New Zealand Photography Tour Review – Sept 2018

New Zealand for a lot of people is number one on their bucket list of destinations to visit with a camera and having myself travelled there twice previously, the first time in 2003 as a young, free and single adventurous backpacker and again as a wannabe landscape photographer with just a single year’s photography experience under my belt back in 2008, I was desperate to return and ten years later armed with the best equipment I could muster (Canon 5D MK4), and over ten years of landscape photography experience. I decided that 2018 would be the year that I would return to try and attempt to do the south island justice.

The purpose of my two week visit was to recce the island for a ten day New Zealand photography workshop that I will be running in May 2019. This New Zealand landscape workshop is now live and taking bookings.  For two weeks, I had company in the form of Ed Rhodes, a fellow landscape photographer who as it turned out, was exceptional company during the two weeks and Ed enriched the whole experienced immeasurably with his great humour, dedication to landscape photography, his sense of adventure, not to mention his driving skills behind the wheel when I required rest. Thank you Ed.

So this blog is a short article detailing the places that Ed and I visited and my experiences of those places as well as some of the images that I took along the way. I aim to give those considering joining me on the photography workshop in May 2019 a fantastic insight as to the places that they will be visiting with me too. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures in the south island of New Zealand.

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Let the show begin.

At the end of this blog, there is a short three minute video of footage that I shot on location during this trip and I hope you enjoy watching and feel free to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel too if you wish.

My fantastic travelling companion Ed Rhodes and I at Clay Cliffs
My fantastic travelling companion Ed Rhodes and I at Clay Cliffs, Omarama, New Zealand

Day One: Thursday 13th Sept 2018
Christchurch Airport to Tekapo
Arriving into Christchurch Airport mid-afternoon after three flights totalling almost twenty four hours followed by a three and a half hour drive to Tekapo certainly made its mark but the excitement for what was to come over the next two weeks left me restless and keen to start photographing at sunrise. However, due to not being able to sleep properly, I ended up venturing down to the Church of the Good Shepherd just five minutes down the road at 4am. I perhaps foolishly expected to find the place to myself in the pursuit of wanting to photograph the Milky Way but I was greeted by a dozen Japanese photographers all with the same thought in mind. After startling them but not nearly as much as they did me, we co-existed on location beautifully and during the following hour or so, I was treated to a stunning astro display of the Milky Way and the stars. What a sight. A quick trip back to the hotel to collect Ed and a hasty return pre-dawn saw us witness a glorious sunrise. What a way to start the trip.

Milky Way, Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo, New Zealand
Milky Way, Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo, New Zealand

Day Two: Friday 14th Sept 2018
Lake Tekapo – Nugget Point Lighthouse – Oamaru
Ed and I drove over to the east coast to check out the famous and iconic Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach but changed plans and instead decided to drive another three hours and two hundred kilometres further south to photograph a beautiful location known as Nugget Point which happens to have a lighthouse located on a peninsula there. We made sunset with around thirty minutes to go and before long, the lighthouse lit up and the beams of light shone brightly against the darkening blue sky with a million stars shining like diamonds. I had already noticed from the previous night at the church that the sky was unbelievably crystal clear and so amazingly dark with the shiniest stars I have ever seen. It really was quite something to behold. With a couple of lovely images captured on camera, a three hour drive to our motel in Oamaru awaited us.

Nugget Point, New Zealand
Nugget Point, New Zealand
Nugget Point Lighthouse, New Zealand
Nugget Point Lighthouse, New Zealand

Day Three: Saturday 15th Sept 2018
Moeraki Boulders – Clay Cliffs – Tasman Lake – Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Ten years ago, I stayed in Oamaru, the neighbouring town to the world famous Moeraki Boulders and well long story short, I rose from my bed too late and missed a glorious sunrise. I was livid and it has haunted me to this day. Such a wonderful opportunity to photograph the four million year old spherical rocks that line the Koekohe Beach and I missed it. Those rocks are large, some of them four feet high and as wide and those type of rocks only exist here within New Zealand and photographers travel far and wide to photograph them. I had timed this morning’s shoot for the tide to coincide with sunrise, all that was required now was to cross all of my fingers and toes for an incredible sunrise and oh boy, did we get one.

