View from the top: Dwayne Rennie finds inspiration in his environment

Words: Kate Coughlan  Images: Dwayne Rennie 

The alpine environment of Lake Ōhau inspires Dwayne Rennie to get out with his camera day and night, in good weather and in bad

See more of Dwayne’s home and life in NZ Life & Leisure (September/October), on sale now.

Dwayne Rennie’s gift of a Canon DSLR camera to his partner Hugh Spiers inspired Dwayne to take up photography, although Hugh is still not interested.

“I hadn’t intended to take it up myself. But soon after giving the camera to Hugh, I found myself trying to capture images of Lake Middleton and was hooked. An inversion layer of cloud hovering above the water looked amazing, and I was desperate to photograph the scene. When I returned to the house, I was so excited about seeing the results that I accidentally deleted them all.”

Self-taught Dwayne doesn’t accidentally lose images these days. He credits the generosity of other Lake Ōhau photographers for helping him understand photography equipment and camera settings. He also credits the physical environment for dragging him outdoors, camera in hand, in all weathers.

“How could you not be inspired in such a magnificent environment as Lake Ōhau, as it is a perfect photographer’s playground all year round? We see amazing night skies, stunning hoar frosts, snow-capped rugged mountains, crystal clear lakes and beautiful wildlife, and it’s all right here on my doorstep.

“I am an introvert by nature, and escaping into the hills with my camera is how I recharge my batteries. I love how the light is so fleeting, how the texture and colour of the lake change from one hour to the next, how the clouds move across such a massive, wide-open sky, and even the motionless mountains constantly change depending on the light.

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“Any worries or anxieties just disappear when I am a tiny speck out under a massive sky, standing in a freezing lake in my waders, waiting for the light to be just right.”

Dwayne’s favourite time of the day is the golden hour, just on sunset, although a hoar frost or the chance of the Aurora Australis sends him out at all hours. The perfect landscape image, for Dwayne, is a trifecta of lake, mountain and sky – either calm when Lake Ōhau is like a sheet of glass (which does happen when he is very patient), or when the waves are crashing on the shore during a windy day. The prominent heel of the Ben Ōhau Range as it meets Lake Ōhau to the east of Dwayne’s home stars in its many moods in his photography. Dwayne uses Facebook (Dwayne A Rennie Photography) to share his work.

Dwayne and his partner Hugh Spiers run an accommodation business catering for winter and summer guests called The Barn at Killin ( Their beautiful home stars on the cover of the current NZ Life & Leisure issue, in which they share their story of being burned out during the massive Lake Ōhau fires of 4 October 2020. Dwayne lost all his camera gear and everything he and Hugh possessed that horrifying night. The generosity of people who gifted him replacement equipment still moves Dwayne. “One further example of the kindnesses complete strangers showed us after the fire.”

Enter to win two nights’ accommodation (with dinner and breakfast) in the beautiful home they share overlooking Lake Middleton, worth $860.

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