One of my most favourite places to wander with my camera is also one that I find among the most challenging – where the Ohinemuri River flows through the Karangahake Gorge in the Kaimai Ranges between Paeroa and Tauranga. It is a fearsome gorge, cliff-lined with large boulders and at times spectacular floods, which frequently leave branches and other debris stranded high above the river to mark their passge.
Humans have also left their mark – it was the site of some extraordinarily strenuous gold mining endeavours, most notably associated with the Talisman Mine around the beginning of the last century, and the remains of these workings are well worth an explore. Then there’s vestiges of the old railway through to Waihi and beyond, and the modern highway – a spectacular piece of engineering that encourages all the local lads to drive at crazy speeds, and which always seems to want to intrude a piece of human infrastructure into the most carefully crafted image.
I love it as a photographic challenge. The Ohinemuri is a river that varies hugely both in its physical character and its moods – rapids and cascades, that erupt violently when a storm has dumped 100 mm or more of rain in the ranges, contrast with tranquil pools in summer when the late afternoon sun is slanting up the gorge and tired but contented kids are being rounded up for fish and chips at Paeroa before heading home. And then there is the Waitawheta Stream, a tributary that joins the Ohinemuri.
Somehow I connect with that in a way that I find hard to verbalise. I’ve been back on a number of occasions now, and while I feel like I’ve made progress, I still don’t feel that I’ve nailed that definitive shot that captures the wild character of this place. Its not helped by the fact that in winter the sun barely reaches large parts of the gorge, so light is often an issue. And in summer its a magnet for people, so getting a park can be challenging and people are everywhere. I’ve put some images from several forays here – you may see more added over time as I continue to seek that elusive image…