless you have a boat, it's a very long walk. 

There's an abandoned house & large shed on a point at the entrance to the arm (top left & centre). I guess it will be left like that to disintegrate & slowly breakdown forever & a day. Up behind that ridge ahead of us (and believe me it's much taller than it looks) is where the LOTR film set was.  

On the way home I took a few more photos of the cribs on the east side of the dam...

...before we pulled into my newly named  'Southern Man Bay' to have lunch (check out the billboard on the front of the fishing lodge).

What a lovely little bay, there's actually a deep little bay on the other side of the crib too, check out the next photo. We sat on one of the rocky outcrops and had our lunch before heading back to the van.


This lovely golden hour photo of Poolburn was taken as I headed home from one of my regular sunrise vantage points further up the road. You can see the Southern Man crib and its surrounding bays in the centre of the photo. We came in from the left for lunch.

You'll have to wait for the last Poolburn blog to see some of the fabulous (if I must say so myself) sunrise & sunset shots I took but here are a few of the golden hour photos taken on my walk home. That's a small mown airstrip in front of the cribs at the back right.

This one really shows how much care should be taken to avoid the many islands & rocky points when a boatie navigates around the dam. David reported that the dam was lower than usual, the rocky tors that had sat just under the water on previous visits were more exposed on this one. 

There's still  a large section of the dam out to the right in this pano...

...including this area where we're parked. The road entrance to Poolburn is up at the top left and in the foreground it disappears over the hill and down below the dam wall and then out across the range. Did you spot 'Out There'? Click the photo to enlarge.

Here is #2 of my fav cribs. This one belongs to the Omakau Fishing Club and is most probably one of my favourites because it is very handy to where we park and I'm always passing by with my camera in hand!

It also appears in one of my iconic photos of a frozen Poolburn Dam, click the link if you'd like to read more about that visit back in 2015.

On this morning one of the occupants is fishing off the rocks in front of the crib. If you look closely you can also see another guy on the deck who also looks to be fishing for his breakfast from the comfort of his deck chair.

A perfect morning at Poolburn.

Here's a few more photos of the cribs, most of them are on our side of the dam. My third favourite crib is in the two photos on the top right. This tiny little crib ( it's actually the local station's shepherd hut) sits way up on a rocky outcrop overlooking the dam.

These ones are golden hour sunsets taken across the water from our camp site. 

Night falls on our tranquil lakeside camp site.

Between fishing expeditions- which weren't very fruitful on this visit- David set the koura pot (freshwater crayfish). There were plenty of koura caught but in the end we decided that for the amount of meat you get off them, and that's the big ones only, we had no need to dispatch them to the cooker (they taste a little sweeter than prawn but you can really only eat their tails). We just had fun catching & releasing them!

Another morning shot on my way home; this one shows me how insignificant we really are in the whole scheme of things, & especially in this beautiful Central Otago landscape (check for the van).

If you didn't know better you'd probably think this next photo was taken on the same day as the one above. It wasn't, it was two days earlier and at the other end of the day. 

When I saw those clouds forming just before sunset I raced down the road, over the fence and clambered up to a high point overlooking the dam. When I reached the top of the rocks and looked over the other side, I startled a mob of cattle below. 

They stood for a moment deciding what to do and then took off, thundering across the ground and heading for the far end, disappearing between the rocks never to be seen again. Later, as I walked back down one lonely cow came bellowing out from behind a rock stack obviously wondering where all her mates had gone. 

The sunset didn't amount to much but it was a great view of the dam from a different angle. I was also looking out for the Karearea/NZ Falcon I'd seen in this area on a previous visit. Sadly I didn't see him this visit, I suspect he would have been spooked by the LOTR Tech area which was nearby or that the wild cat we'd seen nearby had put paid to any nesting efforts and maybe it had moved on. 

And finally a few more photos of the cribs across the way.

And you got to love that morning golden hour...

To be continued...Part 3