In 1874 Mary Robinson, an English immigrant living in Temuka, wrote to her parents in Bedfordshire: ‘We can sit in our house and see the mountains with the tops all covered with snow, although they are about 60 miles off.’
The English immigrants who came in the 1950s, when London was blanketed in smog, commented on the clear light and the amazingly blue and clean sky. One of them remembers seeing Auckland, ‘a sparkling blue harbour with white boats at anchor, green hills in the background, houses on the hills and clear, clear air.’
The American poet Robert Creeley wrote in 1976, ‘New Zealand light – intense, clear, particularizing, ruthless, unlike any I’ve previously known. In my own concerns, it brought all things factually to stand in the light, and that’s where finally one wants to see them.’
An American tourist wrote in his blog from Auckland in July 2005: ‘What’s most amazing, we’ve all concurred, is the light … the clarity of the air allows you to see farther than I think I’ve ever been able to look on a city of this size. It’s impossible to explain, the light has a different tone … the clouds in the air move constantly, rain falls without warning … The light on the sea, as a result, is in constant flux, so one second the water is a pale greenish brown, the next it’s a deep azurean blue. Incredible.’
Measurements at Lauder show that New Zealand air, along with that of Antarctica, is among the clearest on the globe. There are a number of reasons why the clarity of New Zealand’s air is especially high. The distance from major industrial countries, the low level of coal burning (nearly 60% of New Zealands energy is from hydro-electricity) and the constant cleansing winds and the impact of the mountains all contribute.
The Coromandel Peninsula, where we are based, is a particularly good place for light. Mountains that reach to nearly 3000 feet, over 400km of coastline, little or no industry and offshore winds that cleanse the air make for the perfect location. The lack of ambient light makes for perfect night-time photography on one of the many cloudless nights.