Franz Josef Glacier Travel Answers

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JohanIsWeg's Profile Photo

Best time for photographs

by JohanIsWeg Online Now Nov 10, 2008 at 9:23 PM

We're considering a heli-hike on the Franz Josef Glacier or a day walk on Fox Glacier. What time of day, in general, would provide the best views? Does the weather (and visibility) deteriorate later in the day, or do you generally find poor weather conditions early in the morning?
Sissi made a good point in an earlier forum about time of day not really being applicable for heli-hikes as it's so high up, while early morning would give better photo opportunities with fewer shadows etc.
Is this still the reigning opinion? Any other experiences, pearls of wisdom?
Thanks.

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42 Answers
  • fossettes's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by fossettes Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 1:44 AM

    Great question johan - we'll be at Franz Josef in January (doing the heli hike) and would like to here the answer.

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  • kiwi's Profile Photo

    Best time for photographs

    by kiwi Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 3:06 AM

    Bookmark - I'd like to know myself :-)

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  • swissfondue's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by swissfondue Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 4:46 AM

    I am certainly not an expert on this subject but can say from my own experience that weather conditions can be deceptive.

    My family and I arrived mid afternoon in the township of Fox Glacier and made enquiries about a helicopter flight up to the glacier expecting to be told it was too late in the day as low cloud cover was rolling in quite quickly.

    A quick radio call to the pilot already up on the glacier confirmed it would be OK, but as the weather closed in we weren't expecting to see much and almost decided not to go thinking it would be a lot of money to waste (There were four of us) however we went on their advice.

    The flight and landing on the glacier turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. The sky was a vivid blue and the colours of the glacier were hard to describe. There was not a breath of wind, it was not even cold, shadows were not a problem and our photos turned out to be absolutely stunning. This was at 3.30pm in the afternoon.

    I would be guided by the advice of the heli-hike company. After all tourism is their job.

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  • aussirose's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by aussirose Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 5:57 AM

    Ask 2Cities1Love (Col & Sue). I know they went there.

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  • kiwi's Profile Photo

    Best time for photographs

    by kiwi Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 12:53 PM

    Oh amazing. What month were you there, as this is important for the height of the sun in the sky. IT changes so much from summer to winter. thanks. But good advice to listen to the operators, they know best. Just that as a traveller trying to plan in advance when to be there, this will help.

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  • swissfondue's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by swissfondue Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 2:45 PM

    Sorry. After I posted I realised I should have said what time of year this was!

    MID APRIL. We had great weather overall on our 2 week trip aside from some rain at Milford (but thats not unexpected). Other posters have said previously that March/April is a pretty good time to visit with settled weather.

    As I said our photos were absolutely amazing and that was using a cheapish camera. Do try to get up there if you can. You wont be disappointed. In fact the whole South Island (my favorite) is just one big panorama after another.

    I would love the chance to see NZ again myself. Sigh... Have a great trip and take an extra large memory card.

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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by Kakapo2 Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 3:27 PM

    Johan, you will be lucky if it does not rain in January - as summer is the season with a lot of rain on the West Coast. That is why I call it Wet Coast ;-) This region has a yearly average of 5 metres of rain, and winter is the driest season.

    High on the glacier you will have good views, of course, but if you consider that the sun sets in the west, and you want to take photos down the glacier to the valley you will photograph against the sun the later in the day it is. So to get a perfect picture of the length of the glacier you should do it earlier in the day. Of course, IF the sun shines you will get many good pictures, as there are other motives to photograph, and if you are in an ice cave it does not matter too much.

    You must imagine the glaciers rolling down steep valleys, as they are rivers of ice. The lower you get, the bigger the shadows can get.

    For those who do not live in the southern hemisphere, consider that the sun reaches its peak in the north and not in the south - if you want to calculate where the shadows fall to... ;-)

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  • JohanIsWeg's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by JohanIsWeg Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 8:14 PM

    No Sissi, don't even think it! It will be a gorgeous sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. I've put in a special order...

