5. Stony River (Hangatahua) by moonlight, Taranaki

Stony River (Hangatahua), Taranaki. 8.45pm, 28 February 2010

The Stony is the largest river on this western side of the mountain; certainly it has the widest bed and the strew of boulders suggests the awesome power of floods which descend periodically from the slopes. With a friend I arrived right on dark at the Blue Rata Reserve, an outlier of the national park. A short walk through the bush brings you out onto this broad reach of sand and  boulders. Needless to say, we had the place to ourselves and it was a really beautiful night, with only a slight breeze coming down the riverbed. It makes a strong impression arriving somewhere for the first time by moonlight, and I was grateful for the company (thanks Dave) as it felt a bit spooky as well. However it was a great way to spend the last evening of summer.

The moon had been up for just over an hour, as the oblique lighting of the rugged slopes shows.  By late summer very little snow is still about, and well into autumn Mt Taranaki (2518 metres/8260 ft) is entirely bereft, sometimes as late as mid-May. The lack of snow makes it easier to balance the elements within the exposure; I set the Lumix LX3 at f2.8 and one minute at ISO 200 for more of a moonlit feeling. The tripod was partly in the water, and set lower than usual to get the rapids in – one minute will always do great things to tumbling water, waterfalls and the like. Depth of field is sometimes a problem at f2.8 but not here, and as long as you are willing to make the journey this is not a difficult photo to take. However to get this side of Taranaki really well-lit by moonlight requires a much later hour, when the moon is more westerly.