The latest airbridge completed for Christchurch Airport is the Mackenzie night sky. This was one of the most challenging airbridge installations to date. Night sky photography pushes the capabilities of cameras and lenses to their limits. The images also needed to be good enough to be printed to 2.8 metres high. I enlisted the help of Fraser Gunn, a specialist astrophotographer from Tekapo, who supplied lens heaters (to keep dew from forming on lenses), telescopes and tracking mechanisms. Fraser was very generous with his time and expertise. If you happen to be travelling through Tekapo, I thoroughly recommend booking one of Fraser’s small group night sky photography tours: http://www.astrophotography.co.nz/html/lesson.html
The photography was shot over two trips totalling around 11 nights. The phase of the moon, clear skies, and windless nights, were just some of the aspects that needed to line up to make the photography successful. Some things were hard to plan for – like the army sending up flares from behind Lake Alexandrina on one particularly clear night. No point in complaining about that one. One night we had a reasonable fall of snow, which meant the foreground was much clearer in the photographs for a few nights afterwards. I also hauled some gear up to Mueller Hut above Mount Cook Village for one night’s shoot.
The installation is over 30 metres long and includes many tiny lights in the ceiling to give the feel of a night sky. Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene Part 4 is the soundtrack that plays as you walk down the airbridge. I think I had that album back in the day (the 70s).