High country tussockland, Lindis Pass, South Canterbury

The area around Lindis Pass, forming the boundary between the Canterbury and Otago regions, contains some of the most spectacular high-country grassland in New Zealand. Motorists travelling along State Highway 8 are treated to views of long, golden-brown tussock slopes receding into the distance. The low sunlight of early morning and late afternoon produces an especially appealing effect as countless sunlit ridges and deep shadowed valleys form a richly textured mosaic. The pass itself is often mantled with snow in winter, transforming the tussock country into a magical scene of sparkling white – a stunning sight on one of the many clear cold winter days that the region experiences.

It was the day before Christmas 2002 when I passed through here to take this photograph. A hot summer sun blazed down out of an almost cloudless blue sky when I arrived in the early afternoon, contrasting sharply with my memories of an earlier visit during the previous winter when I had been knee-deep in snow. I had a late afternoon photograph in mind this time, when the lowering sun would highlight each ridge with patterns of light and shadow. In the meantime I had several hours in hand to wait, so I climbed a nearby ridge to take in the views. I relaxed in the warm sunshine on this Christmas Eve afternoon, savouring the silence and the incredible sense of open, uninhabited space in all directions.

As the afternoon passed the sun gradually sank towards the western horizon to eventually give the softer lighting conditions that I had been waiting for. After the harshness of the high summer sun earlier in the afternoon, every little fold and valley was now beautifully highlighted. Even individual tussock plants stood out in the low, slanting sunshine, giving the slopes the finely dappled texture that is apparent in this photograph.

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High country tussockland, Lindis Pass

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Mt Taranaki from Pouakai Range

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Winter sunrise, MacKenzie Basin

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Frozen lake, Mackenzie Basin

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