Firstly we arrived in the free car park to find nobody on the beach and only a few minutes later to be briefly joined by a couple who promptly left. Ed and I had the whole beach to ourselves and when the colour intensified to the point that I would have to contemplate reducing the saturating of the colour in Photoshop to have it look ‘realistic’, I knew that I was onto a winner. Half of me was almost cried through relief in finally righting my wrong from ten years previous while the other half of me was so excited that I physically danced what can only be described as a dodgy Irish jig on the beach although thankfully for Ed, I refrained from singing. This would most definitely prove to be a sunrise that I will take with me to the end of my days. It was and still is beyond words. I never underestimate the power that photography has to move me.

Sunrise, Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach, New Zealand
Sunrise, Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach, New Zealand
Sunrise, Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach, New Zealand
Sunrise, Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach, New Zealand
Moeraki Boulder, New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach, New Zealand

After the amazing experience of Moeraki, Ed and I left the east coast behind on a high and after a decent cooked breakfast at the Moeraki Boulders Cafe, we ventured west wards towards our base for the next two days, Mt Cook National Park. However en-route, we were advised by Brett, the lovely motel owner in Oamaru, to visit the Clay Cliffs at Omarama and on arrival ninety minutes later, both Ed and I were stunned at what we found. Firstly it is located on private land so a small admission fee of $5 is charged via an honesty box at the main gate and a heavily rutted, dirt road (4×4 vehicle only in the wet) takes you up to the main car park. The Clay Cliffs looked other worldly and were basically huge fluted shapes and formations made up of layers of gravel and silt, originally formed by the flow from ancient glaciers over two million years ago. They looked amazing in the blazing sun and we spent an hour soaking up the views. I could not resist capturing the main section of the cliffs in a panorama. I will definitely be bringing my workshop clients here.

Clay Cliffs, Omarama, New Zealand
Clay Cliffs, Omarama, New Zealand

Back in the Toyota RAV4 and we drove to Mt Cook National Park and to the wonderful imposing black The Hermitage Hotel which sits weirdly within the outstanding beauty of the surrounding snow capped mountains. The view from my ‘premier room’ of the sun drenched mountains was beyond compare. Here is a quick mobile phone capture and yes we will be staying here for two nights on the workshop.

Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand
Mt Cook National Park from my room in the Hermitage Hotel, New Zealand

Once checked in, Ed and I decided to drive the fifteen minute journey to Tasman Lake within the park and take the twenty minute walk to the shoreline where we spent the following two hours photographing the iceberg filled lake from sunset into night. It was absolutely magical to watch the sun set and slowly descend the lake and its surrounding snow capped mountains into darkness. Again the stars shone like diamonds. We had started the tour off with some remarkable weather.

Icebergs By Moonlight, Tasman Lake, Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand
Tasman Lake, Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand
Tasman Lake, Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand

Day Four: Sunday 16th Sept 2018
Hooker Glacier Lake – Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
After a late breakfast, Ed and I decided to walk the six mile, three hour round trip to Hooker Glacier Lake. It would be fair to describe the weather as a little challenging with wind and rain present during the ninety minute walk to the lake and whilst the strong winds made for difficult conditions to photograph in, I persevered and captured the photograph below. There was an iceberg sat just off the shoreline all alone, looking absolutely pristine and glistening a gorgeous blue/green colour. I just could not leave without even attempting to get a shot of it. I set up my rather solidly built Benro TMA48CXL carbon fibre tripod and fired off a half dozen four second exposure shots. It was madness to even try to capture images beyond 1/30 second in such conditions but I was determined. I wanted to smooth out the water out. The Benro stood firm and using all of my experience, I managed to capture a beautiful image of the iceberg. Well, you be the judge of that.

Back to the hotel for a well earned rest and a lovely meal in the hotel restaurant.

Iceberg, Hooker Glacier Lake, Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand

Day Five: Monday 17th Sept 2018
Wanaka
On this particular morning, Ed and I ventured south to the relaxing town of Wanaka where a certain ‘tree’ in the lake lay in wait for us. I had scheduled two days here which provided us with plenty of opportunities to capture the tree in the lake that is officially called ‘That Tree’. We managed to drive as far as the base of Lindis Pass at Omarama without any problems at all, which is some 100km from Wanaka but the electronic roadside signs instructed us of a road closure ahead due to snow. This surprised us so we dived into a lovely coffee shop for an hour while the road opened up again. Before long, we were driving up to the peak of Lindis Pass, fully fuelled on hot chocolate and cake. Wanaka had snow on the ground on arrival which is a reasonably rare occurrence, although we were advised by the locals that this part of the world endures a final cold blast before heading into spring properly. What this meant more importantly for Ed and I was that the mountains in the background of That Tree had fresh snow dumped on the summits but the mist had drifted in and obscured the background although this provided a wonderful opportunity to capture the tree with minimal distraction. As things would turn out, the photo of the tree below in the mist is my favourite of that tree. As we were staying in a lovely small lodge in central Wanaka, we would have plenty of opportunities to capture That Tree again.

