Pre-dawn twilight over Ben Ohau Range, South Canterbury
The Ben Ohau Range is one of several north-south trending mountain ranges that branch off from the Southern Alps, with peaks reaching over 2000 metres in elevation for most of its length. During summer the range is mostly bare of snow, its naked scree slopes shimmering under the hot southern sun. By contrast, winter usually sees the range cloaked from top to bottom with brilliant white snow, forming a majestic backdrop to glacial Lake Pukaki immediately to the east.
This part of inland South Canterbury is also memorable for the powerful sensation of wide open space it lends to the visitor, and a journey up the remote eastern side of Lake Pukaki is one of the best ways to experience this. From here the Main Divide of the Southern Alps looms large and dominating to the north, while to the west the Ben Ohau Range forms a rugged skyline above the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki. On a calm day the silence here is, quite literally, deafening. Despite its beauty this area is also almost totally devoid of people, especially in winter when tourists are uncommon and even the local farmers are rarely seen.
While this region is stunning at all times of the day, the last hour or so before dawn on a winters morning is a particularly special time, a time when the pre-dawn twilight makes the snow-covered mountains seem to glow under the still-dark sky above. On this particular morning I was also treated to the sight of a high, thin lenticular cloud that suddenly appeared above the Ben Ohau Range before sunrise, its delicate wispy form complementing the soft twilight tones of the mountain range below.