Mt Egmont/Taranaki – The Pouakai Circuit

September 2, 2012

At the end of August, with my friend Arturo we organised a 3 days trip in the Taranaki NP. The weather forecast was good with a high pressure system settling in for the period we were in the park. We decide to do the Pouakai circuit that brings you on the Northern flank of Mt Egmont. The main objective for me was to capture at sunset/sunrise the reflection of Mt Egmont from a small pond near the Pouakai Hut.


We decided to leave Auckland on Thursday afternoon and doing the 4 and half hours drive in the evening/night; sleep in the car and next morning starting up from the visitor centre towards the Pouakai Hut. This first length of the circuit is the longest (13 km) and the most brutal in terms of ascent. After walking up and down in the forest, you have to go up 500 m of stair cases and ladders to the top of Henry Peak. After reaching the top of this anonymous bump you simply have to drop for 300 m to get to a highland area that takes you to the location where the hut is. I can tell you that with 30 kg of backpack on my shoulders, the ascent to this peak was accompanied by frequent breaks and a lot of swearing! Not to mention that the going down on the other side of it was also very steep and not that nice for my right knee. At the top of Henry Peak, the weather was starting to change for the worst with a lot of fog and low clouds covering the view (see below).

Henry Peak

The foggy view from Henry Peak down towards the swamp area. On the far end of the swamp, Holly Hut is waiting for us for the second night of our journey.

However, one hour later when we approached the area where the small pond is situated, the weather changed again. The clouds started to lift and disappear completely by the time we were at the shore of the pond. Considering the toll that I paid on the track, I was left with no energy and we had still to cover another 600 m to get to the hut where we would spend the first night. I was twisted between staying there and waiting for the sunset or getting to the hut, drop some of the weight from the backpack, and getting back on the pond (and doing all of this in less than an hour!). I was also pondering to give up for the sunset and just come back for the sunrise.

In the end, I decide for the hut option and doing the extra 1200 m. And the decision was very wise. By the time I was back at the pond, the sun was starting to set with no clouds in the sky. Oh well, another postcard sky. I had time enough to play around with several compositions in different light conditions. The best results are below.


On Fire

I decided to use the modal light coming from the setting sun to emphasise the vegetation on the bank of the pond. The beautiful yellow contrasts well with the blue of the sky.



Mt Egmont Reflection

With the sun almost gone in the Tasman Sea, the pond is now in the shadow. Mt Egmont is still bathed in the last light of the day.

The next morning my alarm clock went off at 5.45. I managed to get out of my sleeping bag and started to get ready for returning to the pond for a sunrise session. When I got out of the hut, thick layer of fog was covering everything making even hard to find the way back to the pond. Nevertheless, we started our walk (this time Arturo decided to join me) and I was hoping that some break in the fog during sunrise would lead to a spectacular dawn. We reached the pond still in the fog and start the waiting game. And we waited… for nothing. The fog didn’t go away and later on rainy clouds came in. I didn’t even bother to set the camera on the tripod. Wet and cold we decided to get back to the hut, start a fire and have a good breakfast.

The second length of trek would take us to Holly Hut. When we started out rainy clouds had filled the sky. Around noon, we managed to get to Holly Hut without much rain. Our legs were still in pain from the previous day “stair walk”. So we decide to start the fire and get as much rest as possible for the next and last day. By the afternoon, the clouds settled in and didn’t open up for the rest of our stay. We didn’t see Mt Egmont for the rest of our journey.



Arturo posing on our way to Holly Hut crossing a bridge on one of the many streams across the swamp area.


The last part of the trek was quite fun with a lot of stream crossing and a bit of rock climbing. Rain and wind accompanied us for the whole time till we reached the visitor centre by noon. After changing in dry clothes and a nice lunch, we started our 5 hours drive back to Auckland.



A New Start

August 19, 2012

New Zealand is a well-known destination for landscape photographers. However, most of the photography here is done in the South Island. Majestic mountains, pristine lakes and rivers, and remote beaches are iconic images that come to my mind when I think about NZ.

In 2011, I was offered a position  as a lecturer at the University of Auckland. At that time, I was living (with my girlfriend and 2 dogs) in the beautiful region of Trentino (in Italy) with the Dolomoties as my back yard. After 2 years of living there, we were quite fed up with Italy and above all the Italians! My fellow countrymen are an uncivilised lot living above any rules, cutting corners all the times and making their lives really miserable. If you have ever been in Italy and driven around you know what I mean. Most importantly, our lives was getting a really low angle. So we jumped at the prospect to change country again and start a new  life.