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  • kiwi's Profile Photo

    Best time for photographs

    by kiwi Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 8:24 PM

    Haha good luck! But it may happen :-))) [if you hang around long enough hahahahaa].

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  • JohanIsWeg's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by JohanIsWeg Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 10:49 PM

    Oh ye of little faith!

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  • fossettes's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by fossettes Online Now Nov 11, 2008 at 11:02 PM

    I'm with you Johan... fingers crossed for clear weather. swissfondue has given me hope! I hope we're able to do the helicopter - it's going to be our daughter's christmas gift - her dream is to fly in a helicopter. I'll have to com eup with a replacement gift if we can't go!!!

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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by Kakapo2 Online Now Nov 12, 2008 at 11:34 AM

    Tell me on which day you will be on the West Coast and I will be there. As some people already know (because, of course, I have told it several times...), I attract the sunshine to the Coast - even in summer ;-)

    I will be there again next week and will let you know if my record can be extended or if I run out of weather luck :-)

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  • JohanIsWeg's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by JohanIsWeg Online Now Nov 13, 2008 at 1:39 AM

    Kelly Anne, I found the following sentence in a visitor's blog: "Helicopter tours were cancelled, however, until better weather. It had been weeks since a helicopter got off the ground."

    What the...!

    We better be VERY positive!

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  • kiwi's Profile Photo

    Best time for photographs

    by kiwi Online Now Nov 13, 2008 at 2:19 AM

    Welcome to New Zealand hahaha. It can be the trip of a lifetime or the trip from hell if it rains nonstop 90% of the time you are here. Lets hope you get nice weather :-)

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  • fossettes's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by fossettes Online Now Nov 13, 2008 at 4:30 AM

    I am completely hopeful!

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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by Kakapo2 Online Now Nov 13, 2008 at 2:05 PM

    Yes, it can really happen with the helicopters. And I have seen a lot of activity about rebooking people from helihikes and flights to walks. (Have spent a lot of time there, as hubby did all the computer networking for the company for several years...)

    However, rarely a glacier walk ever gets cancelled, only during electric storms or such serious weather. They say that people also enjoy the walks in the rain. You still experience the turquoise coloured core of the old ice, as you mostly walk inside the glacier, like through narrow gorges, not on top of the glacier. Well, not really to my taste... I prefer to walk in the rainforest when it rains. But I am sure a glacier walk can be a great experience even in case of rain if you have never been in/on such a glacier before.

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  • kzapanta's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by kzapanta Online Now Nov 17, 2008 at 2:00 PM

    As many have said, luck with the weather is the more important factor, not time of day. BUT, we were there when the helis were grounded and still hiked up in fog and rain and it still was amazing. (fox glacier, left mountain side. NOT the riverbed hike)

    But if weather permits the helis to fly, and your looking for great pictures. Remember the light rules of photography; sun sets on the west (you'll be on the west side), yes shadows are good and a tool for pictures in snow or glaciers, afternoon will have the best chances fogs will have burned off and most light for your pics. I doubt the heli company will allow their tours up on the top right at dusk so that red sky sunset on a glacier will be hard to get. =)

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  • ronlaughlin's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by ronlaughlin Online Now Nov 25, 2008 at 6:20 PM

    As a professional travel writer/photographer in New Zealand and living/working on the road in my bus 24/7-365 days a year I have accumulated over 10,000 photos in the past five years....Needless to say not all are worth looking at but I do have some really good ones........

    I found that in the glacier country the early mornings have proven to be the best before the clouds start moving in. Be sure to go to Lake Matheson just after daylight.........
    but, of course, since this is a rain forest you must expect rain.......at times!