Misty Conditions, That Tree, Wanaka, New Zealand

Day Six: Tuesday 18th Sept 2018
Wanaka
With the promise of a dry and clear start to the day, Ed and I ventured down to That Tree a good hour or so before sunrise. We were the first on the scene which allowed us to position our tripods in the very best spots. My aim regarding composition for this tree was to have it placed between the small island on the left in the distance and the landmass on the right and have the tree sit centrally which pleased me immensely. The other technique that I used was to use my very bright LED Lenser head torch to illuminate the tree which worked a treat when set against the dark blue pre-dawn sky. The leaves in particular shone beautifully.

Light Painting, That Tree, Wanaka, New Zealand
Wooden Pier, Wanaka, New Zealand
Wooden Pier, Wanaka, New Zealand

Ed and I had a wander around Wanaka and a spot of lunch before deciding to photograph the lovely wooden pier by the lakeside. Waiting patiently for a clear moment eventually paid off after which we returned to the tree once the blue skies had arrived and the snow capped mountains of Mt Aspiring National Park could be seen clearly behind it. My aim during my time in Wanaka was to capture That Tree in a variety of light, time of day and weather. To this end the mission was successful. Here’s a shot of the tree mid-afternoon.

That Tree, Wanaka, New Zealand

After the second bout of tree photography had been completed, Ed and I decided to go exploring in and around the Wanaka area and our travels took us towards the Rippon Vineyard nearby. While driving I noticed this wonderful lone Cyprus tree positioned high up on a hillside. I could not resist but stopping to spend the next hour or so photographing it while waiting for the white fluffy clouds to disappear behind it. I knew instantly that I wanted to position the tree in the middle of the snow capped mountains that jostled for position on either side. I call this image One Tree Hill.

One Tree Hill, Wanaka, New Zealand

Day Seven: Wednesday 19th Sept 2018
Wanaka – Te Anau
It was our final day in Wanaka before heading over Cardrona and past the ski resorts to Queenstown but first, to make our final stop at That Tree. Once again we arrived an hour before sunrise only to find two people already set up but not in the prime spots so Ed and I quickly took our places and waited. It wasn’t long before the colour started to build, and build and build and within thirty minutes, the most gorgeous pinks, yellows and oranges filled the sky with the most beautiful shaped clouds that I have seen in a long time. What a fantastic sunrise we experienced and on our final morning too. Talk about a stroke of luck but nonetheless, we had managed to drag ourselves out of bed nearly every morning since arriving so perhaps we deserved a little bit of luck and I happily took it too. Back to the guesthouse for breakfast.

Stunning Sunrise, That Tree, Wanaka, New Zealand

Breakfast consumed and after checking out of our lovely guesthouse, Ed and I drove down to Te Anau which is the town referred to as the gateway to Milford Sound. We were scheduled to arrive at Milford Sound by mid-afternoon but the road was closed and had been for four days due to a heavy snowfall bringing down trees on the road. It was due to reopen in the morning so we swapped our accommodation for our motel in Te Anau instead. Now the main location that I wanted to photograph in Te Anau was the T-shaped metal jetty down by the Markura Yacht Club so this is where we drove to just prior to sunset. The clouds started rolling in but the wonderful stormy looking sky with colour illuminating in it filled overhead beautifully. A couple of compositions to include the jetty from the front as per usual but including the wooden boardwalk (which seems to be omitted by almost all photographers but I left it in) and one shot from the side. Snow capped mountains formed a fantastic and dramatic backdrop and the scene was set. Shutter button pressed and the scene captured on camera. I love these two images. What do you think?

Once the sun had set, we checked into our motel for the evening followed by a gorgeous meal at the Redcliff Cafe which served stunning food. According to their website, even the cast and crew of the “Lord of The Rings Trilogy” dined there numerous times while filming in the area.

