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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Try A Photo Bike-Tour


Explore a new location by bicycle for a more intimate connection with the landscape

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Hatcher
A bike tour from Dunedin to TeAnau with Dawn Kish and Gavin Wilson (pictured), New Zealand.
This issue’s column continues my discussion about adventure photography in New Zealand. My latest adventure Down Under was a bike trip across the South Island from the east coast to the town of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park on the west coast. This short, nine-day trip was a photographer’s dream and, at times, an equipment and logistics nightmare. Like any good adventure, I wanted to see as much beautiful country and visual treats as possible from a bike, but I still wanted several hours a day devoted to photography. To make this sort of photo bike trip a reality took hours of planning to find the perfect travel route. When my plans for the trip were complete, I had traced a route that would take me 500 kilometers across the island. Some of this distance, about 50 kilometers a day, was pedal-powered, but I included travel by train, bus and steamship. Due to space and weight constraints, my camera gear was as minimal as possible. For this trip, I traveled with one camera and a single lens, and with this kit I still managed to shoot many successful images.

I went to the usual sources when laying plans for this bike trip, such as guidebooks, the Internet and maps. But I had the added advantage of having already lived in New Zealand for a couple of months. I used this knowledge to help devise the best route through Central Otago. The greatest benefit in choosing my route was the chance to have conversations with local cyclists familiar with riding around the South Island. They thought this trip sounded pretty fun, and that was the stamp of approval I was looking for.

On some adventures, the objective is as simple as bagging a peak or making your way to the end of a river. My bike ride across New Zealand could have been that simple, but my objective wasn’t only to go from the east coast of the island to the west, a route that can be ridden in a matter of a few days. I was looking for a bike route that would include many aspects of Kiwi landscape, nature, history and remoteness and, most importantly, the potential for some good photography.

The final trip ended up shaping up like this. Starting in the city of Dunedin on the east coast, we traveled with our bikes 75 kilometers aboard the old Taieri Gorge train to Pukerangi. From there, we rode our bikes to Middlemarch and connected onto the 150-kilometer Otago Rail Trail through Central Otago on to Clyde. We then took a bus 70 kilometers to Queenstown where we purchased a one-way ticket on the steamship TSS Earnslaw for passage across Lake Wakatipu. The ship would drop us at the remote Walter Peak Station boat dock and we’d bike 90 kilometers past the Eyre Mountains to Mavora Lakes. From the lakes it was 70 kilometers to Te Anau and the end of our bike tour, where we’d hike the Keppler track in Fiordland National Park.

Joining this trip were Gavin Wilson and Dawn Kish. I really was excited to have them flying all the way from the U.S. to join me for this adventure. Gavin is a photographer and artist, and was co-publisher and co-creator of Blur magazine. For six years he did photo/illustrative images for a monthly comic book called Sandman Mystery Theatre published by DC Comics/Vertigo. He has created artwork for snowboard graphics and album cover art, among other projects. His art and photography have been displayed in various New York galleries and locations for the last 10 years.

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