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Lake Coleridge, Canterbury, New Zealand


Mt Ida and the Harper River Valley

Lake Coleridge is just over an hour’s drive from Christchurch taking the most direct route. Or if you are exploring for some new photo opportunities it will take a couple of hours at least. The lake and surrounding landscape was formed over millions of years of glacial action, earthquakes and harsh weather. It is an area off the beaten track but very much worth the visit. Although I went to explore the region around the lake during the winter of 2018 and failed to get a single photo of the Lake.


Leaving Christchurch early I headed across the Canterbury Plains. It looked like it was going to be a cracker day ahead with clear skies above in the pre dawn blue hour. I stopped for long exposure of a rural night scene taking in a pivot irrigator silhouetted against the early blue hour sky. There were several satellites streaking through space. It was a little windy, but very quiet and after a couple of long exposures I carried on my way to Lake Coleridge.



Early dawn in rural Canterbury


From the Canterbury Plains the road heads further inland towards the small Lake Coleridge settlement and historic Power Station, however well before the township, I turned off the main road onto Homestead road aiming for the far side of the Lake.

📷The clear skies were succumbing to cloudy conditions, however just on sunrise a sliver of cloudless sky allowed the golden sunlight to burst through onto the landscape. I could tell it was only going to last for a few minutes, but there wasn’t anywhere to take a decent photo the stretch of road I was on at the time. It was a bit of a disaster as the dawn light could have yielded a great shot if I was in the right place. How often does that happen?! Not wanting to let the moment go I pulled over and although I took the time to set up the tripod, I still only managed a snap shot of a road and a sign post and some interesting clouds. And no view of the lake.



Homestead Road in golden light


The cloud was getting quite heavy now – still high up – but cutting out any further potential golden hour dawn light. As I turned onto the winding unsealed Harper Road it was looking downright gloomy and the likelihood of getting any worthwhile images seemed to be fading away. Looking at this next image with the cattle gate, there wasn’t even any texture or details in the clouds.



Harper Road

Harper Road is a dusty slow going back country road that is narrow and heavily corrugated in parts. I traveled down the road hoping for a clearance in the weather and perhaps a decent vantage point to get a photo of this increasingly impressive New Zealand Landscape.


On this northern side of Lake Coleridge is the vast Glenthorne Station covering over 10,000 hectares and further north again is the Craigieburn Mountain Range. Anyone who has driven from Christchurch to the West Coast of the South Island will be familiar with the Craigieburn range as it follows State Highway 73 from Porters Ski Area through to Lake Pearson heading west. It is an impressive mountain range from the northern side and just as spectacular looking from the south. After roughly twenty kilometres the Harper River revealed itself, as did a spot to pull over for a view of the Valley and Mt Ida leaning over the landscape.



Mount Ida and Harper River


The closest I got to see the Lake was near the very end of the road at the Wilberforce River. From here there was a feeder canal which wound its way to the lake. The view along the canal to the west looked like it could be stunning in the right conditions, however this day did not offer up such an opportunity – there was just too much cloud around.



Wilberforce River feeder canal


While this end of the side road finished at the Wilberforce river, there was also another dead end on the main road in at the gates of Glenthorne Station. Out the front of the main gates was a bush bashing scrub flattening piece of equipment which contrasted nicely with the mountains.



Glenthorne Station


Heading back the skies were starting to clear – not necessarily where I needed them to and it was well past the best time of the day for getting nice light for an image – but this yellow bulldozer stood out in the landscape – it seemed out of place, but together with the power poles I think it provided a nice sense of scale to the landscape.



Glenthorne Station


As I was heading out of the valley, I stopped for one more shot of Mount Ida. It dominated the landscape and the clouds had cleared a lot with a good amount of blue sky now visible. The only thing in the way of the shot are the power poles and power lines – I removed these in the final edit which is at the top of this post. Maybe I’ll head back to Lake Coleridge this year and see if I can get myself a photo of the lake!



Mount Ida and Harper River Valley

To see more of my images check out my website: JohnGregoryPhotography.co.nz Follow me on Instagram : JohnGregoryPhotography

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2018 John Gregory Photography

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