She had one final place to see, however, before she reached Milford and she expected it to be busy. This was The Chasm. The large car park was well occupied – including by several coaches, so she wondered whether her shots from the best viewpoints were likely to be photo-bombed by day-trippers. If that were the case, she’d need to return early the following morning when it would be quieter. The boarded walk lasted only a couple of hundred metres before she saw the roaring water dropping into a huge abyss with amazing dips and bowls, in front of vibrantly green mossy rocks. Scouting for photo-opportunities she found that the two footbridges over the Cleddau River gave her the best viewing points for the waterfall.
Leaving the Chasm car park, she drove along the road as it descended through forest-carpeted canyons for the final seven miles or so before it reached the powered campervan park site, just short of Milford. She’d booked to stay for three nights. She wasn’t sure that she’d stay – or need to stay – all three nights, but the extra night was a little extra insurance against the torrential downpours for which it was famous.
Here, she had wi-fi available plus access to a twenty-four-hour guest kitchen, guest lounge, a coin-operated washing machine and a dryer. She checked in and had a good look around and something to eat. Most of the other people who were staying there were out exploring the area. She decided to do the same.
The weather was still warm, dry and offered a near-cloudless sky. She hoped that it would stay that way because it would mean that, in a few hours, she’d have a chance of a great sunset shot across to Mitre Peak – her dream shot.
She drove to the end of the road, parking as close as she could to where the cruise ferries berthed on the western bank of Freshwater Basin. She walked the few yards to the shore and immediately saw an ideal viewpoint across the Sound to Mitre Peak – at 1683 metres, more than a mile high.
She raised her camera and checked the scene through her viewfinder. She realised that she was going to need her ultra-wide lens to do it justice. Using the lens that was currently mounted, she’d need to do a vertical, or portrait, panorama. On reflection she decided to do a panorama like that anyway.
She wandered around the basin, checking various other possible locations to use on the other side, as far as the airport runway area. She returned to her van – and the campsite happy. Maybe she wouldn’t need all three nights.
When she got back, she sat for a while in the Guest Lounge with her notes, her iPad and a map. She’d purchased some wi-fi time from the site Reception and used it to check tide times and sunset times. She’d noticed that when she’d gone down to the shore it was still low tide. By the time she’d be settling down to do a sunset shot, the tide would be coming in quite rapidly.
She also realised that there wouldn’t be much chance of a glorious sunrise shot there because of the direction and the mountains. She drew up a checklist of what she’d need to take – the list included her new waterproof boots, plenty of spray to ward off the sandflies, and some neutral density filters to get some shots with a smooth seascape and ideal reflections.
The remainder of the afternoon, she rested, talking to other guests as they arrived, until it was time for her next meal.
Before she left for the evening, she sprayed herself liberally with midge repellent, tucked her jeans into her socks, and carried her boots, coat and a bob-cap to the car. Better safe than sorry!
When she reached the position that she’d chosen earlier, she changed into her waterproof boots and walked to the foreshore. Before she mounted her camera onto the tripod, she checked the exposure reading in its viewfinder and took a test shot before adjusting her composition and settings and trying again. There were a few high clouds, but she was hoping that, as the Sun dipped, it would light them from below, creating some beautiful sky colour later. Once she was satisfied, she set the camera up on the tripod, did some fine adjustments to her lens focus and locked it down. She then switched to manual operation, checked her settings, fitted her filter holder in readiness and tried a few shots with different filter strengths. After each, she checked for the effect that she’d created.
At first, she worked with a composition that used the material of the shoreline as foreground to provide a layered sense of depth. She then started all over again, but without a foreground – keeping the horizon central to make the best of the reflections.
Soon, she relaxed. What she was waiting for now was for the Sun to begin to drop below the peak, so that she could use a narrow lens-opening to create a sunstar effect.
Even after the Sun had set completely, she waited for the sky to turn into that indigo blue – where some light remains before total darkness – for her final Blue Hour shots.