Sunset, Markura Yacht Club Jetty, Te Anau, New Zealand
Sunset, Markura Yacht Club Jetty, Te Anau, New Zealand

Day Eight: Thursday 20th Sept 2018
Te Anau – Eglinton Valley – The Chasm (Waterfalls) – Milford Sound
A much needed lie in followed by a hearty cooked breakfast at The Sandfly Cafe in Te Anau kicked off our day before making the incredibly scenic and awe-inspiring ninety kilometre journey to Milford Sound. There are several locations to stop and see en-route and as long as we arrived at Milford Sound for sunset, the rest of the day need not be hurried. First stop, Eglinton Valley. This is a huge flat grassy valley flanked by immense mountains all around. Walking beyond a hundred feet away from the road ensured that we were not troubled by the bus loads of tourists that arrived for five minutes at a time to take numerous selfies before boarding the bus once again and repeating the same exercise three miles further down the road. Ed and I were after a more immersive experience and as such, we took our time to stand, listen and watch the views all around us. You appreciate your surroundings so much more when you take the time to simply stand and enjoy it. There were heavy clouds present on this day but that suited me fine. It is not all about capturing fantastic colours, sometimes a more earthy look appeals to me more.

Eglinton Valley, Te Anau-Milford Hwy, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Next stop was a place that I never knew existed until very recently yet had driven past it ten years ago. The Chasm is a stunning collection of dramatic waterfalls that have rushed through sculpted rock over thousands of years. The sheer volume of water gives you an idea of how much rainfall the area in and around Milford Sound receives yearly. One thing to watch out for however is the Kea Parrott that squawk their way around the free car park. As cute as they look, they are incredibly mischievous as they use their beak to pull the rubber seals from the windows of campervans so if you visit in such a vehicle, keep all your windows and skylights closed and there are signs saying not to feed the birds.

The Chasm Waterfalls, Milford Sound Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
The Chasm Waterfalls, Milford Sound Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Back in the car and Ed and I arrived into Milford Sound a good couple of hours before sunset having stopped off at a couple of locations en-route. We were staying in a couple of reasonably expensive mountain view riverside chalets at Milford Lodge in Milford for the evening which afforded us two opportunities to capture Mitre Peak at both sunset and sunrise however there was no colour to be had for sunset but the scene that included the wonderfully positioned log in the water pleased me all the same.

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Day Nine: Friday 21st Sept 2018
Milford Sound – Queenstown
The five minute weather forecast at the end of the news on TV the previous evening suggested without hesitation that rain was predicted at sunrise. I could not believe it. I dearly wanted a great sunrise shot of Milford Sound as I know the potential that exists for capturing a stunning scene here. Nonetheless, Ed and I dragged ourselves out of bed and wandered down to the water’s edge pre-dawn in the hope of a little magic. In the space of thirty minutes, the clouds lifted, then disappeared swiftly followed by a glorious sunshine and when the rising sun slowly illuminated the peaks ahead of us. I was wide eyed and my jaw opened. The views were magnificent and were everything that I was hoping for and more. When the low lying mist started passing in front of Mitre Peak, I was in landscape photography heaven I do not mind admitting.

Sunrise, Mitre Peak, Milford Sound Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

After breakfast, we took a ride out on one of the Juicy Cruise boats and Roger the captain was a superb narrator in letting us all know so much more about the area of Milford Sound. My own research told me that Milford Sound is named after Milford Haven in Wales and it is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) or more on either side. Milford Sound has two permanent waterfalls, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls but thousands more pop up after a rainfall. It is said that Milford Sound is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand but we had nothing but sunshine and glorious conditions.

Once the boat trip had finished, it was time to sadly leave Milford Sound behind and venture towards the party capital of New Zealand, Queenstown. Now this is a place that I pretty much missed out on during my previous trips bar the one night in the World Sports Bar drinking the cocktail teapots back in 2003 while on the Kiwi Experience tour. So to be able to spend three whole days in Queenstown was an experience that I was quite looking forward to as well as really getting to understand what makes the town tick. As we were due to spend three days in and around Queenstown, I made the decision that our choice of accommodation was to be a three bedroom luxury hilltop home in Frankton (The Highlander), just up the road from Queenstown itself, rather than a hotel. This base would allow us to catch up on some post processing time on the laptop at the kitchen table, take a dip in the hot tub outside and generally enjoy kicking back with a takeaway meal or two. It was a beautiful home which we enjoyed tremendously.

