Sometimes Christmas presents bought for oneself are best although they do lack that very appealing surprise element. This Christmas I bought the new book High Country New Zealand published by Te Papa Press. High country in New Zealand can only mean the South Island.
I admit to being on an ego trip. One of my railway photographs appears on Page 22 of the introduction. It is my 1970 shot of A class No. 423 climbing away from Cass and magnificently surrounded by mountains. The veteran steam locomotive was en-route from the West Coast to a North Island rail museum. Having my photo included meant I was offered a substantial discount. Lucky because the book’s recommended retail price hovers around $100.
The book’s real photographs relate to the seasons on South Island high country stations taken by German-born photographer Antonia Steeg. They are consistently brilliant. My best shot choice is a sheep leaping to freedom after crutching at Canterbury’s Glenfalloch Station. Page 61 and repeated on the rear of the dust jacket.
Along with spectacular scenery, Steeg also captures the people, including children, inhabiting and working on these isolated farming properties. She also writes well about becoming involved with New Zealand and a love for her adopted home.
The book’s multi-page introduction is written by Philip Temple, a well-known mountaineer and writer with a particular interest in South Island alpine regions. He is also author of several New Zealand books and is frequently recalled for his fascination with the comical mountain parrot, the kea. Temple’s novel Beak of the Moon where kea are the characters has become a New Zealand classic. The format chosen for High Country New Zealand is landscape enabling an ideal presentation for Steeg’s photographs, particularly the many spectacular double-spreads.