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  • oldruss's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by oldruss Online Now Nov 26, 2008 at 12:33 AM

    Hey Johan.
    I would like to set straight, a few facts for you regarding the weather on the West Coast of New Zealand. I live in Greymouth and have done for the last 30 odd years.
    We basically have a wet season in our spring. That can last between August and November, generally. Our dry season is summer and early winter. That can last between January to June.
    Understand that, we will get rain on occasion during that time, but it tends to clear up after a day or so. It does not get cold till around May.
    A small point of interest. The southern part of the West Coast, can get anything up to 4 to 6 metres of rain a year. That is because, when it rains, it doesn't muck around. They can easily get between 50mm and 100mm in a 24hr period. But again,that is usually in the winter /spring time.
    You have been given some great advise by other New Zealanders, however, when it comes to "Weather", listen to a local.
    Hope this helps.
    Old Russ.

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  • JohanIsWeg's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by JohanIsWeg Online Now Nov 26, 2008 at 4:49 AM

    Ron and Russell, thank you very much for your replies. Can't wait...

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  • fossettes's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by fossettes Online Now Jan 7, 2009 at 9:06 PM

    Johan - We've just left Franz Josef today and were unable to do the helihike. The past two days they were socked in with clouds and rain. Then today, the clouds began to lift and we probably would have een able to go but my daughter had a fever and was not up to it at all. Very dissapointing for all of us, especially her.

    We did do the walk to the face of the glacier, we did it on our own. It was great fun. If you do this, be sure you wear waterprrof sandals/boots - you will be walking through a few cold streams. Alot of people were just taking their shoes off and putting them back on, but it's much easier to just leave them on... well worth it, the walk is a great one.

    Hope you have better luck with the weather than we have.

    Kelly Anne

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  • kiwi's Profile Photo

    Best time for photographs

    by kiwi Online Now Jan 7, 2009 at 10:01 PM

    Great to hear the progress report.
    Sad to hear also as I type that there has been an ice fall at Fox (I think) and they are searching for some people.

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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by Kakapo2 Online Now Jan 7, 2009 at 11:11 PM

    The ice fall at Fox is a good reminder to tell people that they should not walk past the warning signs. This seems to have been the case. Ice falls at the terminal face of the glaciers are absolutely normal. One cubic metre of ice weighs about a tonne, so you can imagine what happens if you get too close to the glacier in the moment of the collapse. Info about the latest case is still sketchy but it seems as if several people were trapped under the ice.

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  • kiwi's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by kiwi Online Now Jan 7, 2009 at 11:46 PM

    If that is the case it sure has been a summer of "broken rules"!! Many deaths and injuries this year.

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  • JohanIsWeg's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by JohanIsWeg Online Now Jan 8, 2009 at 2:16 AM

    Hi Kelly Anne,

    What a pity you guys didn't get to do the heli-hike, but thanks for the update. We're planning to do the hike to the terminal face, so thanks for the tips.
    Hope the weather improves for you!
    Enjoy the rest of your trip.

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  • kiwi's Profile Photo

    Best time for photographs

    by kiwi Online Now Jan 8, 2009 at 2:29 AM

    Just don't get to close to the glacier face. they are just pulling two bodies out from under the fallen ice . sorry.

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  • JohanIsWeg's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by JohanIsWeg Online Now Jan 8, 2009 at 2:35 AM

    Thanks, we'll keep a safe distance. Sad news...

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  • kiwi's Profile Photo

    Best time for photographs

    by kiwi Online Now Jan 8, 2009 at 2:38 AM

    You'll have such a good experience there, it's a super place :-)

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  • JohanIsWeg's Profile Photo

    Re: Best time for photographs

    by JohanIsWeg Online Now Jan 8, 2009 at 2:46 AM

    My wife was looking at You Tube videos of guided walks on the glacier last night, and it scared the whatsisname out of her! She's very excited though :-)

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  • kiwi's Profile Photo

    Best time for photographs

    by kiwi Online Now Jan 8, 2009 at 3:28 AM

    OH good, she's doing research, that's good.
    She will love it. Hope you get reasonable weather :-)

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