Day Ten: Saturday 22nd Sept 2018
Queenstown – Glenorchy – Bennetts Bluff
The sun was scheduled to rise at 6.48am and having done a fair bit of research beforehand, I decided that we should visit the little peninsula that sits out looking back on the town. Here you will find the Queenstown Walking Trail/Lake Wakatipa Trail which runs alongside the shoreline where we saw plenty of joggers and cyclists undertaking their morning routine before work no doubt. Ed and I set up on the shoreline and waited for the colour to arrive and it did before long. What a way to start our three days in Queenstown.

Sunrise, Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand

After breakfast was taken back at base, we ventured out on the 50km journey to Glenorchy, which is a small settlement at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. Glenorchy was the complete opposite to Queenstown (obviously some may say) but the small community houses two pubs, a general store, a Post Office, a church and perhaps the smallest library in the world. In 2013, the census confirmed that only 363 people lived there which saw an increase of 96 people from 2006 where only 267 resided in the town. Glenorchy enjoyed a gold mining boom in the 1860’s where up to 3,000 miners descended in the area but scheelite soon took over as the mining mineral of choice. I had never heard of Scheelite myself but it is used in filaments in electric light bulbs and for hardening steel. Apparently it was of strategic importance during the First and Second World Wars due to its use in armaments and as such miners received a high price for it. The price of scheelite dropped after WWII and in the 1950’s, the area was left deserted.

I find stories about the history of places quite fascinating and it really gave me an insight as to how this small community was formed and what helped it sustain itself. During our visit however, tourism was the number one industry, with jet boats giving their passengers a thrill a minute on the lake but the most popular attraction in town was the large red wooden wharf and historic railway shed which looked resplendent in the bright afternoon sunshine and a pure blue sky.

Glenorchy Wharf & Historic Railway Shed, Glenorchy, New Zealand

After our enjoyable time in Glenorchy, we made our way back to Queenstown to capture sunset from Bennett’s Bluff, the most iconic location when wanting to capture the setting sun. We arrived and parked up in the six car lay-by on the top of a road section which lies 25 km from Queenstown and from this vantage point affords you views straight up Lake Wakatipu towards Glenorchy and what views they were. Before long the lay-by filled up with keen photographers complete with tripods. I was hopeful for a decent sunset and within the hour my wishes came true. Pinks, oranges, reds all filled the sky ahead over Glenorchy while over to my left, the sky above Mount Turnbull and the Round Peaks lit up in a blaze of red. I really did not know where to look.

Sunset, Lake Wakatipu from Bennett’s Bluff, Queenstown, New Zealand
Sunset,
Mount Turnbull (L) and the Round Peaks (centre), Queenstown, New Zealand

As the colour disappeared from the sky and the light faded to darkness, everybody left Ed and I alone and I took advantage of the opportunity to capture an image or two of some car trails heading down the road into the distance. Thankfully Ed was the obliging driver and after several takes, I finally ended up with an image that I love. As luck would have it, another vehicle was driving up the road towards me so I managed to capture both the headlights and tail lights and to cap it off, the snow capped mountains of Big Georgie, Major Peak and Minor Peak in the distance finished what was such a wonderful day. New Zealand delivered once again. What a day to discover and capture the area. It is memories like these that last a lifetime for me.

Car Trails, Big Geordie, Minor Peak and Major Peak from Bennetts Bluff, Queenstown, New Zealand

Day Eleven: Sunday 23rd Sept 2018
Queenstown – Sunshine Bay Reserve – Lake Hayes – Arrowtown
Day eleven started with the promise of another great sunrise and we could hardly believe it when we arrived at the aptly named Sunshine Bay Reserve on the shoreline of Lake Wakatiku, not 3km west from Queenstown. Within minutes of arriving, the colours grew and grew and grew and some pretty interesting clouds rolled on by which immediately caught fire. It was quite an incredible scene. I used the fishermen’s jetty as foreground interest.

