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30-minute exposure of stars over Mt Taranaki, Egmont National Park

I often find that a photograph will begin with an idea well in advance, maybe something that is mulled over for several months, even though the end result will always be something of a mystery until I get to see it. So it was with this photograph – I had imagined what a night-time exposure over Mt Taranaki might look like from this spot beside a tarn on the Pouakai Range, but in reality I didn’t know what the end result would be without going up there first to find out.

It was an especially rare occasion for me to be on this normally exposed ridge when there was not a breath of wind; it was so calm as the sun set that evening that a thin layer of mist formed and hung motionless over the tarn as though frozen in time. As the sun disappeared below the horizon the temperature began to plunge quickly towards its eventual overnight low of –6ºC, but, surprisingly, it did not feel that cold because the air was so still – I didn’t even need to put gloves on.

It was important that I compose the photograph before it got completely dark (so that I could still see) so I set up my tent, composed the scene through the viewfinder, laid out my sleeping bag beside the camera, and waited for the end of twilight. I was intending to take a series of 90-minute photographs through the night, but, to pass the time before it got dark, I also took this shorter, 30-minute exposure looking across the tarn to catch the last of the twilight.

To illuminate the tent I placed a single candle inside it prior to opening the camera shutter. This produced an unusual effect: The tent shows up as a bright yellow colour in the photograph, but it is in fact made of blue fabric. This is because the candle flame produced light mainly in the yellow part of the spectrum, causing the blue tent to appear yellow in the photograph.


Sunrise, Mt Ngauruhoe

Star trails over Mt Taranaki

Winter tramping, Mt Tongariro

MacKenzie Basin in winter

Syme Hut, Mt Taranaki

Lindis Pass in winter

Ice patterns, Lake Tasman

Winter reflections of Mt Taranaki

Key Summit, Fiordland