Milky Way over Lake Heron

Milky Way astrophotography over the mountains around Lake Heron in the Ashburton Lakes. Photography by Laurie Winter

Lake Heron is the largest lake in the Hakatere Conservation Park, Ashburton Lakes, and named after the white heron that early explorers found in the area. The lake offers magnificent views of Taylor Range, which looks incredible after a heavy snowfall in winter. On a still and crisp winter day, the reflections can be magical. 

I visited Lake Heron for the first time on the evening I took this photo. We stopped by during the day, when the sky was completely clear and blue, and the contrast of the white snow was stunning. We returned for sunset which, given this view faces to the east (away from sunset), provided the most amazing soft pink colour in the sky and perfect mountain reflections. After sundown, we started shooting the rising Milky Way. There was a bit of moonlight in the early evening before the moon set. After the moon had set, the darkness was unreal and as images were popping up on my screen, I was worried I had set my white balance incorrectly. It soon became apparent that the air was filled with a strong purple airglow, which gave this photo the colour you see. This photo is made up of 24 images stitched together.

This photo was a finalist in the 2018 Australia/New Zealand Sony Alpha Awards in the astrophotography category.

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