Haystacks

Photographing the same subject over and over, in many different lighting conditions, weather, seasons, and moods is a wonderfully illuminating exercise. I’ve been photographing Sewell Peak, a hill near Dobson, where I live, for a year and a half now. Since moving out here, I’ve been pretty fascinated by it’s changing demeanour in various conditions. I’m not sure if it’s the radio and other equipment installed on the summit, giving it a little hint of other-worldly, sci-fi, feeling, or the way it silhouettes against the changing skies, or just the fact that I see it every day out the window, as I drive up the valley, from the garden, and many more times besides. It quietly dominates the skyline. Add to this the fact that I love to scurry all over it – there is a track to the summit which I walk, run, and mountain bike on a fairly regular basis. I get a kick out of looking up at the peak from my house, and a few hours (or less) later, looking down on my house from the top. It’s a geographic feature with a rich history of mining. There was once an aerial rope-way to bring coal down from a mine part way up the hill. There are relics of miners past scattered along the track, and it begins from Greymouth’s most significant historic site – the beautifully preserved and interpreted Brunner Mine Site. I think mostly, though, it doesn’t actually matter much what the subject is in this type of project. It needs to be easy enough to access so that you can shoot it regularly, but beyond that almost anything is worthy of long term observation. It helps to hone your attention to the light, gives you a reason to keep your eyes open and aware, a reason to carry your camera at all times, and an appreciation for how a small change in angle, or conditions, or lens, or any number of other factors can make a very different image. Here are a selection of images I’ve made of my dear friend, Sewell Peak.

Oh, and the title of this post is a reference. 10 points to anyone who can tell me to what it refers.

Dramatic cloud silhouettes are a favourite, in case you couldn't tell...

Dramatic cloud silhouettes are a favourite, in case you couldn’t tell…

Some foreground for once! I'm not sure why but I tent to prefer the 80/20 or even 90/10 split, and in this case the sky usually becomes the dominant feature. Who can resist a mirror calm river, though?

Some foreground for once! I’m not sure why but I tent to prefer the 80/20 or even 90/10 split, and in this case the sky usually becomes the dominant feature. Who can resist a mirror calm river, though?

Moonlight, meaning a long exposure, plus high moving cloud, creates an eerie backdrop.

Moonlight, meaning a long exposure, plus high moving cloud, creates an eerie backdrop.

Sunrise paints the high cirrus beautiful colours, and tinges the valley fog with warmth that belies the frigid wind pushing it down-valley.

Sunrise paints the high cirrus beautiful colours, and tinges the valley fog with warmth that belies the frigid wind pushing it down-valley.

Late evening afterglow - it's always worth waiting for a while after sunset.

Late evening afterglow – it’s always worth waiting for a while after sunset.

Billowing cloud against blue sky, and strong light, add drama.

Billowing cloud against blue sky, and strong light, add drama.

Star trails, and wisps of cloud lit with moonlight.

Star trails, and wisps of cloud lit with moonlight.

High cloud lends a moody feeling.

High cloud lends a moody feeling.

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