The joys of wandering around mountains…

“The best laid plans of mice and men.” Thats a quote that comes to mind after a bit of planning to be at a certain area for a natural event which cannot be delayed and what do you know but the usual suspect called clouds come along to add their contribution. Bah…

The event was the supermoon arising last December and the plan was to image it rising over the upper Tama Lake at National Park beside Ngauruhoe. To get to the lakes involves a hike from the Chateau past Taranaki Falls and on to the lakes. Thats about 17km return which is not far off doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing although there isn’t the major height to scale. Neverless the scramble up the steeper section once you reach the lower Tama lake vantage point can be a bit of a scramble carrying 18 kilos of photog gear and a bit of dinner and warm stuff for the night treck back.At least there was no wind which this area is renowned for as wandering with a heavy pack you do get pushed around a tad and on exposed ridges it pays to keep your focus on what is around you.

As is usual for these tramps you get to one seemingly end point and there is still another climb to go up…then another. Just love these character building exercises. But apart from the usual grumbles form the usual suspect the rewards to tend to pay off…mostly sometimes.The view point for the Upper Tama Lake eventually arrives into view and its really not bad. There is nothing like standing on a upper knoll with a half decent view to take in the grand vista. From Ngauruhoe past the lake around to Ruapehu past the lower Tama Lake and around to Taranaki in the distance to the west its not bad really. Almost time for a beer if i had brought one but had to function on some green tea and bush honey instead with the usual snacks while getting the bearings for this supermoon event. Its relatively easy today to plan this stuff with the apps we have to the point that i know exactly where the moon will rise between two ridges across the lake.  Awesome …that plan is working but the early warning signs of a bit of cloud start to show. Hmmmm.

This is the Lower Tama lake from the vantage point just before the climb up the ridge behind for the Upper lake. To get down there would be a decent side trip assuming you could find a good route. There is no marked track down so the assumption would be that going down is not encouraged. To explore this area more it would make sense to camp out…

But to even get to this place a lot has happened regarding the planning. Apart from just getting there the list of stuff in the bag has a few ticks –

  • food and water with small stove
  • maps and gps tramping app on phone to trace the route with spare power pac for recharging
  • thermal layers
  • alpine wet jacket and leggings
  • first aid kit including shock blanket and insect repellant – herbal of course
  • and most important – a personal locator beacon!

The gps is really handy to know where you are and how much further especially at night time where you lose the terrain as a reference.

 

The upper Tama lake colour is just striking against the volcanic terrain around Ngauruhoe and the plan was for the moon to arise to the right of the ridge on the right hand side of Ngauruhoe. I have a app for that…haha.

So now comes the cloud bank from the north east which is from where the moon will be rising. Bugger…to put it mildly. So plan B then. Often watching the clouds around Ngauruhoe just before sunset they can gather as if a small storm is brewing but after sunset they seem to magically disappear. That is useless for capturing the moon rise beside Ngauruhoe so back we go. And must mention that the insect repellant sure was handy with the clouds of flies around at dusk. Not sure why but the alpine flowers were out so that may have something to do with it.

Anyways was just hoping for something on the trail back and this is what i got. Pays to look behind aye…

Ngauruhoe shines under the Supermoon now that the clouds have stopped ruining the party….

But also apart from hiking 17 odd kms for that Supermoon shot there were other things to be checking on. The chairlift had just started for the summer season up the skifeild from the top of the bruce so for $30 odd bucks plus food money it was a bit of a change instead of tramping to get high for a view…pity about the hordes of sandflies. The air was thick with them as well as the last of the snow were covered with dead ones. Yay for herbal insect repellent.

Its really worth the dollars to get up there but no Ruapehu climb this trip. When the snow is melting that creates a under melt situation where the snow seems firm but if you put your weight on it you can sink like a stone into a cavity underneath. Not great with a heavy photog backpack. Next time then…

On the road up to the Chateau on the left are the Tawhai Falls which compared to Tama Lakes is a doddle really. But all the same as falls they are still worth visiting but be prepared to be surrounded with a few others.

Photographically speaking found getting a image that was pleased with was proving to be problematic so opted for the tried and true system of whats called bracketing three shots – one correct exposure, one at 1 stop under and one 1 stop over exposed – which when combined in whats called High Dynamic Range software gives far more latitude. The idea is that the camera cannot capture the full range of details between light and dark so by doing it this way you try to show what the eye sees rather than blown out highlights or black blacks with no detail. The challenge with this system is to keep it looking realistic to the very important person the viewer…

Here”s my attempt …

Tawhai Falls on the road to the Chateau…

One other item on the agenda was trying to get a half decent shot of Mount Taranaki from National Park. This has been alluding me for yonks and mountains being mountains the frustrations with getting a shot comes as part of the territory.

A last ditch attempt was made to rush around to the Turoa skifeild as there was a really good chance of getting a shot at that  altitude without much cloud. Ha…so what comes down as sunset comes closer- you guessed it – a nice thick ceiling of cloud. Hung around a bit longer to try and gauge whether it was coming or going then just threw the toys out of the cot and headed back down the skifeild access road. But wait…on the way down came out from under the cloud level and here was Taranaki with a magical sunset going on behind. What awesome luck…pulled off on a hairpin bend, out came the 200mm lens and a gap in the trees and this is the result…just pure magic.

To get the layers running up to Taranaki then layers in the clouds was just over the top.

Said a BIG thank you for that one…its really satisfying when it just all comes together after so many attempts [ and beers ].

 

 

Mount Taranaki from the Turoa skifeild access road…

Also Ruapehu looks good from any angle really.

Using crop lines just makes for another dimension with this shot…

Ruapehu with crop lines…

On the way north on the Desert Road just before the summit there are these Ruapehu Hebe”s growing in this grainy volcanic material and have many a time said to myself “must stop and photograph them”.

This time i did.

The way these plants survive in that climate and in that growing substance makes them a stand out. Ngauruhoe also makes for a special back study.

Every stay at National Park brings up something new or a different light shows things in a different way. Photographing in mountains is always going to have its challenges but if you persevere the rewards are there…you just have to look.

Ruapehu Hebe plants beside the Desert Road…

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