Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: The peak of summer

with 53 comments

Ice on Southern Alps 4831

February marks the peak of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t still some white on the peaks of the Southern Alps that we saw from SH 73 on February 16th as we drove west across New Zealand’s South Island. So there you have an ironic contrast: no snow at all in Austin through the whole of this winter, but snow persistent in New Zealand in the warmest month of summer.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 11, 2015 at 5:46 AM

53 Responses

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  1. Was this a normal amount of snow to be on their mountain tops? I’ve always loved the way the Cascades look, gleaming white, all through the year.


    April 11, 2015 at 6:23 AM

    • Now that’s a question I don’t know how to answer. Let’s hope one of our New Zealand correspondents can say whether this amount of snow looks normal for mid-February.

      I thought about you last night while watching “Everglades of the North: The Story of the Grand Kankakee Marsh” on one of our PBS channels:


      Unfortunately most of that great Indiana marsh got drained before there was much consciousness of its huge ecological value.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2015 at 7:42 AM

      • I hesitate to say what is normal anymore. On Monday and Tuesday we are expecting a polar outbreak http://blog.metservice.com/2015/04/polar-outbreak-on-monday-and-tuesday/ which will mean a coating of snow on the mountains. Apparently Monday and Tuesday will be unseasonably cold. Better get my fruit harvested today.


        April 11, 2015 at 8:44 AM

        • And this was a spectacular early snowfall in Arthur’s Pass in June 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6acPX_00M9Q


          April 11, 2015 at 8:49 AM

          • Apparently the conductor wasn’t worried about that amount of snow derailing the train. Someone in the soundtrack seemed quite happy to see all the goings-on.

            Steve Schwartzman

            April 11, 2015 at 9:00 AM

        • When it comes to weather, with its inherently great variability, I’m tempted to say that normally abnormal is normal.

          Happy fruit harvesting. Is any of it destined to become jam or jelly?

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 11, 2015 at 8:51 AM

          • Probably not. I will just store the fruit for the time being. I am most concerned about my apples and my 4 precious kiwifruit. Yes 4!!!


            April 11, 2015 at 8:56 AM

            • That’s four more than you’d find growing in Austin (though we can easily buy them in supermarkets here).

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 11, 2015 at 9:05 AM

              • It’s taken 5 years for the vines to produce these 4 kiwifruit. So that’s 4 more than I have ever had before.


                April 11, 2015 at 9:09 AM

                • Happy new, as Eve would say.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 11, 2015 at 9:31 AM

                • I knew kiwis would show up here sooner or later, in one form or another. I’ve been saving this to share when they did. Kiwi! I never tire of watching it. At least one Kiwi took flight!


                  April 11, 2015 at 9:34 AM

                • Cute, poignant, clever, witty, but you can see why our national carrier isn’t called Kiwi Air.


                  April 11, 2015 at 6:48 PM

                • Now that you mention it, that could present a few marketing challenges, couldn’t it?


                  April 11, 2015 at 7:04 PM

                • Yes! My mother insisted on renewing her NZ passport last year even though she is most unlikely to travel again. She says that in her old age she has become a true Kiwi because she is unable to fly.


                  April 11, 2015 at 7:36 PM

                • You have a witty mother.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 11, 2015 at 9:42 PM

                • She has her moments.


                  April 11, 2015 at 11:11 PM

                • Ironically, I never did see a live kiwi (bird) in New Zealand, nor did I eat a kiwi (fruit) while there.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 11, 2015 at 9:48 AM

                • How remiss of us not to show you both. If we had given you a kiwifruit in February, it would have been from Italy! Some fun facts about kiwifruit. http://www.zespri.eu/en/kiwipedia/_where_does_kiwifruit_grow Our NZ kiwifruit group Zespri has kiwifruit farms in Italy, and elsewhere.


                  April 11, 2015 at 6:40 PM

                • I had no idea that some of “your” kiwifruit comes from Italy, nor that Italy produces more of it than New Zealand. I did know that the earlier name by which the fruit was known in English was Chinese gooseberry, but the marketing people ultimately decided a name like that would hinder plans to popularize the fruit, hence the change in the name.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 11, 2015 at 9:40 PM

                • I used to be amazed when I saw Italian kiwifruit in our shops. It seemed absurd to import what we could grow in NZ. It was only recently that I realised that the Italian kiwifruit were grown for Zespri, NZ. So we not only outsource our call centres; we outsource our farming!


                  April 11, 2015 at 11:49 PM

      • That is great~thank you for the link. I just attended a talk about a large wetland restoration that took place along the Illinois River. 9 farmers were willing to sell their land as they were retiring and were willing to see their land be restored. Tiles were broken and water returned. As if by magic several species of high quality plants came back from the seed bed.. The restoration company does work controlling invasive non-natives, conducts burns and has done some planting of natives with an eye toward climate change, and the results have been amazing. Birds, herps, insects and mammals have all responded. It really seems like a miracle to me.


        April 12, 2015 at 9:49 AM

        • There are restoration projects in central Texas too, but they still amount to a very tiny fraction of what was lost, almost all of it probably irretrievably. Nevertheless, there are local successes like the one you learned about near you, so happy restorations and happy miracles to you and to us all.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 12, 2015 at 10:15 AM

          • Yes, the reason I mentioned it was because it seemed so unlikely. The area has been farmed intensively for many decades, with tiles and chemicals and plows. I would really never have expected any measure of success, let alone that so many species would reappear. It gives me hope that perhaps that could happen elsewhere, as well.


