Hells Gate | Rotorua
Hells Gate Rotorua
New Zealand has always been a touchstone for my family. My mother was born in Gisborne on the North Island’s east coast, therefore most of my travels in the country have been around that area. One place that really made an impression on me was Hells Gate in Rotorua. It was my first experience with geothermal activity and my most vivid memory there was of the bubbling mud pools. Since my visit in 1988 I was determined to go back and photograph the area, so I no longer have to rely on my memories alone for reference.
After a long day of exploring Wai-O-Tapu (a geothermic area south of Rotorua) I ventured up to Hells Gate, located near the north eastern side of Lake Rotorua. To my surprise the area was more beautiful than I had remembered. Giant ferns, waterfalls, pine trees and a number of other interesting plants provided a stunning backdrop to the thermal pools. I was elated as it was well worth the visit and I walked away with some very unique images.
I edited all of my images in Adobe Lightroom and found myself working with colours and landscapes that I am not used to. I developed a preset which I named ‘Crusty Sulfur’ and applied it to all of the thermal landscapes. I then added a couple of exposure and vignetting adjustments where necessary. It gave the images an eerie feeling, and was the best representation of what the landscape looked like when I was there.
Editing the colourful vegetation images proved to be quite tricky, as every time I tried to enhance the colour slightly a dull yellow tone would engulf my photograph. I tried altering the white balance and that only made it worse. The only way I could keep the vivid greens and loose the yellow tone was to stay with the original white balance setting and adjust each colour individually.
Below I have a gallery of the images I captured. Note that they were all shot with my Nikon D7100 24.1 MP DX-Format CMOS Digital SLR with 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Auto Focus-S DX NIKKOR Zoom Lens
About Hells Gate
The Rotorua caldera formed about 140,000 years ago as the Mamaku Ignimbrite erupted.
Being New Zealand’s only Maori owned thermal park Hells Gate is still a place of cultural significance to the Ngati Rangiteaorere Tribe who claim to have inhabited the area for more than 700 years. The Maori name for thermal park is Tikitere and is believed to have been applied to the location around 650 years ago when a young Maori princess called Hurutini died in one of the pools that bears her name today.
The park received it’s modern name ‘Hells Gate’ in the early 1900’s when George Bernard Shaw, a famous Irish playwright living in England, visited the area for a week. On looking at the thermal park he concluded that it must be the gateway to hell, which his theologian colleagues talked about. Apparently he was an atheist and after his visit changed his ways.
Hells Gate is also home to the Kakahi Falls, the largest thermal waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s temperature is approximately 40°C, which is a nice hot shower. The falls hold a special place for Maori people, in that they were used by warriors to bathe and cleanse themselves of the blood of battle when they returned.
For more information on Hells Gate Thermal Park, including admission prices and operation times, visit the parks website at http://www.hellsgate.co.nz/
Hells Gate Gallery
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