The first thoughts that come to mind when seeing the work of Chuck Whitmore involve perfection. Whether he is documenting a journey through New Zealand or exploring the intricacies of the human form, Whitmore has a true talent for picking out the perfection of a moment. His images speak of the nostalgia, grace, and wonder that help us all define ourselves as we journey through each day.
I could have stood and stared at this for hours. The colors. The textures.The interplay of branches and leaves. Except that this scene was not unique. This amazing scene repeated itself endlessly as I drove down the western side of the South Island. And amazingly, these trees are far from fragile; they face the brunt of the windward side of this island.
I had visited New Zealand once previously, about 10 years ago. It was in March — early autumn — and while I expected it to be warmer in December I wasn’t prepared for the tapestry of wildflowers everywhere I went. This scene was found along the road to Milford Sound — a place that arguably needs no help in the beauty department. The lupines stretched as far as I could see, and the fact that they were backlit by the low sun had me mesmerized at a time I knew I needed to make my way to Milford Sound for sunset. Tough choices!
The South Island of New Zealand deserves by anyone’s standards, a 2 or 3 week visit (if not 2 or 3 lifetimes). I unfortunately only had 1 week, which meant that I had to keep moving rain or shine. I drove south from Greymouth to Haast in a monsoon, but was determined to get up early the next morning with my camera. In the minutes leading up to sunrise, the weight of the rain still laid heavily on Mt. Aspiring National Park. As the rising sun awoke the landscape, though, an amazing mist rose on cue. The light, view, and mood were just perfect.
Milford South is a holy grail of destinations. If you go, you are unlikely to be alone, and most certain to find your jaw on the ground. Here, snow-capped peaks drop dramatically to the water, creating a scene that is both unearthly and as iconic of our earth as one could imagine. With the interplay of light and mist, I doubt it ever appears the same way twice.
The Moeraki Boulders are a surreal collection of rock formations on the southeastern coast of the South Island. Technically formed by a process called concretion (Google it!), the boulders are roughly 4 million years old, and range in size up to 7 tons. There used to be more of them, but seem to have been lost over the years to ambitious landscapers. I tried to capture them at sunrise, with marginal success — the sunrise was only slightly cooperative.
With few predators, New Zealand abounds with birds of every shape and size. The kea, a native parrot, appears to be a dull green until it flies, revealing a cacaphony of color. I was lucky to catch this one on its technicolor fly-by at Doubtful Sound.
There’s a duality about New Zealand that’s both comforting and surreal. At times it’s easy to believe you’re in England, surrounded by sheep, hedgerows, pubs and English-speaking natives. The next minute, you’re with snow-capped peaks, glaciers and fjords. It makes for some exciting views and fun photography.
The soul never thinks without a picture.
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