Fiordland: The Money Shot


Mitre Peak (the one on the left with the little cotton cloud toupee) in Milford Sound is the most photographed thing in New Zealand.  It ranks close to Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. So I went to Milford Sound and paid my respects.  I took the money shot.

However this experience was funny for me.  I didn’t take all my photo gear.  I shot from the hip. However many people were there with gear, following directions, and taking the money shot photograph…MilfordSoundTutorial

This is going to be more words than I usually like to do here, so just move on if you want to. I just have to tell this story. First off, Milford Sound is a very enclosed space.  It is a narrow canyon with the ocean as the floor.  You can only drive to the end of it and then take boats or airplanes out towards the open ocean, to see and experience it (google map it).  The above photo is a panorama and it presents a false impression.  The photographer and Metre Peak are directly facing each other.  That big mountain in the middle is not even in his shot.  It is off to his left side.  The big mountain is much smaller than Mitre Peak, but is very close to the camera.

So…  Last spring, when I realized that I was headed to NZ and Tasmania, I knew I didn’t want to lug around tons of photo gear. But what type of video or photography would I be doing?  So I started researching about photographing in New Zealand to see what I was up against.  Lo and behold, there are numerous internet tutorials teaching tourists how to photograph Mitre Peak.  And this above photographer has clearly watched them all.  I watched him for 20 minutes get the perfect shot. He followed all the instructions.

  1. Camera on tripod, low to the ground, so some cool moss covered rocks are in foreground.
  2. Do lots of exposure tests to check that you have enough depth-of-field so the rocks and mountains are both in focus.
  3. Use a filter to make the sky darker.
  4. Have a Rocket Blaster (hand-pump air blower) to keep sand flies away from the lens.
  5. and so on.

I wish I could see his shot.  Excepting that he doesn’t have the mirror lake effect or early morning fog, his photo will look like 10,000 others. Google it.  You have no room to move and pick an angle. All photos are the same.

So here is my shot-from-the-hip homage to all my tutorials.   MitreMtnMoneyHowever,  I show this to start talking about something else in an upcoming post.  Scale.  I think Fiordland is at the limit of what the human body and brain can really understand in terms of size.  Mitre Peak is a mile high.   A mile high!  That is the ocean, sea level.  That slope/cliff over the sound is a mile high… It’s a scale that you feel more than you can consciously understand.

I took a quick hand-held pano at the end.  Again, if you were standing there looking at that VERY TALL waterfall with the morning sun just hitting it, your back would be to the mountain on the left. It is in full sun.  It is very cramped there.  Just wonderful.MilfordSoundPano2


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