The perfection that is Mount Taranaki, New Zealand’s most symmetrical mountain.
The delightful view from Pouaki Tarn. One of the most coveted photography spots in the North Island. A reflected mirror image features mount Taranaki in all its glory. 2,518m of sheer formidable height and perfect balance. The magic of winter brings a charming little dusting of snow. Making the shot all the more sublime.
Mount Taranaki, or Mount Egmont is actually not a mountain at all. But a dormant stratovolcano near the coast of New Plymouth. From a bird’s eye view, it looks perfectly circular and is a true spectacle of the North Island.
How to get there
It’s a long, monotonous slog up 1000 steps to reach the tarn, mostly below the bush line. If you have the patience of a Saint. Or some witty sidekick to crack jokes as you amble up the track; the resulting view is worth it. Once you surface from the bush, it’s only a short distance to the Pouakai Hut. Take a rest here to enjoy a nice cup of tea and a boiled egg. Before pushing on for the short 20-minute stroll to the tarn. Marked conveniently by a flat wooden boardwalk.
The best time to arrive
An opportunist would arrive at magic hour, just before sunset. A more sensible sort would give themselves a healthy extra hour (the track is 2.5). To save themselves wheezing the last stretch having run like a crazy person up a thousand steps. In the evening the sun glides across the West. Illuminating Taranaki in a golden glow from its best side. Not that it has one. If you’re heading back down on the same day, it will mean you have to go back down in the dark. Don’t despair, the track is well maintained and easily traversed with a good torch to brighten your way. Or scare the ghosts away. It’s a nice idea to spend the night at the cosy Pouaki Hut to wake up early for (hopefully) a spectacular sunrise. If you prefer to have less hope and more precision you can check the detailed weather forecast here. Since the track is only 20 minutes to the tarn from the hut, it’s a fabulous way to welcome in the day.
How to use the high cloud calendar - (b)
Getting the shot
The hardest part of getting that dreamy shot of Taranaki reflected in the tarn is capturing that resplendent ripple-free water. It’s a game of luck at the best of times. The easiest way is to hike up on a windless, clear day. But travelling and perfect planning hardly go hand in hand. Things don’t always go to plan!
If you don’t manage to get all your ducks in a row, there are a couple of cheats.
Use the slow shutter option. An ND filter of level 9 or 10 stop will help you keep the shutter open for 10-20 seconds. Long enough to smooth out any ripples on the water. Or any sneaky clouds that roll through and disguise the mountain as a giant dementor.
The best practice when using a slow shutter is to use a remote shutter or a delayed shutter release. As even a tiny movement from your finger pressing the button can foil that perfect shot.
Okay, this method doesn’t exactly give you that satisfying feeling of capturing a scene right in camera. But unless you’re Cecil Beaton it hardly matters. These images are memories, and our cameras rarely capture the true emotion of a moment. I’m a passionate editor. I’m not afraid to let an edit run away with me. My imagination is my tool. Editing lets you turn a photograph into the image that sets your imagination on fire. To enjoy the moment in person, I often sit gawping at the scenery without ever even lifting a finger to my camera. Those moments are for me.