Saturday, January 3, 2009

Milford Sound (New Zealand Day 4)

So after a short break from processing photos, I finally uploaded the photos from day 4 of my New Zealand trip a couple days ago. We got up pretty early that day (at about 5 AM) and headed out to Milford Sound for a 2 hour boat tour. This was probably the highlight of the whole New Zealand trip and offered some of the most spectacular views of the whole trip... needless to say, this makes keeping this blog post short very difficult as there are a lot of photos I really liked from that day. The full set of photos is available at: http://picasaweb.google.com/pingc315/NZTripDay4MilfordSoundAndLakeWanaka?feat=directlink.

As mentioned in earlier posts, a storm swept through the area days before we arrived, so the weather was always questionable. In addition, the only road leading up to Milford Sound had a mudslide just the day before... our tour lead had hoped it would clear up by the time we got there... Luckily for us, the weather stayed clear for most of that day and the road was cleared 30 mins prior to our arrival... I really think someone upstairs was watching over us this entire trip. Other than the poor weather on the first few days, this entire trip have been really blessed.

On our way to Milford Sound, we made a quick 10 min stop Mirror Lake (well... they say 10 mins but I stretched it to like 15 ^^;... kept everyone waiting). The weather was so beautiful that the lake was really like a mirror, perfectly reflecting the beauty in front of us. Unfortunately it was rather difficult to capture the full experience on camera due to the extreme dynamic range (the reflection and lake was in the shadows where as the actual snow capped mountains were in bright sunlight). I doubled stacked filters (2 stop graduated ND to darken the top half of the photo and a polarizer to bring out the reflection and colors) and then in post I added another graduated filter at the bottom to bump up the brightness of the shadows to create this final image.


When we got to Milford Sound, the weather was still mostly clear but there was enough clouds in the sky to make it even more interesting. It was on this boat tour that I took most of my HDRs (high dynamic range, where 3 photos of the same scene are then combined in post processing to form a single image), in fact I think I ended up with 30+ HDR shots so in total I took close to 100 images just for HDR. I tried to keep the HDR fantasy like feel down and stick to what felt natural.

Here are two shots of Milford Sound with Mitre Peak (doesn't this feel like something out of LOTR? You know the part with Frodo on the boat passing the giant statues?).




The first shot was shot in RAW and then post processed in Lightroom. I really had to brighten up the green on the mountain but it gets a tad bit noisy. The second image is an HDR with -2, 0 and +2 stops. It's not too different from the RAW shot but I get so much more detail in the clouds and the green just pops better making for a more dramatic image (in my opinion at least :)).

There are so many photos that I really liked from Milford, but this is perhaps one of my favorite from the entire trip. I used it as the August photo in my calendar, titled "Heaven's Blessings" mainly because it looks like the water is pouring down from the heavens. Additionally, this is actually not a permanent waterfall (it's called Fairy Falls), it will dry up in a few days without rainfall so in many ways, we were blessed to have the storm pass through revealing this hidden beauty within Milford Sound.


Here is another photo from Milford Sound. I really like how the cloud just wraps around the mountains... It also shows the entrance to the sound being mostly hidden, this is why the early explorers did not discover Milford Sound as no one expected it to lead to anywhere.


One final shot of Milford Sound as the boat was returning to dock.


After the boat tour, we drove straight to Lake Wananaka where we stayed for the night. Just before dinner I saw these two Paradise Ducks near by. These ducks usually live in pairs and mate for life.


Since we spent the night right along the lake shores, there was very little light pollution allowing me to get a few nice shots of the Milky Way and stars. I had to use my 50mm 1.4 wide open and a 1600 ISO to get the shutter speed fast enough to capture all this without star trails.




Only 3 days left of New Zealand photos, hopefully I'll be able to get through them quicker now :)