She returned to the campsite a happy young woman. If she were unable to take a single extra photograph, she could return to northern England content. When she spoke to Jamie that evening – his breakfast time – he could sense her happiness. She made sure to let him know that she couldn’t wait to be with him again.
The following day was cloudy. She wandered around again but didn’t succeed in capturing anything as nice as she had the previous night. It was late afternoon before the cloud cleared. She was considering whether this should be her final night there. There was no guarantee that the following day would be any better and the forecast wasn’t brilliant anyway. She settled down and prepared for the night ahead.
Later, Melissa swatted away the bugs that surrounded her despite the repellent spray and cream that she’d applied liberally. She hoped that, as night fell, she might get some respite. Meanwhile. She’d have to keep them away from the front of her lens to avoid black spots all over her images.
She’d brought a folding stool, a thermos flask and some food from the campervan, anticipating the hours of waiting ahead. She’d set up her tripod and camera some hours before, when she’d taken some more sunset and blue hour shots.
The weather looked as if it would hold for once, and the cloud cover was minimal. She’d been lucky with the shots she’d taken earlier – some spectacular reflections in tidal pools on the beach. All she wanted now was nightfall and a jaw-droppingly beautiful capture of the night sky over Mitre Peak, reflected in Milford Sound.
Sadly, she’d arrived in the wrong season for a Milky Way shot.
If all went well, tonight would be her final night in New Zealand’s Fjordland. So far, she had several hundred images that she expected to be able to sell when she returned to the UK. Life was looking good.
She shivered – time to add an extra layer for warmth. She’d be resetting her lens focus shortly using an early star, but first she moved to set up her camera for a foreground shot. That photo would be merged in software later, together with the main images she’d be taking soon of the tens of thousands of stars she expected. Her attention was diverted when she heard the notification from her smartphone. Her caller ID told her it was Jamie.
‘Hi, Mel,’ he said, ‘Where are you?’
‘So soon? It’s only four hours or so since I phoned.’ she said? ‘You must be keen. Anyway, why? What’s up?’
‘There’s something I think you should know.’
She looked at the time above the Apps screen on her phone. It would be nine in the morning UK time.
‘It’s my last night here in New Zealand, Jamie. I’ll be here at Milford Sound until midnight or so. Is it urgent?’
‘My mum’s in a coma in hospital,’ he said.
‘Oh, My God!’ she said, ‘Jamie, I’m so sorry. When was this?’
‘I got a phone call from dad about two-and-a half-hours ago,’ he said, ‘Mum’s face went funny, and she couldn’t speak properly. The ambulance came very quickly.’
‘How’s your dad?’ she asked, ‘Is he at the hospital with her?’
‘Yes. Obviously, he’s in bits worrying about her.’
‘And how are you?’ she asked.
‘I’m just stunned. I’ve never seen anyone who’s had a stroke before. This has all happened so fast.’
‘It’s just struck me,’ she said, ‘It’s Friday morning there isn’t it? What’s happening about the shop? Are you closing for the day?’
‘Yes, it’s ten o’clock here’ he said, ‘I was just opening the shop when dad phoned. Mum had only arrived at Tracy’s a few minutes before it happened. I’m looking after the shop until Grandad Alec arrives to take over, then I’m going to the hospital too. Marcus will be here with Alec.’
‘Okay. Well, you’ll need me to get off the phone to keep your line clear,’ she said, ‘but before I go, I’ll be getting up at daft o’clock tomorrow to drive back to Queenstown, return the van and get to the airport for the first flight back to Auckland. I’ll phone you from the airport. Give Tony my love.’
‘Okay,’ he said, ‘Drive safely. I’ll speak to you soon.’
True to her word, she returned to the campervan site shortly afterwards. She’d managed to capture the image she wanted. Her work in New Zealand was done.
Today, I continue my series of photos taken in and around the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, where I spent a Saturday earlier in June.
The next set of shots will show scenes from around the town that I saw that Saturday. This is a shot of more Saturday afternoon shoppers.
For all these shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/160 secs @ f/8, focal length 21 mm, and ISO 160.