Sunrise Over Sunshine Bay Reserve, Queenstown, New Zealand

Back to the house for breakfast before taking a hunch on visiting a small lake that was marked on the map just 14 km east from Queenstown called Lake Hayes. Just past Lake Hayes is the ultra quaint, charming and quirky historic Arrowtown which looked like a film set it was that perfect looking. Founded in the gold rush era of the 1860’s, 12,000 ounces of gold worth $18 million at today’s prices, were mined from the River Arrow in 1862. Arrowtown was a great little place to stop and grab some lunch but not before Ed and I spent a glorious couple of hours by the ever peaceful Lake Hayes. With multi-million dollar homes lining the lake side, there was a lovely feeling about this place. Joggers jogged, cyclists cycled and mothers walked their babies in strollers along the path that took you around the lake. I spent some time by the wooden jetty in part with the camera and in part just sitting there and enjoying watching the rowers of the Wakatipu Rowing Club rowing serenely up and down the lake in their boat. It is essential to sometimes just stop, stand still and absorb the gorgeous scenery around you, even without a camera in hand.

Lake Hayes, Queenstown, New Zealand
Lake Hayes, Queenstown, New Zealand

After lunch in Arrowtown, Ed and I ventured back through Queenstown and onto a little spot I found on the map called Bob’s Cove. It is located just 15km to the west of Queenstown and parking up in the car park among the trees had us walk ten minutes along the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu towards the peninsula. There before us stood a wonderful old wooden pier that stretched out thirty plus feet into the most gorgeous aqua coloured water I think I have ever seen. Remnants of a section of pier that had long since collapsed still survived in the form of posts in the water but what a place to spend a couple of hours. Bar the odd walker who were taking the long trail around the shoreline, we were undisturbed. This location was perfect for a spot of water photography. 

Bob's Cove, Queenstown, New Zealand
Bob’s Cove, Queenstown, New Zealand

Day Twelve: Monday 24th Sept 2018
Queenstown – Bruce Bay – Lake Matheson – Fox Glacier
Despite a lack of a decent sunrise, Ed and I paid a visit to a photogenic T-shaped wooden jetty on the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu and the twenty five second exposure using the Nisi ten stop ND filter allowed me to smooth out the water beautifully. One of the advantages of Queenstown is the seemingly endless opportunities to photograph a large area of the shoreline. This produced numerous compositions involving lots of different subjects all facing different directions so this will allow me to pick the best locations with my clients when I run my ten day workshop in May 2019.

Wooden Jetty, Queenstown, New Zealand
Wooden Jetty, Queenstown, New Zealand

After our dawn session was complete, breakfast consumed and the rental house cleaned, we headed north for Fox Glacier, a four and a half hour, 320km journey along some of the most impressive scenery in New Zealand. We took Highway 6 through Wanaka and the gorgeous Lake Hawea, through Makarora which nestles on the edge of New Zealand’s third largest national park, Mt Inspiring National Park. Beyond Makarora we then ventured along the breathtaking Haast Pass which takes you into the heart of the Southern Alps and through some of the most impressive lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, ice glaciers and dominant mountains I have ever seen. 

Having driven for nearly three and a half hours with the odd stop to admire the waterfalls, we eventually arrived at Bruce Bay, a remote coastal location that housed a car park that allowed us a few minutes to look in awe at the rimu rainforest meeting the sea. The stunning and dramatic trees with their lightly coloured slender trunks shone brightly in the spring sunshine while the waves rolled in onto the tree littered sandy beach. Fluffy white clouds punctuated the blue sky creating a stunning scene. Everyday it seemed I fell a little more in love with New Zealand.     

Rimu Rainforest, Bruce Bay, New Zealand
Rimu Rainforest, Bruce Bay, New Zealand

Having enjoyed the coast on the west side, Ed and I took to the road and arrived at our accommodation for the evening in Fox Glacier. No sooner had we checked into our hotel, dumped the suitcases down we were out again and driving a couple of km’s down the road to Lake Matheson. This lake was stunning, there are no other words for it. It is small by comparison to a lot of other lakes in New Zealand but it allowed for some excellent reflections of New Zealand highest mountain Mt Cook (3,724m) in its water due to the dark brown colour of the water which is the result of organic matter leached from the humus of the forest floor. 

We walked just fifteen minutes from the car park to a large superb purpose built wooden platform that allowed for the best viewpoint of the mountains in the distance. We were set up and ready within an hour of sunset and the light was gorgeous and soft and getting softer by the minute. Eventually and just before the sun disappeared over the rainforest behind us, I clicked the shutter button as the lakeside trees lit up like a Christmas tree. This was a stunning sunset with the trees showcasing some wonderful spring colours. Feeling suitably pleased with ourselves, Ed and I checked into our hotel for the evening in the centre of Fox Glacier.

