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February 2012 Issue
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Fiordland, Landscape and Life

Fiordland, Landscape and Life
By Roger Wandless with John Hall-Jones
Roger Wandless Publishing 2011, $80

A picture of the Museum Range shows a glint of light on the foreground mountain tarn, with the smudge of Fiordland gloom and ridges in the background. It’s the perfect shot to emphasis the strength of this new book on Fiordland, our largest national park. Exquisite light, good composition, and a rare scene of a remote place most of us have never heard of.

For several years Roger Wandless has taken his camera, both film and digital, into the wilds of Fiordland, and patiently captured some remarkable panoramic scenes. He hasn’t ignored the popular tracks – the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn feature – but I was most impressed by the unknown and obscure Fiordland. A map in the book shows that Wandless has really covered the terrain, photographically, and that is the distinction of this book over many other scenic picture books.

Wandless is not just obsessed with pristine, un-peopled wilderness; there are pictures here of people, scenes with cars, boats, yachts, lighthouses. His portraits, I feel, are nowhere near to the standard of masters like Craig Potton or Arno Gasteiger, but with some of his landscape panoramics, he can equal even the like of Andris Apse with a jaw-dropping image of sheer, brutal Fiordland majesty. Take one of Dusky Sound on a stormy day with rays of light penetrating to the sea like the fingers of God. Or a cold, purple dawn on Mt Titiroa. Wandless seems to have a particular fondness for photographing panoramic scenes at the top of waterfalls, and has mastered this niche of composition.

Not all have worked perfectly; one of Cascade Falls is blown out, but by and large this is impressive panoramic photography, making a book to savour.

Well-known writer John Hall-Jones, the author of dozens of southern New Zealand books, adds an informed commentary on Fiordland places and history, sprinkled with well-chosen quotes.

Shaun Barnett