Of course, there was a lot of planning to do, especially with importing two dogs in NZ. Among of all this, I was also concerned about my photography: no more snow and peaks to photograph within an easy reach. All the nice destinations (that I knew of at that time) were located in the South Island and quite far from Auckland. To be honest I was not that happy until browsing around I came up Chris Gin’s website. He has a fantastic collection of pictures from around Auckland most of which are seascapes.

Fast forward one year, and here we are in Auckland. I finally managed to get a car and going around exploring the possibilities offered by my local backyard.

Although Auckland has a population of 1.5 million (NZ total population is around 4 million), its west coasts are not that populated and offer a nice shelter from the city life. More importantly, they are easy to reach from down-town Auckland:45 minutes drive and you are there!

Maori Bay

My first decent picture from NZ! The sunset was not that spectacular but still I like the reflection in the dark sand and rocks. Being a 45 min. drive from the place where I live, I might get a nicer one some day. But for now it will do.

I have been down to the coast a couple of times already. I have to say that in these two occasions the sunsets have not been so spectacular as they usually are around here. Despite all of this, I managed to capture a couple of shots that I am quite happy with: they are both from Maori Bay, a very nice rugged beach with nice rocks and black sand.

Tide In

Maori Bay at its best: when the tide is low wonderful rock formations are revealed. The light from the setting sun brings to life the textures in the rocks and incoming waves

I have to admit that I miss the snow, the cold winters, and above all the mountains. But it feels good to be back on the beach. And most of all, far far away from Italy!

…And Back Again

July 8, 2012

We managed to get to Auckland, NZ. And with two dogs! There is so much to do and see here. I haven’t got a car yet and haven’t done too much photography. I have been very busy at the University teaching and preparing material for the new semester (here we are still in winter).

Anyway, I have so many raw images to process from the winter back in Europe to be busy for a couple of months. And this post is about my epic trip in October 2011 in Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn. I was there with Andreas Resch and Dietrich Gloger (both of them from NPN).  We spent 2 nights camping in our tents and did most of the shooting during the best hours of the day (sunset and sunrise).

Below you can find some of the images that I have been processed so far. I have some more to come…

Keep Dreaming

August 16, 2011

We had a long weekend here in Italy, so I spent some time editing some of the pictures taken in the past years.

The picture in this post was taken in “Val di Genova”, a small valley in the Western part of Trentino. The bottom of the valley is run by a river and a road that takes you through the entire valley.

Keep Dreaming

Keep Dreaming - Canon 5D, 17-40 f/4 L, 17mm@f/16, 0.8s, ISO 200. A second picture taken at ISO 800 was used to freeze the water movements (1/8s).

As starting point of this image, I took a single raw shot taken at 0.8s. However, the fast moving water was still with few details left. So, I took a second shot at ISO 800 with a shutter speed of 1/8s enough for freezing some details in the water. Then, I revealed the details of the water using the high ISO shot.


Wolf Stream

August 8, 2011

Once in a while, I manage to get out with my camera and get some decent pictures. This are the Wolf Falls, that have been already featured in this blog. Actually, I have visited this falls in autumn and winter. Now I wanted to have a picture of the summer season. To have a different composition, this time I went in with a pair of hip waders. In this way, I was able to get in the middle of the stream without any problem.

In the picture below, I used the foam in the stream as a leading line in to the frame. It also works very nice as a balancing element with the falls itself. To achieve maximum deep of field, I took two pictures of the same scene, one focusing on the close rocks and the second one for the far falls. Then, I used the  technique described in Tony Kuyper’s eBook on digital scheimplfug for merging the two pictures (highly recommended). Finally, I gave an overall glow that resembles the foggy atmosphere that I experienced while being there due to the falls spray

Wolf Stream

Wolf Stream - Canon 5D, 24-105 f/4 L, 24mm@f/11, 2s, ISO 100. Two images focused on different points and blended together.

The snow is (almost) gone

May 11, 2011

Well, well…look who is back!

Winter is gone and we are in full ”spring” mode here in the Dolomites. Lots of flowers are right now blooming and the snow can only be found over 2000 mt of altitude. Still, I would like to post some pictures taken during the past winter. To be honest, the winter was a short one: in January and February we had almost every day blue sky and no fresh snow.

Passing Storm

Passing Storm - Canon 5D, 24-105 f/4 L, 105mm@f/11, 0.4s, ISO 100. This is a pano from 4 different vertical shots.

The image featured in this post was taken back in November 2010. It was taken at sunset from Mt Bondone looking westwards towards the Brenta Group. At the time there was a storm passing over the peaks that was side-lit by the setting sun.

The final image is the result of stitching  together4 different frames. The process is not that automated as I thought. Although while  processing the raw images I tried to keep the white balance similar for all the frames in the end the final result was not that good. I had to manually correct each single channel for the different frames to get to this.