Sunset, Lake Matheson, New Zealand
Sunset, Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Day Thirteen: Tuesday 25th Sept 2018
Lake Matheson – Hokitika Gorge – Awatuna
Today was my final full day of photography in New Zealand and more than an ounce of sadness was felt for I knew that the amazing experience will be over all too quickly but knowing this, I aimed to maximise the remaining time that I had. It was 6am and Ed and I were back on location at Lake Matheson and with the promise of a great sunrise on our penultimate day in New Zealand, I was particularly looking forward to us finishing the fortnight on a high and we were not to be disappointed. A little past 7am and the sun rose high enough from our left to flood the lakeside trees in front of us with the most beautiful light mixed with some gorgeous low lying mist that rolled in to diffuse the light. It was so magical standing there taking it all in while nature played out before us in the most subtle but spectacular way. More memories made after which breakfast at the hotel beckoned us and we duly obliged.  

Sunrise, Lake Matheson, New Zealand
Sunrise, Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Breakfast consumed and we leisurely checked out of the hotel followed by us heading to Hokitika Gorge complete with its short rainforest walk over a wooden footbridge that spanned over the river which was showcasing a stunning blue/green colour due to the glacial flow bringing down rock flour sediment. We spent an hour or so here and soaked up the gorgeous views before moving on to Greymouth for a bite to eat and then onto our lovely lodge in Awatuna and our final night in New Zealand.

Hokitika Gorge, West Coast, New Zealand
Hokitika Gorge, West Coast, New Zealand

Day Fourteen: Wednesday 26th Sept 2018
Arthur’s Pass – Christchurch Airport
A leisurely start to the morning followed by breakfast at the lodge. My suitcase was all packed and ready for the flight home and for our final day in New Zealand, a stunning three hour drive over to Christchurch Airport via the utterly amazing Arthur’s Pass was to come. Now I do not remember driving through Arthur’s Pass on my previous visit to New Zealand. If I had, I would definitely have remembered it. Arthur’s Pass climbs to more than 900 metres through Arthur’s Pass National Park and is the highest and most spectacular pass through the Southern Alps. There are some spectacular sights to enjoy including huge rocky riverbeds, numerous beech forests as well as dense rainforests that exist over deeply gorged rivers. This is one seriously impressive road.

One of the elements of Arthur’s Pass Ed and I seriously enjoyed was seeing the TranzAlpine scenic train on its journey between Greymouth on the west coast to Christchurch on the east. A journey that covers 223 kilometres one-way, taking just under 5 hours to complete. The cost to travel on one of the most scenic train journeys in the world is around $200. Because the train travels slowly, Ed and I were able to pull up by the roadside, capture a few images before heading off up the road to do the same again once it passed us. We did this a few times and even said good afternoon to the train driver on his way past at one point. The colourful yellow and red engine certainly looked a fantastic sight as it cut through the landscape.

TranzAlpine Kiwi Rail Train, Arthur's Pass, New Zealand
TranzAlpine Kiwi Rail Train, Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand
Kiwi Rail, Arthur's Pass, New Zealand
TranzAlpine Kiwi Rail Train, Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand
Kiwi Rail, Arthur's Pass, New Zealand

TranzAlpine Kiwi Rail Train, Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

An hour or so into the journey from Greymouth along Arthur’s Pass and we arrived at the Otira Viaduct Lookout which is otherwise known as Death’s Corner Lookout which personally I much prefer the sound of, We parked up in a small car park and looked down over the most amazing viaduct I have ever seen. The Otira Viaduct opened in 1999 and cost £25 million (it was on budget too) and is 440 metres in length, rises up at 35 metres in height and with a gradient of almost 12%, the trucks crawl up there slowly but the traffic behind has plenty of opportunity to overtake. But it is the engineering that has taken place in such a remote location that had me most impressed.

Otira Viaduct, Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

But time waits for no man and Ed and I had a plane to catch so back on the road we went. A quick stop for lunch at the cafe at Arthur’s Pass itself before continuing on our journey to the airport. I have to admit that I drove through some of the most spectacular scenery that New Zealand had to offer that afternoon with snow-capped mountains surrounding us. I was open mouthed.. We were both utterly gobsmacked as the sun was shining, the skies baby blue in colour with white fluffy clouds overhead, It was just magical.

