Mesmer

Mesmer

lake-pukaki-new-zealand-lenticular-cloud-reflections

Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken at Lake Pukaki in New Zealand on April 27th, 2018.

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Swirl

Swirl

lenticular-clouds-new-zealand

Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken somewhere south of Queenstown, New Zealand, on April 3rd, 2018.

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SMoke

SMoke

moke-lake-queenstown-sunrise

Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken at Moke Lake near Queenstown, New Zealand, on April 5th, 2016

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Electric

Electric

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken at Stirling Falls in Milford Sound, New Zealand on May 4th, 2018.

Stirling Falls in Milford Sound is surely one of the world’s most unique waterfalls. First of all, it’s tall, stretching nearly 500 feet in a pure, elegant drop from its precipice down to the rocks at its base where it crashes and splatters in cacophonous melody. If it ever looks small it’s only because it’s being dwarfed by the mile-high mountains surrounding it that erupt almost vertically out of the fjord. Secondly, the waterfalls leaps into space only to land directly on the ocean below it. There is no land to interrupt the descent; it’s a free-fall with a salt water landing. The height of the falls and the ocean landing contribute directly to the third unique thing about the waterfall: if the flow of water and the direction of wind is just right, a marvelous display of interference patterns appears at the base of the falls, radiating out from the crash zone like so many jagged rings of electricity. The electricity extends from the waterfall to you. Something about the sounds, the grandeur, the dancing mists, and the beauty of the location makes your hair stand on end, and causes energy to course through your body.

I’ve photographed Stirling Falls from a boat about half a dozen times now and while the experience is always incredible, this particular voyage was the first time I saw these radiating lines of force. As we rounded the cliff to reveal the falls I was dialing in my settings and snapping a few quick test shots to ensure my exposure was spot on. The boat spends 3-4 minutes at the falls, though in the moment it only feels like seconds. And so for me it’s an adrenaline-fueled race against time. My senses start to tingle and my fingers get itchy. On this trip I started off photographing some intimate scenes with my longer lens but as soon as I saw the patterns at the base of the falls I switched over to my wide angle and began snapping away. I had only enough time to create 20 frames over the course of 55 seconds before the boat started to rotate out of position and back away from the falls. But those 55 seconds were some of the most breathtaking and exciting of that particular trip to New Zealand, and they kept me grinning the rest of the day. Even as I write this I am reliving the excitement of the moment and feeling the joy and exuberance wash over me in little electric waves.

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Phantasm

Phantasm

stirling-falls-milford-sound-new-zealand

Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken from a boat cruising down Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand on April 12th, 2016.

Stirling Falls is an impressive waterfall by most standards of the world: it’s a thunderous, 500-foot, single-drop falls. What makes it even more incredible is the fact that it plummets from the mountains directly into the ocean. And it does so in Milford Sound, one of the most scenic locations on the planet.

However, getting a photo of the falls is not easy. The only access to the Stirling Falls is by boat, and even the largest boats are subject to a rocking and swaying that makes shooting from a tripod essentially impossible. Not to mention that the falls itself puts off so much spray that your lens is often coated with water droplets within seconds.

In order to combat these issues for this photo I extended a single leg of my tripod, turning it into a monopod. This allowed for increased stability with some freedom of motion. I also used a telephoto lens; not only did this allow me to isolate just this fascinating interaction between the rocks on the water, but it also allowed me to focus past any droplets on my lens. Then I used a shutter speed of 1/15 sec, which was slow enough to show motion in the fast-falling water, but fast enough to capture the detail in the rocks.

In the end I loved the fantastical shape created by the rocks under the cascade, as it seems everyone sees something different in the photo.

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Hallelujah

Hallelujah

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken from the Mueller Hut in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park on May 16, 2016.

There are three things that can get you into trouble when you’re playing in the mountains. The first is overconfidence in your abilities for the terrain. The second is not being prepared in terms of equipment. And the final thing is changing weather. A lot of times you can work through one of those issues and be alright. But when those things start to collide and you have cascading failures, that’s where you can get into a serious situation.

That was exactly what happened when my friend Jessica and I decided to hike to the Mueller Hut in Aoraki / Mt. Cook National Park in New Zealand in May of 2016. The Southern Alps were getting blasted by storm after storm, making trekking difficult, but when we spied a 24-hour break in the weather forecast we decided to head up to the hut. Unfortunately for us the break turned out to be much shorter than we expected and brought much colder temperatures with it, including two days of blizzard conditions.

