New Zealand is one of a handful of countries whose landscapes include braided rivers. Formed by the constant and ever-changing build-up of gravel and sediment on the river bed, flowing water creates a network of channels separated by ‘islands’ known as braid bars.
Seen from the air, these rivers are spectacular. Most of New Zealand’s braided rivers are found in Canterbury, and of these, the most pristine is located in the Mackenzie Basin, in the heart of the Southern Alps. The Tasman River flows from Lake Tasman at the foot of the 30km long Tasman Glacier into Lake Pukaki. Mount Cook dominates the mountain landscape.
This image was made from an open-door helicopter at an altitude of around 3,000ft, at the delta of the Tasman River and the lake. In the very early morning, the river appears silver-grey in colour, but as soon as the sun rises above the surrounding mountains, the river is lit up, and the glacial blue colour comes to the fore. After that, it is all about capturing the details, the textures, and the abstract patterns of the landscape below us.
Shooting from a helicopter with the doors removed is an exhilarating experience. Still, it requires some advance preparation, which makes the difference between a successful shoot and not for our workshop clients. It can be very cold up there, and the temperature alone can make it challenging to adjust camera settings once in the air. However, a few simple set-up guidelines should ensure a crisp, clean, correctly-exposed and sharp image every time so that the only variable remaining is composition. For this aerial shoot, I opted for a wide aperture of f/4 (since there was no depth of field to be concerned about) and set the ISO to Auto, with a minimum shutter speed of 1/1250s. I set my autofocus area to wide and used the shutter button to focus and release in Continuous-Lo mode.
Some minor Lightroom edits using the Tone Curve for contrast and some global clarity/texture adjustments are all that was required to bring this abstract image to life.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor