Mitre Peak, New Zealand, May 13th, 2015

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken in Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand on May 13th, 2015

It’s always fun to grow and change as an artist. Novelty brings excitement, and that excitement helps keep the passion for art burning bright. The longer I do photography the more relaxed, open, and accepting of a scene I’ve become. Instead of trying to shoehorn a place into my preexisting mold and expectations of what I want to photograph -and consequently being disappointed when the scene didn’t fit the mold- I’ve recently become more and more able to simply hear what any place has to say to me. And that change of mindset has allowed me to see more beauty than I have before, and create photographs I never would have before.

Case in point on my recent trip to New Zealand. When I’m on a photo trip, even a long two-month one like this was, I rarely have the luxury of time. My schedule is often driven by responsibilities, scouting, tour guiding, and meeting up with friends. So even though I’d like to, I often simply can’t wait in one spot until the conditions align with my vision of what I want them to be. Which meant that I simply had to tease out the photographic opportunities from whatever Mother Nature gave me. Thus I often found myself out in the rain and the wind photographing things I normally wouldn’t, like intimate forest abstracts and monochrome, telephoto mountain portraits.

One such opportunity came about on the tail end of a New Zealand photography workshop I was leading with my friend, Jim Patterson. We arrived at the finale location of the workshop, Fiordland National Park, and drove to Milford Sound, arriving around lunch in order to have a peek at the current conditions. Somewhat unsurprisingly, conditions were wet. Milford Sound is one of the rainiest places on the planet so a little wet weather is nothing unusual. But this was a torrent of drenching rain. Visibility was less than a mile, and barely anything could be heard over the thunderous downpour.

We took a leisurely break at our hotel and returned to the Sound in mid afternoon once the rain had eased up. With some slight sprinkles still showering us here and there our group walked out to the edge of the Sound to see what we could find. Although the clouds were still thick and heavy, they had lifted a bit to reveal Mitre Peak, the Lion, the Elephant, and the lower slopes of Mt. Pembroke, all dusted with a fresh coat of snow. Unfortunately the light was quite flat.

However, just before sunset a small pocket of cloud shifted, letting in a hint of light around the top of Mitre Peak. Other clouds began swirling around the mountain’s flanks, playing a beautiful game of hide and seek with the peak.  The constant motion of the clouds around Mitre Peak made me think of nothing so much as a massive ship plowing its way through the mist. And in that moment the larger scene didn’t exist for me any more; all I could see was Mitre Peak and its clouds.

I quickly put on my telephoto lens and filled my frame with the beautiful mountain. I used a 32-second shutter speed to emphasize the movement of the clouds, and since there was virtually no color in the scene I processed the final image in deep blue monochrome. Very different from my typical photo but surely this is one of my favorite images from the trip.

View more beautiful New Zealand photos.

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