To make a long story short, we ended up being stranded in the hut for three days, ran out of food, and built a mattress fort to stay warm. In addition I also missed my flight back home to the US. After those three days of enduring the battering of this storm, the accompanying winds, thunderclaps, and avalanches, we woke up our final morning in the hut to extraordinary calm and clear skies. We walked outside to find three feet of fresh snow blanketing the surrounding countryside, and some of the most intense alpenglow I’ve ever seen igniting the atmosphere.

That, along with the news that the Department of Conservation was sending a helicopter to extract us from the hut (we couldn’t descend the hiking route due to extreme avalanche danger), led to a profound Hallelujah moment.

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Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

doubtful-sound-new-zealand

Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand on May 5th, 2016

In 2016 a friend and I took an overnight cruise through Doubtful Sound in New Zealand. That experience remains one of the highlights of my life. Honestly it’s just about impossible for me to do justice to the place, either through pictures or words. The magnitude and grandeur of the walls rising straight out of the water….The unearthly, mythical atmosphere that surrounds you….The innumerable waterfalls cascading down the beech-lined cliffs. It’s truly a magical place. To give you a sense of just how unusual and special Doubtful Sound is bear in mind that the water you see in this photo is the ocean itself (the ocean! Utterly dead and calm), and I shot this photo from the deck of a boat gracefully plying the Sound.

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The Untamed Waterfall

Koropuku Falls, New Zealand, March 30th, 2015

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at Koropuku Falls, New Zealand, March 30th, 2015

Some men hunt lions. Some hunt leopards. Some hunt buffalo, and some hunt bears. But I, my friends, hunt a creature more wild and wily then all those beasts. You see, I hunt the untamed waterfall. My quest to capture this particular beast began on dreary day where the clouds hung low and heavy in the sky, spitting and spurting rain in fitful bouts. My faithful guide indicated a rough and rugged track down which the falls had often been sighted. And so, with my coat drawn tight about me to afford some protection from the elements, I plunged into the bush. The path was narrow and grasping ferns clawed at me from all sides with their wet fingers, every brushing encounter soaking my clothes anew. After some minutes of tramping -more like constant leaping to avoid the omnipresent pools of quickmud that threatened to swallow my boots with every misplaced step- I began a steady ascent and soon saw unmistakable signs that my prey was close at hand: splashes of raw wetness on every rock and branch, the strong pungent smell of moss soaked in moisture, and most exciting and frightening of all: the low bass rumble of the falls itself. Despite the treacherous path the fluttering of my heart forced me forward and suddenly, without any warning, I saw the falls through the bush. It was just a glance but the raw power of the thing was still enough to make me shiver. I creeped forward, slowly, carefully as to not disturb the beautiful beast where she lay, fat and slumbering, after gorging herself on a recent rainfall. Sneaking around to her left I eased my camera from my satchel and fired off a quick shot. Alas! A miss! I had struck the falls but failed to hit her heart. This would require more careful aim. I found a precarious perch nestled amongst the slippery, moss covered logs which the falls had ingested and disgorged in some meal gone by. I hoped it was not a tragic omen to be standing on the bones of the fall’s previous snacks, but I cast my doubts aside as I knew it was my only chance to capture this beautiful creature. This time I took more careful aim and fired a shot I knew would strike true. Straight to her heart! A hard earned but well fought trophy!

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Sunrise Seaside Soup

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand, March 29th, 2015

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at Moeraki, New Zealand, March 29th, 2015

This was taken on a fun little morning in Moeraki, New Zealand when I was splashing around in the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. The best light was happening inland so I got on the seaward side of this boulder to capture the show. Funny side note, did you know that in the Maori language Moeraki means “sourdough bread bowl”?

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Captain, Klingons are Approaching

McLean Falls, New Zealand, May 12th, 2015

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at McLean Falls, New Zealand, May 12th, 2015

Plants never cease to amaze me. That some seed or spore was able to alight on this tiny precipice and put down roots is incredible. But to do it, to grow, and to flourish under the constantly onslaught of a waterfall is nothing short of astounding.

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