            April 13, 2015 at 9:45 AM

  2. Beautifully composed, taking the clouds into account perfectly. Well done. 🙂

    Frank King Photos

    April 11, 2015 at 7:34 AM

    • Thank you. I was grateful for the clouds because they added a fifth horizontal element to the foreground, mountains, snow, and sky.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2015 at 7:44 AM

  3. I’ll leave it to the Kiwis for the answer to how typical this amount of snow is, but new snow is possible at any time in some places; many folks don’t realize that NZ has two permanent glaciers, the Fox and the Franz Josef. And anyone who has seen the Lord of the Rings series knows that there can be some Serious snow. The mountain chosen to portray Mt. Caradhras by Peter Jackson was Mt. Cook, which lies some 140 km south of HWY 73.


    April 11, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    • We’d hoped to see one of the NZ glaciers but we ran out of time to continue further south. Seems like a return trip is warranted. In the meantime, I’ve got a fox in the form of the fox squirrels I often see in the trees outside my window.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2015 at 9:30 AM

  4. Since you’ve given us a peek at New Zealand peaks, I’ll offer this palindrome as a gesture of thanks.

    Question: What did the palindrome & math lover say when he was offered cake? Answer: “I prefer pi.”


    April 11, 2015 at 9:24 AM

    • Thanks. That’s right up my mathematical alley. Your mention of pi reminds me of the recently featured pied shag, which had reminded me of the Pied Piper, which now makes me wonder why I’ve never heard of anyone baking a pepper pie (piper being the Latin word for ‘pepper’ of the spice kind).

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2015 at 9:43 AM

      • Maybe Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers for a pepper pie, Steve.

        Steve Gingold

        April 11, 2015 at 4:24 PM

        • I positively prefer the prolonged popping of that plenitude of p’s, but I’m afraid the kind of pepper that gets pickled is different from the kind that’s paired up with salt as a seasoning.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 11, 2015 at 5:35 PM

  5. Great photo Steve. Yes, the snow does linger all year. I remember one Christmas we spent camping in tents in Queenstown and it snowed. That was cold. We froze as all we had was summer clothing and bedding. Plus my father was sick as well with food poisoning. Definitely a holiday to remember

    Raewyn's Photos

    April 11, 2015 at 3:12 PM

    • When someone from the US or Europe hears about snow at Christmas it’s not a surprise, but to think about snow at Christmas as far down in the Southern Hemisphere as Queenstown is in New Zealand, that really is something. It may have looked pretty, but I’m sorry for your sufferings.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2015 at 5:29 PM

  6. Nice landscape composition, Steve. I’ve seen snow on Mount Katahdin when in Maine during June, so not surprised to see it there either.

    Steve Gingold

    April 11, 2015 at 4:26 PM

  7. Beautiful landscape shot, Steve.

    Jane Lurie

    April 11, 2015 at 5:41 PM

    • Those mountains were out there in plain sight on the highway, so for once my work was pretty easy. I’m glad you enjoy the view, Jane.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2015 at 9:32 PM

  8. Now those are REAL mountain peaks, not like the “hill” I walked recently. 😉 Beautiful teasing shot again.


    April 11, 2015 at 10:00 PM

    • Real mountains they were, that’s for sure. I wish I could have seen more of them, especially the taller ones further south.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2015 at 11:04 PM

  9. this looks more like Canada to me !


    June 21, 2015 at 1:32 PM

    • Right, and that was still the warmest part of the year. Compare these winter images, and you’ll see much more resemblance to Canada:


      Steve Schwartzman

      June 21, 2015 at 1:37 PM

      • oh my god !!! I would never ever thought these were pictures from New Zealand !!!!!! but they are awesome !!!


        June 22, 2015 at 2:44 AM

        • Now you’ll have to plan a trip to New Zealand.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 22, 2015 at 6:18 AM

          • I don’t think so, it is just too far away !! and too cold by the looks of it !


            June 23, 2015 at 9:12 AM

            • I can’t change the distance, but I can assure you that when I was in New Zealand in February the weather wasn’t cold, and on some days it was even hot.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 23, 2015 at 9:23 AM

              • We are planning a trip to Arizona next February and who know where we’ll go next….


                June 23, 2015 at 9:27 AM

                • Arizona has lots of great scenery and plants, so you should enjoy your trip. I certainly did last autumn:


                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 23, 2015 at 10:22 PM

                • great pictures you made there !!!! As I am a big fan of cacti I’m sure it will be heaven for me in Arizona !!!


                  June 24, 2015 at 4:08 AM

                • You still have the better part of a year before your trip, so you can read up on Arizona and find out about places you’d like to visit there. If any of the pictures I linked to particularly appeal to you, you can note where they were taken, because I identify each location.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 24, 2015 at 6:53 AM

                • Thanks for your help ! We are reading up on Arizona for a while now as this part of travelling is fun too !


                  June 25, 2015 at 1:07 PM

                • I also enjoy doing research. Have fun with yours.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 25, 2015 at 1:22 PM

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