FMC Photo competition 2017  The story behind the top shot

Kane Hartill shares the story behind his magnficent photo; of mountain adventures across generations and being there just at the right moment.

Means a lot to me this image, this place… its where I first started out loving these mountains. With friends I went up there pretty much every weekend, Woolshed Creek hut is the perfect base for a bunch of adventures, we never tired of it. From big winter circuits across 2000m+ peaks up the back, to closer rock climbing, gemstone fossicking mountain biking and canyoning… there was always something to do. We explored the whole canyon without ropes and with winter ice on the rocks, total nutters back then at that age. One time we strapped ice axes on our packs and biked 52km from Ashburton to Staveley and climbed Mount Somers then biked home arriving before dark! I scratch my head now wondering how we managed to fit that mission into winter daylight hours.

Another time mid-winter 1991 I got a call after dinner that the guys were keen to go for a spur of the moment climb up Mount Somers and sleep on the summit. Wary parents dropped us off and the climb in the dark before decent torches was quite interesting. At sunrise it was out with the snowboard. Memories of very nice powder down the steep north face toward the pinnacles… pity it ended in me ripping my kneecap mostly off on a submerged rock and then having a nine hour walk out with my leg splinted up, luckily using borrowed ski poles. That trip re-tuned my judgement of risk a tad.

Fast forward to this winter and it was a lucky clear night between storms, this one was sublime, one of the best up there. It was a family tramp really but I just happened to have my tripod and camera with me. I liked the charm of the old hut and was sad to see it go, but have to admit this new hut is very cozy and well designed. After dinner I said right I’m off for a walk to see some stars, whose coming? The eight year old lads were keen as. The mums were tired from exploring steep icy slopes and were probably thinking more along the lines of a game of cards and getting the kids tucked up warm… but they let me take them after a bit of a speech about grasping uncommon opportunities. A freeze-thaw crust had firmed up nicely and they got straight into sliding down the steep icy slopes just along to the right there, a night they’ll remember for a long time… wore right through the seat of the ski pants! Actually while I was capturing this image I had to keep an eye on them and yell out to take it easy because they were climbing higher each time up into the steeper ground. My boy learned how to self-arrest with my geology pick, showed him once and he had it, probably saved a cold finish in the creek on some runs.

I placed my tripod right up against the steep slope in the elbow bend of the river. Was a fairly contorted position trying to move without bumping the tripod legs while shooting this stitched three rows of eight shots panorama. ISO6400, ƒ2.8, 20 seconds with the little D750/24mm adventure camera. Being at the bend makes this a bit of a bi-compositional image, the cozy glow of mountain cabin and the brightest part of the galactic core linked by the curvature of river and Milky Way.

Kane Hartill is a member of the Golden Bay Alpine and Tramping Club.  Kane is an accomplished amateur photographer, with a number of winning photograph competition entries. He won the Above Bushline (with human element) category, and overall winner in the Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ photo competition for 2017.

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