Hiking in the dark is always interesting, more so when you have no real idea where you are going. Then the trail decides to split, and then split again. This was the dilemma we faced hiking up Roy’s Peak in the dark. I knew we couldn’t get dangerously lost along the trail but we could miss sunrise at Roy’s Peak.
So we flipped a coin, hoped for the best and and kept on.
At about 5-6 hrs Roy’s peak isn’t the longest hike but it is a steep one and steep the whole damn way. We kicked off the hike around 3am, just to give us ample time for the ascent. I’m glad we did because the track is littered with little trails from livestock, all that throw you off the actual trail when you’re wandering by the light of a head torch. Luckily we managed to stay on track the whole way up. We did however almost miss the actual location as the trail switchbacks and continues up to another peak. Honestly the only reason we stopped is because we found someone camping at the peak.
In complete dark we took some some high iso, 30’ exposure shots to reveal the landscape that our eyes couldn’t see. With that we realized we were in the right place, so we set up shop and waited. From the grainy image we could see soft wispy clouds floating around, an excellent thing for shooting the sunrise. I was getting my hopes up for a sky full of colors and sure enough when that predawn glow started to spread we knew that something special was on the way.
At this point we were all running around scoping locations and angles to shoot from in a place we were only just getting a glimpse of. Composing a few images here and there in the blue hour, but really waiting for the moment when the sun ignited those wispy clouds. The initial burst of colors came well before the sun rose above the mountain range and set this incredible pink hue across the sky. The sky reflected on the lake, the mountains and everything just glowed. It was magical. All the hustle finding our locations stopped because no matter where you pointed the camera it captured magic.
Soon enough the sun rose and changed the whole composition of the landscape. Suddenly there were shadows along ridge lines and a valley beaming with light. There were low lying clouds that I’d previously overlooked and I found myself swapping lenses and zooming right in on the textures and shapes that were morphing with the light. Within an hour the light had completely changed and the cloud cover was heavily overcast as we began our hike back down.
Its was a morning like no other looking out over Wanaka and all the natural beauty that surrounds that lovely place.
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international photographer Matthew Littlewood