Motukiekie Galaxies

Starfish and seastacks at sunrise, Motukiekie Beach, South Island, New Zealand

Taken at Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island on April 23rd, 2012

With its shrub-capped seastacks, endless tidal pools, and unusual animals, Motukiekie Beach in New Zealand is an otherworldly landscape. In April 2012 I visited the beach at sunrise to find hundreds of 12-legged seastars clustered together in “starfish galaxies.” I used a minute-long exposure to transform the incoming waves into mist to underscore the surreal and alien feel of the place.

 

Morning Star

Starfish at sunrise, Motukiekie Beach, South Island, New Zealand

Taken at Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island on April 23rd, 2012

I’ve never seen a beach quite as shootable as Motukiekie. It has every element I could possibly want to photograph in a seascape: exotic seastacks, glassily reflective sand, tidal pools, and an abundance of cool critters such as this 12-legged seastar. The only issue with shooting this beach is timing, as there is a huge tidal swing and the beach is essentially inaccessible at high tide. It took me a few visits before the tides and light cooperated, but in the end Motukiekie provided some of the best seascaping I’ve ever experienced.

Wild West Coast

Motukiekie Beach, South Island, New Zealand

Taken at Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island on April 22nd, 2012

I’ve never seen a beach quite as shootable as Motukiekie. It has every element I could possibly want to photograph in a seascape: exotic seastacks, glassily reflective sand, tidal pools, and an abundance of cool critters such as this 12-legged seastar. The only issue with shooting this beach is timing, as there is a huge tidal swing and the beach is essentially inaccessible at high tide. It took me a few visits before the tides and light cooperated, but in the end Motukiekie provided some of the best seascaping I’ve ever experienced.

Seastar Sunset

Starfish and seastacks at sunset, Motukiekie Beach, South Island, New Zealand

Taken at Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island on April 22nd, 2012

I’ve never seen a beach quite as shootable as Motukiekie. It has every element I could possibly want to photograph in a seascape: exotic seastacks, glassily reflective sand, tidal pools, and an abundance of cool critters such as this 12-legged seastar. The only issue with shooting this beach is timing, as there is a huge tidal swing and the beach is essentially inaccessible at high tide. It took me a few visits before the tides and light cooperated, but in the end Motukiekie provided some of the best seascaping I’ve ever experienced.

 

Times and Tides

Motukiekie Beach sunset, South Island, New Zealand

Taken at Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island on April 22nd, 2012

I’ve never seen a beach quite as shootable as Motukiekie. It has every element I could possibly want to photograph in a seascape: exotic seastacks, glassily reflective sand, tidal pools, and an abundance of cool tidal critters. The only issue with shooting this beach is timing, as there is a huge tidal swing and the beach is essentially inaccessible at high tide. It took me a few visits before the tides and light cooperated, but in the end Motukiekie provided some of the best seascaping I’ve ever experienced.

Tranquililty

Sunset at Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park, South Island, New Zealand

Taken at Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand on April 21st, 2012

I first visited Nelson Lakes National Park in New Zealand in 2007 under a thunderous downpour. Outside the tropics I don’t think I’ve ever seen such power in a rainstorm. Overnight the level of Lake Rotoiti rose at least 3 feet. During my more recent visit in 2012 the conditions couldn’t have been more different: mostly clear skies, no wind, and -aside from the ducks quacking- almost no noise. The contrast was remarkable and served to underscore the tranquility of this scene I shot from the dock.

 

Wharariki Lightstorm

Wharariki Beach sunset, South Island, New Zealand

Taken at Wharariki Beach, South Island, New Zealand on April 20th, 2012

At Wharariki Beach there exist two of the most beautiful offshore islands I’ve ever seen. Their proper name is the Archway Islands, a moniker that couldn’t be better chosen. Three hundred foot towers of sandstone shot through with massive arches. Although you can drive most of the way to Wharariki Beach, the final approach is a 20-minute trek through farm paddocks and coastal forest, an effort that seems fitting to reach a place of such extraordinary beauty.

 

A Burst of Inspiration

A Burst of Inspiration

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken at Wharariki Beach, South Island, New Zealand on April 20th, 2012

Wharariki Beach is surely one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. One of the challenges in photography is capturing such a spectacular place with spectacular light, a feat which is easier said than done when your photography trip has a time limit. I was prepared to wait up to 5 days at Wharariki for the right light. So when an amazing sunset exploded on my second night there my serotonin levels skyrocketed and I couldn’t keep myself from laughing like a maniac. This was a highlight among highlights of my New Zealand photography adventure.

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The Light Within

Ice cave in the Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

Taken inside the Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand on April 16th, 2012

Glacierology 101: A moulin is a hole carved through a glacier by meltwater. Sometimes a moulin will grow until it becomes a cave in the ice, much like a blue slot canyon. And then, abruptly, the feeder stream will change course, allowing the cave to dry out and stabilize. Then it can be safe to venture into the cave and explore, which is exactly what I did on the Fox Glacier in New Zealand. Walking into the depths of the cave I watched as every color except blue was leached out of the light until eventually everything glowed with an internal cyan aura.

 

Barking Mad

Seascape at Arnott Point, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

Taken at Arnott Point on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island on April 15th, 2012

The seals and I, we have an uneasy truce. As long as I don’t go in the water, they won’t bite me. Seems like an easy arrangement to uphold, but just to reinforce it they bark at me and mock charge from time to time. But I bark right back and the peace is upheld. All the same, my adrenaline is pumping and I’m almost happy when the sunset fades and I can skedaddle from their turf.

We’ve caught the seals totally by surprise. Humans, here? On OUR beach? This is not a place that sees many bipedal visitors, unless you count the Fiordland crested penguins which roost here from July to December. Access is via a billy goat track which is so steep in places there are ropes rigged to help you get down. Plus you have to find the track in the first place, which we did thanks to a friendly local named Barry.

And if you manage to find the track and negotiate your way down the cliffs, once you get the beach you still have to contend with roaring surf, high tides, and a little scrambling. It’s no wonder the seals were surprised.