New Zealand has long been a ‘bucket list’ destination for photographers around the world. It has often been described as one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, scoring in the ‘Top 10’ on many travel and photography websites. My wife and I have been very fortunate to be able to visit New Zealand a number of times. Our most recent three trips (2013 to 2018) were focused on doing field work for a photography eBook (New Zealand Tip-to-Tip) which we just published at the end of October 2018. Since our photographs were taken over a number of years, they were captured using both Nikon full frame gear, as well as Nikon 1 equipment.
Spending about 3 months driving throughout the country and photographing a wide range of locations, does create many personal perspectives. The objective of this article is to share some of our experiences, as well as some of our favourite images.
The North Island and South Island are very different experiences. The North is more heavily populated with about ¾ of the country’s population, and is more cosmopolitan in nature. My wife and I tend to avoid cities like the plague when we travel, much preferring rural and more natural settings.
There are a few spots on the North Island that we quite enjoy. These include Cape Reinga, located at the tip of the North Island. It has one of the most frequently photographed lighthouses in New Zealand, along with some rugged hillsides and views of an expansive sand beach.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a popular tourist attraction, but does offer some interesting photographic opportunities due to the presence of trentepohlia in the area. This bright orange alga can give images a surreal appearance.
There are a number of good surfing areas on the North Island and we spent some time in the Raglan area photographing some of the beaches, as well as a few surfers.
The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour is a ‘must do’ for many visitors to New Zealand, especially if they are fans of the Lord of the Ring trilogy and the Hobbit series. While not fans of the movies, my wife and I both enjoyed the tour. It was a great exercise in terms of framing and capturing images very rapidly in order to avoid getting other tourists in them. It should be noted that photographs captured onsite cannot be used for any commercial gain, and permission needs to be obtained from the operators of the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour to use images in a public manner.
There are opportunities to get off the beaten path on the North Island. One of our favourite drives is on the Whangaehu Valley Road. It provides some classic views of New Zealand farmland.
The Coromandel Peninsula is relatively close to Auckland and can be a photographic treasure trove.
A drive on the Rangipo Desert Road can is a surreal experience as you quickly transition from lush green grass to desert. This is caused by soil conditions, not a lack of rainfall.
The South Island has many great photographic spots. Huangshi Chinese Garden at Queens Gardens in Nelson is a tranquil setting that will calm your spirit and energize your creativity.
The Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki can be crowded with visitors, but it does provide interesting scenery to photograph. This location is best visited at high tide during strong seas and winds.
While Queenstown is recognized as an adventure sports mecca and may not be of specific interest to some folks, there is some spectacular scenery in the general area. This is especially true if you head towards Wanaka and the Haast River Valley, or drive north to Glenorchy.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a well-known spot for mountain photography as well as for hiking and mountaineering.
Given its location on the southeastern end of the South Island, the Catlins are often overlooked by visitors. This is one of our favourite areas in New Zealand with its waterfalls, rugged coastline, and wildlife.
Slope Point is the most southern tip of the South Island. Trees planted by sheep farmers have been warped into a strange tangle of limbs by the brutal winds that strike these headlands.
A unique experience on the South Island is the Pelorus Mail Boat Tour, which visits isolated homesteads and sheep stations in the Marlborough Sounds, delivering mail and critical supplies.
There are a number of out of the way beaches along the Tasman Bay coastline, often reached by single lane gravel roads. These can often lead to interesting image opportunities.
Te Anau has its own unique beauty, and is often used as a base for visits to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.
You’ll find foot bridges in many parts of New Zealand. The Old Ghost Road is a popular tramping and mountain biking area.
I think a person could visit New Zealand a hundred times and still only scratch the surface in terms of seeing everything that this beautiful country has to offer. We featured 89 locations and over 400 photographs in New Zealand Tip-to-Tip.
Article is Copyright 2018 Thomas Stirr. Images are Copyright 2013, 2016 and 2018 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!