Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: a bluish white

with 29 comments

February 20 is still the height of summer in New Zealand. Nevertheless, on that date we hiked the hour or so from the carpark to the front of the Franz Josef Glacier, which is located in the Southern Alps half-way down the western side of the South Island. Before we’d gone too far along the trail I stopped to photograph the still-distant glacier. Europe and North America have their glaciers, but none that I know of are within sight of tree ferns. They were an excellent accompaniment to the first glacier I’d ever seen in person.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 19, 2017 at 5:01 AM

29 Responses

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  1. this is beautiful, steve –


    March 19, 2017 at 5:12 AM

  2. Fantastic!

    Thanks for sharing, dear friend 🙂

    Didis Art Design

    March 19, 2017 at 5:19 AM

  3. They are long time residents of those valleys. What a nice view.

    Jim R

    March 19, 2017 at 7:02 AM

    • Yes, they are long-time residents there, not only of the glacial valleys, but of so many other ecological regions in New Zealand. Too bad we don’t have any tree ferns in the United States.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2017 at 9:41 AM

  4. I saw my first glaciers in Alaska, where the view was quite different from this. In fact, at first glance this seems unreal, artificial: like scenery for a low-budget film. But with a longer look, things begin to fit together, and astonish.

    Of all the photos I’ve seen of your New Zealand trips, this ranks near the top, just because it shows so well the uniqueness of the land. And here, I feel pretty confident using the word “unique” rather than “special.”


    March 19, 2017 at 8:34 AM

    • There are places in New Zealand (and California, too, now that I think of it) where people have planted alien palm trees that have indeed made the landscape look fake. You can be forgiven if today’s picture gives you that impression—and yet the view is authentic and indeed unique. I’ll follow up with much closer looks at the glacier, but I’m glad I took this picture from far away. I appreciate this distant, ferny view more now that I see the image than when I took it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2017 at 9:47 AM

    • By the way, Alaska is one of the four states I haven’t yet visited. You’re fortunate to have made it there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2017 at 9:56 AM

  5. Did you feel a cold breath of air coming down off the glacier? I’ve never seen one in person. The juxtaposition with the tree ferns is magnificent.


    March 19, 2017 at 8:47 AM

    • No, I don’t recall feeling a cool breeze coming from the glacier. Perhaps I would have if I’d gotten closer, but for safety the trail stops short of the glacier. I did spot one person who wandered way past the barrier and got close to the glacier, but I never saw him after his presumed return to the trail to ask him what he experienced.

      Even without a glacier, tree ferns are wonderful. I hope you’ll get to experience some.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2017 at 9:53 AM

  6. I’ve been right up to the face of the Fox Glacier and was able to hike to within a few feet of the mouth of the cave from which the Fox River emerged, and I remember clearly a bit of trepidation while trusting my luck that a chunk of the ice wouldn’t calve off above me. But that was 20 or so years ago, and I’m pretty sure they will have put up safety limits to help to protect silly thrill-seekers and adventurous photographers from being able to get that close. But oh, what a feeling! You’re fortunate to have seen the Franz-Josef!


    March 20, 2017 at 8:16 AM

    • After we’d hiked to the end of the trail I noticed one guy who had gone a good quarter of a mile past the barrier and was walking around near the front of the Franz Josef Glacier. At no time did I see a guard or policeman who would keep people from walking beyond the barrier, which is just a simple rail fence that’s easy to scoot under. There was, however, a cardboard cutout of a guard with one hand raised, for whatever good that did. I took a picture of Eve posing by that cutout.

      In any case, you’re right about our being fortunate to have visited the glacier. On the previous trip we got tantalizingly close when we visited Hokitika, just two hours north, but by then we were running short of time and had to swing back north.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 20, 2017 at 8:51 AM

  7. You are a master, Steve! Thank you for sharing this. I envy you and Eve your travels.

    Libby Weed

    March 20, 2017 at 12:48 PM

  8. Hey Steve .. lovely. It must have been very special being there 😀


    March 21, 2017 at 12:48 AM

    • It was, but hundreds of other people walked the trail that morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2017 at 6:59 AM

      • I love this photo Steve. I am glad you managed to keep the hundreds out of the scene. When we visited the glaciers in the 1960s there were very few people. I should have felt lucky to see the glacier region so devoid of people. Instead I felt scared by the eerie silence. Kids!


        March 22, 2017 at 3:33 AM

        • You’re fortunate to have seen the glacier in relative solitude, even if it took till much later for you to appreciate it. We visited on a pleasant day in summer, so the crowd was unavoidable. The carpark at Milford Sound was even more crowded. We’re still glad we went to both places.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 22, 2017 at 6:55 AM

          • I visited Milford for the first time in about 2005 (I think); it was quite crowded. But the landscape made the people seem insignificant and tiny.


            March 22, 2017 at 6:57 PM

            • Yes, it’s a grand fiord with lots of native bush. The boats (and even one cruise ship) were indeed tiny by comparison.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 22, 2017 at 8:13 PM

  9. Beautiful contrast of the green leaves and the snow in one photograph! xx


    Clare Hopkins

    March 22, 2017 at 12:12 AM

  10. […] we visited the Franz Josef Glacier on February 20th, my attention leapt not only to the glacier and nearby waterfalls, but to the many […]

  11. it seems so strange to see ferns or palms against a backdrop of ice/glaciers… near chimborazo,the city of guaranda has beautiful stately palms…..

    i saw in the news this morning that the area near riobamba had hail.. so much that they called it an ice storm.. the streets and highways are a mess and of course there are accidents.

    • I thought about you because you’d earlier confirmed tree ferns in Ecuador. That made me think there’s probably a place in the Andes where you can see tree ferns and a glacier at the same time. The juxtaposition of the two in New Zealand certainly caught my attention.

      Speaking of hail: twice in the 13 years we’ve lived in our current house in northwest Austin we’ve had bad enough hail that we ended up getting new shingles on the roof (and once a new skylight).

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2017 at 8:55 AM

  12. […] entry was like the little fern shown above getting a foothold in the vertical strata along the trail we trekked to New Zealand’s Franz Josef Glacier on February 20th this […]

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