« A warm welcome to New ZealandTo Oamaru »

Lake Tekapo

Added: March 29, 2010

Tags: NewZealand RTW church lake mountains photos
We woke up to see terrible storm on 3rd of January. Great, it was wonderful weather yesterday and it is terrible today. We got completely soaked just after running to the other side of road and packing our luggage into car. That did not help with our mood.

And we had two attractions asking for fair weather planned today! We planned to go into Lake Tekapo and to have helicopter trip to Mt Cook. We can move that to next day or to next week when we get to Wanaka or Franz Josef. But we will not be able to move visit of St John observatory to any other day, so let's hope sun starts to shine.

During our ride to Lake Tekapo it is cloudy, misty and grey. Other days I might not be completely against such a weather but not today. I just called to Tekapo Helicopters and they told me they are not flying and I can try to call in the evening.

Then we arrived to St John observatory and it does not look promising too.

I got wet again while taking a few pictures.

This was supposed to be very nice view.

So I went to office of Earth & Sky down in Lake Tekapo expecting to cancel out tour and they gave me some hope: "Yes, we are watching, it will be nice during night". I really doubted it after watching intense rain whole day, but at least I had some hope.

What can you do in Lake Tekapo when it is bad weather and you don't want to take pictures of it? Go to Alpine Springs & Spa. And we did. Not only it was nice and warm there in their thermal pools, but we also met real New Zealander who spoke Slovak! But explanation was quite simple - his wife is from Slovakia. He told us about penguins at Moeraki we did not know about.


After we were satisfied with sitting in the pools and in a sauna we went to YHA to accommodate ourselves. It stopped raining and got out to look around. The lake had very nice light blue colour. It looked like rivers in Iceland made from melting glacier.


Church of Good Shepherd

Because the lake and mountains were not very impressive in this weather we concentrated more on the nearby Church of Good Shepherd. In the beginning it was not really impressive too, just small grey church, but we have been there quite long and eventually sun started to shine.





We decided to wait till sunset. We had still one hour, but for me it was better to wait and take photos periodically just in case clouds win again.


And it paid off. Click here for bigger picture. Zuzka edited all people and cars off, but she resized it first, so I could not use her effort here. And I am lazy to do the same.

This is the place we stayed at for the whole hour. The lake was not visible from any closer place, but 200mm lens was sufficient.

Surrounding mountains started to change colours immediately after sunset.

St John

There were still some clouds during sunset over St John, but my hope got bigger, seeing that something happens with weather.

We arrived to office at 22:15 just to learn Stargazing Night Tour will happen, but they are not going to open cupola of 16" telescope due to strong wind. Oh, great, that was the point! But we still wanted to go.

Last view of St John during sunset suggested it might not be lost completely.

We got into 2 buses (English and Japanese speaking groups) and arrived to observatory. Last part was quite spooky, because buses could not use their head lights (no-no at observatories).

It was quite cold up there, but we got nice red coats. I did not take any photo, because I did not want to spoil our night vision acclimatization or whatever is the term. Sky was mostly clear, only couple of clouds were visible. But the Moon was going to rise soon, so it would make our view bit worse.

They told us basic stuff like what is light year, how to find Southern Cross, where Magellanic clouds are and then it happened - they announced the main telescope is open and ready for us! I ran immediately there. We have seen globular cluster Tuc 47, Peter asked them to show us Tarantula Nebula in LMC - that was amazing. Of course not colorful as in books, but pretty impressive. I always wanted to see it in real telescope.

Due to messing with 16" telescope I nearly missed the opportunity of astrophotography, because there were only two tracking mounts available, each with only 5 places for camera. And when I returned from 16" all of them were taken. I had to wait about 20 minutes, I spent them looking at Eta Carinae, Moon, Mars. But then it was my turn. I started with photographing Centaur as everybody else, then I asked if I could switch to constellations of northern sky I know. Fraser was not against, so I continued with Orion and Pleiades (Pleiades were quite low and all photos were ruined by nearby astronomers happily scribbling in the sky with laser pointers).

People ask me what place did I like the most from our trip. I cannot answer that. But they are asking incorrect question. If they asked which photo I like the best I could answer them easily. This one!
Constellation Orion, stacked from 5 photos with 1 minute exposures in DeepSkyStacker, Nikkor 35mm f/2 (cropped to Orion).

Cropped from previous photo - Orion's Belt with M42, with hint of Horsehead Nebula and M43.

If you are into astronomy, and anywhere near Lake Tekapo I can only encourage you to go there for Stargazing Night Tour. It was worth it!