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South Island, New Zealand, 2005
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, Canon EF 16-35mm @ 16mm, 120 seconds @ f5.6, ISO 100, tripod-mounted, 10X ND filter

When I visited Milford Sound with Mike Langford and Jackie Ranken, I was told not to worry about the overcast weather or the steady downpour of rain. The Sounds, Mike explained, look much better in the wet.

And Mike is absolutely correct. The photographs and paintings of Milford Sound that speak to me depict fast flowing waterfalls and low, ominous clouds encasing the tops of towering peaks. You need only compare these emotive visions with the bland, blue-sky record shots that adorn every travel brochure for the area.

Milford Sound is one of the most photographed locations in New Zealand and, understandably, most of the photographs depicting Milford Sound look very similar. The tourist hamlet sits inside a small cove, so if you stand on the shore with your camera and want to include the majestic Mitre Peak across the waters, you end up with much the same composition as everyone else. While the weather can make a significant difference, the challenge is to do something that’s a little different.

When we arrived, the weather had cleared a little and the tide was out, exposing the sand flats. In the distance out towards the tideline, there were a few fallen tree trunks. While the background couldn’t be changed, the foreground had lots of potential. I spent a good half an hour walking the foreshore, looking for an angle that would have impact.

I positioned the camera height carefully so the tree trunk was below the horizon line and positioned the tree trunk to the side. The tide was returning and within a few minutes there was a lovely sheen of water under the trunk, creating a reflection.

The overall sheen is produced by a two-minute exposure during which time the light reflecting off the slight ripples on the water merges together.
In post-production, the raw file was processed twice, once for the sky and a second time for the foreground. The distant water just below the horizon line was lightened, adding to the feeling of a passing storm with the sun breaking through.

I also warmed up the green seaweed. No reason – I just felt it looked better.

Need a good read? Like to learn something more about photography? Interested in new ideas? Why not purchase a copy of my book, The New Tradition, which is full of great tales and ideas. It has 100 photographs and accompanying stories guaranteed to enthrall you - and you can save $30 on the purchase price right now - use coupon code TNT30. Check out more on the website.