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Winterton River and tributary, Middlehurst, New Zealand
Phase One XF 100MP with 80mm Schneider lens, f2.8 @ 1/2500 second, ISO 200

This is one of my favourite aerial photographs. Why? I'm often asked about my favourite location, favourite camera, favourite photo and my usual answer is 'the next one'. Yet I keep coming back to this photo. 

I realise for some that it is possibly too simple, too monochromatic, too repetitive, yet these are exactly the characteristics I love. I guess I have always been attracted to the folds of the landscape, the 'Sara Lee' layer-upon-layer-upon-layer effect and around this part of the Inland Kaikoura Range, there's no shortage. In fact, it is the repetition that makes the image so simple, yet complicated at the same time. There's a contrast in the idea - the same subject repeated in many different shapes, sizes and directions. And I have purposely asked the pilot to fly a little lower so I can exclude the surroundings, creating the impression that this landscape extends 'forever' outside the frame.

Yet within the frame, I have other contrasts. The light grassy yellows in the foreground contrast with the rich earthy browns above. The Winterton River, barely visible, makes a natural border between the two, while the more obvious, unnamed tributary disappears into the shadows at the top of the frame - where does it go? Another contrast is the softness of the clouds floating breathlessly above the hardness of the mountains. Some people might find it a distraction, but for me it adds to the 'unknown', asking us to guess what is hidden below - more of the same or something undisclosed?

I think this photo epitomises what Tony Hewitt and I try to encourage on our Middlehurst photography retreats. During the week we're at the station, while we're out every day shooting from the air or down by the side of a river, it's the conversation that matters. And our conversation encourages photographers to be confident about what they like in their photographs, rather than trying to replicate an award winning photo taken at an internationally famous landmark. 'Trophy photography' is a lot of fun and I love shooting famous locations as much as the next photographer, but shooting like this doesn't give me the same satisfaction as discovering something new, something the rest of the world hasn't discovered.

It doesn't matter where or what you shoot, we all have the opportunity to do something personal, something different. Sure, take the hero photos as well, why wouldn't you, but after you've put your tripod legs in someone else's position, look around for something that's personal to you.

And if I have encouraged you in some small way to join Tony and myself this July, now is the time to have a chat. The 19-26 July 2021 Middlehurst experience is sold out, but we're looking to put on a 12-18 July 2021 week if we get the numbers! Please send me or Tony an email, or contact Kim at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Kim works Mon, Wed and Fridays).

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