First Snow

November 29, 2010

As the title says, our winter season has started here in Trentino. Snow has arrived and at higher altitude is going to stay. After a couple of days of bad weather, we got a spell of two nice days in a row. Thus I decided to get out early an afternoon to go to the local sky resorts of Mt. Bondone. This place offers a nice view of the lake valley and the dramatic peaks of the Brenta Group. I’m fortunate enough to live and work near some spots that in the right light condition can turn out to be quite photogenic.

First Snow

First Snow - Canon 5D, 24-105 f/4 L, 40mm@f/11, ISO 100. This is a manual blend of two exposures at 1.6 and 1 sec.

I arrived at my favourite spot 15 minutes before the sun would disappear behind a wall of clouds on the South-West.  Here the view is westbound, where the clouds and the mountains were getting some modelling side light. Everything looked very promising. And then it happened. As the sun was getting lower the light was getting fierce on the clouds.  I grabbed some 50 frames in the changing light until the show was over! Then, I rushed into my car to turn the heat on and de-frost a couple of fingers from my left hand. Still, what a nice time.



The Avisio River

November 18, 2010

Last spring, we moved from Trento to a small village in the Cembra Valley. Mainly the move was due to get a house with more space for our two dogs. The first part of the valley is heavily used for vineyards due to its gentle slopes. The more remote part of the valley gets very steep and in some spots is very narrow. The valley is run for its entire length by the Avisio river.

Near where I live now, there are several narrow roads leads to the river banks. The place where I took these two images below is near the village of Segonzano. I visit this place the first time because I was looking for a climbing wall near where I live. Some locals told me about this spot near the river. I managed to get to this place and after the climbing session I went around looking for possible shooting opportunities.

At the beginning of this autumn I went down there and I was not disappointed.

Autumn Dream

Autumn Dream - Canon 5D, 17-40f/4, 17mm@f/11, 240 sec ISO 240, with B+W ND 110 Filter. Single exposure double processed.

In the first image, Autumn Dream, I attached a B+W ND 110 filter to lengthen the exposure time. I also scattered some leaves on the rocks.


Rapids - Canon 5D, 17-40f/4, 37mm@f/11, manual blending of 3 exposures at 4 and 2 sec ISO 100 and a third exposure at 0.5 sec ISO 400 for retaining details in the water.

The second image was taken after the previous one. I removed the B+W ND 110 filter and concentrated on the rapids formed by the fast moving water. To retain  details in the water, I took a third exposure at higher ISO setting and I manually blended it to reveal the texture in the rapids.




Frozen Shore

November 12, 2010

Here is a picture taken last year in November. It took me one year to process this. Firstly, because I didn’t have an appropriate display for a correct colour management. Secondly, well sometimes life has different plans for you!

About this picture: this is Carezza lake (Karersee in German), in Alto Adige. I arrived at the lake one hour before sunset. So I had all the time to set up my tripod. The beautiful mountains in the background are called Latemar Group. Unfortunately, this view is taken on their North face meaning that the sun never gets to illuminate it. Fortunately, the beautiful stream clouds above it got some nice colours. As a nice touch, the lake was frozen with some patterns that reflect the in shape the cloud formation above. Not to mention that the pattern provide a nice leading line into the picture.

Frozen Shore

Frozen Shore - Canon 5D, 17-40f/4, 24mm@f/11, manual blending of 2 exposures at 1/13 and 0.8, ISO 100.

The picture is a manual blend of two exposures for controlling the dynamic range. I had to clone our some footprints left there my my dog Alcantara.

All in all, I think that this is one of the best pictures from this location! And I’m not saying this because it is mine. 😉



The Wolf Falls

November 10, 2010

Here is the last image that I made at the gorge of the Wolf Falls. And it is about the falls itself. The picture featured in this post was taken on a third visit (fortunately I live really close to this place). Again with my welly boots on I waded into the gorge. On a previous visit, I took some shots of the falls on the left bank of the stream. I was not that exited about them. So this time I decide to try to find a more balanced composition on the right bank of the stream. This required another cross of the stream to reach the opposite bank bank.

The Wolf Falls - Canon 5D, 17-40f/4, 17mm@f/11, manual blending of 3 exposures. I took two exposure at ISO 100 of 6 sec and 1.3 sec for the main image. To retain details in the moving water in the foreground I took a third shot at ISO 400 and 0.8 sec.


I found this nice boulder that was lighter in colour respect to the rest of the rocks. It was partially covered with water that was reflecting the blue of the sky. The dry patches didn’t look that good, so I used some leaves in the water to make the boulder wet and shining! I also picked one of the leaves around the bank and placed it on the boulder.

I think that I’m quite satisfied with this small portfolio. Now let’s wait for the real cold to come this winter and see if the falls will freeze. This would make an interesting subject.