Famous for mirror views of Aoraki – Mount Cook Lake Matheson is a must stop for any landscape photographer travelling up or down the West Coast. Every time I’ve tried it’s been cloudy, raining or I’ve not had the time to walk around the lake. It only takes an hour or two at most. But that can be too much time for a stop on long 8-10 hour driving days on the West Coast. Shows I need to spend more time exploring on foot than driving past the beauty spots. You can’t actually see Aoraki – Mount Cook in this photograph due to the low cloud. Most of the Southern Alps are in cloud. Still I was keen to do the walk. My goal is to come back here in winter one clear evening. I’d love to photograph the Milky Way rising from behind the mountains. This is the view from Reflection Island which is more of a peninsula into the lake than an island.
Franz Josef – Waiau is a small West Coast town. In the lower left corner of this photograph you can see the Waiko River that runs from the Franz Josef Glacier to the south and into the Tasman Sea to the north west. Local Māori called the area Waiau, which means swirling waters. In the 1860s it was named after Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I of Austria. The town is home to less than 500 people but has accommodations for up to 2000 people per night. This photograph was taken from a helicopter. We were coming into land on one of the dozen helipads on the edges of the grass area. If you look really closely you can see my little blue car in the carpark.
Stood atop the Franz Josef Glacier this is the view of the Minarets Mountain range. I believe we might have landed on either the Geikie or Chamberlin Snowfield. Either way we are looking south east towards New Zealand’s Southern Alps mountain range. This photo is a reminder to also capture a few camera phone photos in important spots so you have the GPS location to look back on at a later date.
A minute or two after we got out of our helicopter this second one came flying in. We were stood on Franz Josef Glacier. You can see the Tasman Sea to the left behind the helicopter. We were stood over 2000 metres above sea level. Back in 2013 I had booked a helicopter flight to this glacier. Staying in near back Fox Glacier township. The weather had other plans. It rained for a week. So much so it washed out a bridge on the west coast north of where we were. Needless to say my 2013 flight was cancelled. I’d been back up and down the South Island’s West Coast two or three times in the last 10 years. Finally in December 2022 I was able to get a clear day and got to land on a glacier.