Arthur's Pass, Canterbury, New Zealand
Arthur’s Pass, Canterbury, New Zealand
Arthur's Pass, Canterbury, New Zealand
Arthur’s Pass, Canterbury, New Zealand

At the airport, I have to confess that I did not want to leave. I had fallen in love with New Zealand all over again and genuinely, the two weeks spent travelling the south island around were some of my happiest for many years. Sure, New Zealand is a long, long way from my home in the UK but for all that, it adds to the sense of occasion when I arrived. The country FEELS exotic, IS exotic and on taking to the sky out of the airport at Christchurch on the Emirates A380 plane, I definitely left a piece of myself behind ready to be reunited when I return to run my ten day workshop in May 2019.

Below is a short three minute video of footage that I shot on location during this trip and I hope you enjoy watching and feel free to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel too if you wish.


HD video footage shot on location in the South Island of New Zealand – September 2018

19 thoughts on “New Zealand Photography Tour Review – Sept 2018”

    • Thank you so much for saying Sandra. I am genuinely delighted that you enjoyed looking at the photos. This has been a real labour of love for me these past ten weeks and to finally have the blog and video out there for people to read and watch is such a thrill. Thanks for letting me know and have a wonderful Christmas.

      Best festive wishes Melvin

  1. Really enjoyed reading this blog Melvyn. Your photographs are amazing and you’ve really made we want to visit New Zealand. Thanks for sharing.

    • Aww thank you Debs. That’s lovely of you to say. To be honest I find it quite an emotional experience looking back at what really was a fantastic two weeks in New Zealand. The video and the music I selected really puts a lump in my throat. New Zealand really does capture a piece of your heart, I should know, it has done it three times now, lol.

      Best wishes Melvin

  2. Beautifully designed, it was a real pleasure to look at the stunning photos and read about your adventure. Very well put together and the video is amazing, complemented with the wonderful music.

    • Thank you very much Stephen. I really appreciate you saying. I have put a lot of my heart and soul into the blog, much more than any of my previous ones but New Zealand deserved an extra special effort on my part.

      Best wishes Melvin

    • Thank you very much David. To be fair, New Zealand did all the hard work, all I had to do was to turn up and point the camera in the right direction. With views like I experienced, I really could not go wrong.

      I hope all is good and that life is treating you well.

      Best wishes Melvin

    • Many thanks Richard. IT really is an enchanting country and the vistas are just something else. I personally find photographing New Zealand an emotional experience and I am so blessed to be heading back next May.

  3. Hi Melvin,
    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog about New Zealand very much. I love your enthusiasm, amazing photos and the way you write about the birth of an image. New Zealand is beautiful! It must have been a hard work to put this trip together but we all know that you are a great organizer.
    “Markura Yacht Club Jetty” I prefer the portrait format of this image but the landscape format is perfect as well.
    “…. for I knew that the amazing experience will be over too quickly but knowing this, I aimed to maximise the remaining time that I had…” This sounds like your motto in life.😉😊
    Wishing you the best.
    Csilla

    • Hi Csilla. Ah well you know how I organise a workshop as you have attended a few now. You were absolutely correct when you write that it must have taken me quite some time to put the blog together and I felt that this was one in particular that I could not rush. It would have felt wrong to have quickly written what Ed and I experienced and if that comes through when you read it, then I am a happy man. All the happiness, health and wealth for 2019 Csilla and see you next year again 🙂

  4. That is a most interesting blog, packed with super photographs. That must have taken you a long time to put together but it made for a most enjoyable read. I think my favourite shot is the one of Mitre Peak, Milford Sound as I particularly like the foreground log with its tuft of grass. That’s what I needed on my inferior shots of the same!
    Very well done.
    ken

  5. Absolutely beautiful pictures and text. You did a impecable job with Both, as usual my friend. Well done I am enchanted with the blog and the video .. gorgeous images and music.

  6. Man, I really need to figure out how to shoot long exposure with my Nikon Coolpix P610…
    Thank you, for taking us along on the journey … NZL has been a dream destination of mine ever since the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. Maybe, one day, I’ll see it with my own eyes.

  7. Beautifully worded blog Melvin and oh my! what stunning images. I am heading to NZ in November and will be going to a lot of the same locations. I am now so excited after having read your blog and can’t wait. You have inspired me!

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