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.

Buy A Print Of This Photo

What style and size print are you ordering?

Comments On This Photo

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.

See more beautiful Fiordland photos here.

[popuppress id=”4993″]

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.

See more beautiful Fiordland photos here.

[popuppress id=”4993″]

The Mountain Cradle

Lake Marian, Fiordland, New Zealand, May 17th, 2015

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken in Lake Marian, Fiordland, New Zealand, May 17th, 2015

My last day in New Zealand was surely one of the most beautiful days of my life. A friend and I booked a scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound and while the flightseeing company wasn’t sure we’d make it due to the low clouds we decided to risk it and see what we could do. Ultimately the conditions couldn’t have been more stunning, with dramatic clouds letting streaks of light through to splash on the landscape below. It was one hour of pure visual bliss. Here you can see Lake Marian nestled beneath the craggy, snow-clad flanks of Fiordland National Park’s steep mountains. I’d hiked to Marian a few weeks before on a rainy day and getting this view from the plane was a wonderful contrasting perspective.

View more New Zealand photos

Jurassic Monkeys

monkey-creek-fiordland-national-park

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at Monkey Creek, Fiordland National Park, on the South Island of New Zealand on April 3rd, 2015

What a lovely morning this was at Monkey Creek in New Zealand. With steam billowing off the steep walled mountains and no sounds except the brontosauri calling to each other, it felt like a moment from 100 million years ago. There was even a moment when a stegosaurus came down to the creek to drink. At least I think it was a stegosaurus, though I suppose it could’ve been a kea…

View more beautiful New Zealand photos.

A Ship in the Night

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.