2023 in review

The year where I rekindled my love for video

Although I didn’t know it at the time, when Cyclone Gabrielle devastated a large swathe of Te Matau a Māui / Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti / Gisborne regions in February 2023, the rest of my year was largely written. As I finish this review in mid-December, I’ve just spent eight months of hard yakka with the Transport Rebuild East Coast Alliance, an organisation setup to rebuild the severely damaged state highway and rail network. I’m leading the team looking after all the statutory and environmental consenting processes, and with 6-7 years of construction activity ahead, it appears I might be pretty busy for a good while yet!

Commitments to the rebuild means that time for photography and adventures has very much felt limited. But with that said, in compiling this review, I came away surprised with just how many trips I managed to squeeze in; mostly on weekends close to home but with a couple more significant trips further afield.

I also came to realise I haven’t really done a huge amount of photography on those adventures, with my Lightroom catalogue showing a total of just over 2,500 captures. The last time I recorded a number as low was in 2014. Instead, it’s apparent I’ve spent a lot more time capturing and editing video for my YouTube channel, which has become a very rewarding and enjoyable creative outlet.

I finished my 2022 in review (posted 10th December 2022) by hinting I’d finish the year with a photography adventure over the Christmas break. And indeed I did, ticking off an epic 4-day solo trip that had occupied my mind for the best part of a couple of decades: The Three Passes Route (click for full guide). Some highlights below…

Ariel’s Tarns, my campsite on the first night of the Three Passes Route
The snow-covered section extending over Whitehorn Pass and into the Cronin Stream valley
Lake Browning / Whakarewa, located at the third of the three passes (and my camp on the second night of the hike)
Video highlights from the Three Passes Route

A day after completing the Three Passes (and still feeling completely shattered!), I left on a roadie with Olivia (my daughter) to see in the new year in Wanaka. We took the opportunity to return home via the West Coast, staying along the way at Pleasant Flat, Gillespie’s Beach, and near Punakaiki. During the trip I finally found an unmarked hidden gem I’d previously seen online a handful of times but had never found on previous trips.

A hidden gem

In mid-March, and following several wet-weather weekends which quashed plans to get into the mountains, I set out on a solo mission to visit another gem long on my list: Lake Mavis in Arthur’s Pass National Park. It was a stunning couple of days out and the scenery even more extraordinary than I expected. A few weeks later, Penny (my wife) and I went on an overnighter to Crow Hut, yet another new location for me. Videos below, brief guides here (Lake Mavis) and here (Crow Hut).

Video highlights from a solo overnight adventure to Lake Mavis
Video highlights from an overnight visit to Crow Hut

Easter soon rolled around. My son (George) and I headed down south and camped the night at Cameron Flat near Haast Pass. Our destination for the next couple of nights was Brewster Glacier, and yip, another bucket list item was about to be achieved. A tough place to get to but what an absolutely unbelievable spot, the stuff of dreams! My A Brief Guide to Brewster Glacier has all the details and lots of photos, but some highlights below.

Brewster Glacier, Mount Aspiring National Park
Our campsite beside the glacier’s meltwater lakes
A couple of nights spent with the lad under the stars
The blue ice of the Brewster Glacier [click image to purchase print]
Video highlights from a 3-day trip to Brewster Glacier

Winter arrived, and with it, a spectacular hoar frost. Such events are reasonably infrequent and short-lasting so capturing them often involves some good luck and timing (my last chance was seven years prior). Thankfully this one fell on a weekend so I was able to make the journey south and partake in the winter wonderland.

Hoar frost hunting in the Mackenzie Basin
Winter wonderland in the Mackenzie Basin
The fog made for some ethereal conditions

And that was it for a while, with the camera gear not seeing any real action for several months as work commitments took over. I managed to get up to Mt Hutt for a few days skiing but otherwise large stretches of physical inactivity predominated. I used any spare time I could to continue making archival videos of some old hikes, and towards the end of Winter and into Spring, managed to squeeze in a few day walks on the weekends.

At the end of October it was time for a couple of weeks break away from the day job. The first twelve days was spent on the most magnificent of trips around the South Island; I had the honour of co-leading a photography tour with Josh Cripps. I’ve yet to process any images from the trip (they might have to wait until next year’s review), but did manage to edit together a 3-minute video which I think encapsulates just how epic it was. At the conclusion of the trip, Penny and I went on a whirlwind few days up to Northland and Auckland, visiting a few new spots including Cape Reinga / Te Rerenga Wairua and the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes.

A magnificent 11 days spent co-leading a photography tour around the South Island

And that’s pretty much a wrap! Work over the last few weeks has been absolutely insane so am very much looking forward to the Christmas break. I plan to fit in at least one hiking adventure … fingers crossed for good weather. Then it’ll be back into the big programme of work for the East Coast recovery. It’s likely my adventures next year will largely be limited to weekend warrioring (also a couple of photo tours on the cards), but let’s see how things go!

A huge thanks to you all for following along on my adventures. See you all in 2024!

Read my previous years in review: