New Year’s Eve was biting at my heels. Queenstown was the last place I wanted to be on December 31st. The Hills beckoned beyond the tinsel town, so I boarded the Skyline gondola for my escapade.
Once past the Skyline Restaurant, punching through the thin veneer of amusement-park bliss and adrenaline junkie heaven, I followed the Ben Lomond Walkway into the shady pine forest. Eventually the sounds of the city were lost to birdsong, and the voices in my head.
Beyond the Douglas Firs, the well-worn path sidled through steep terrain above One Mile Creek up to a distant saddle. The trail then switches southwest for the final climb to the top of Ben Lomond (1748m).Short of the saddle, I decided to follow the subsidiary ridgeline back towards Lake Wakatipu. Traversing a sequence of rounded tussock tops and tip-toeing along a serrated spine of rock, I searched for a camp site. Numerous bluffs peppered the slope, but bravely erected my tiny tent near a precipice above Horn Creek.
They say “caution is the better part of valour,” but I reckon that “if you’re not living on the edge, then you’re taking up too much room.”
Camera Settings: Canon EOS 5D MkIII | 26mm | f/8 | 180 seconds | ISO 400
As 2017 faded into the past, I enjoyed my lofty seclusion, only a stone’s throw from the madding crowds below. So close, yet so far. My grandstand view started from the Shotover River in the north-east, panning along the Kawarau River to Frankton Arm and Peninsula Hill. Presiding over this prime piece of real estate were the The Remarkables, stabbing into a star-studded sky.
Before the clock struck midnight, a cacophony of voices echoed off the hills…
“10… 9… 8… 7…” An explosion of fireworks thundered up the gully, scaring the resident goat population half to death.
“6… 5… 4… 3…” As I reflected on my compromised position, suspended between wilderness and the fleshpots of humanity, a dozen rockets climbed the sky above Wakatipu, illuminating the hillsides, dying on their descent back into darkness.
“2… 1… 0…” Good morning, 2018!
Soon the cacophony subsided, and I set my DSLR up on my trusty tripod.
Being alone, I had to shoot the first image of the scene while I painted the foreground with my head torch. I then activated my intervalometer to fire the second shot while I was inside my tiny tent, illuminating the interior.
Camera Settings: Canon EOS 5D MkIII | 200mm | f/8 | 180 seconds | ISO 400
You can watch this photography mission on YouTube: EPISODE THREE | Wild Camping on Ben Lomond. Or follow Ray as he processes his best images in Photoshop. Enroll in his landscape masterclass, LOCATIONZ.
Keywords: landscape photography south island nz, new zealand landscape photography, wilderness camping, wild camping nz, wilderness camping nz, freedom camping nz, wild camping south island nz, free camping new zealand, queenstown