|New Zealand is one of those places that every nature photographer wants to see and photograph. It's just too beautiful to miss. Mountains, lakes, forests, geysers, glaciers, waterfalls, fjords, turquoise rivers, quaint churches, lovely towns -- New Zealand has it all. In one relatively small country, you'll find some of the best landscapes anywhere. With incredibly nice people and an ultra clean country, it's a real pleasure to be here and to capture such natural beauty. Join Jim and co-leader Renee Doyle on this wonderful photo tour that you owe it to yourself to enjoy. Your pictures will be amazing for sure.
Note: in order to get the best photographs, we may modify this itinerary based on conditions, such as inclement weather and river levels.
DAY 1. April 15, Sunday
We will meet in the lobby of Rydges Hotel Queenstown at 6:00pm. Make sure that you arrange your flight from your home to New Zealand to arrive in Queenstown on the South Island on or before April 15. Please note the loss of one day as you cross the International Dateline when traveling from North America. We will then enjoy a welcome dinner and a discussion about the upcoming photography tour. Overnight Queenstown
DAY 2. April 16, Monday
We begin this morning with a sunrise shoot on the road to Glenorchy (an area famous for footage in the Lord of the Rings) stopping at Bennetts Bluff to photograph Lake Wakatipu and it’s surrounding distant snow capped mountains. Returning to Queenstown for breakfast, we then head to Wanaka to photograph the iconic Lone Wanaka Tree at sunset. Lake Wanaka is a hidden gem of New Zealand where the lake area is framed by the South Island’s dazzling Southern Alps. The Wanaka tree grows offshore and makes a great foreground subject to the distant Alps and the Fall foliage. Overnight Wanaka.
DAY 3. April 17, Tuesday
We arise early again for a sunrise shoot at Lake Wanaka. With two shoots in this location, we have the opportunity for different lighting condition and the possibility of early morning calm reflections. As our accommodation is only minutes away we are able to shoot early and then head back to enjoy breakfast, freshen up and after a mid morning checkout we drive to Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. After checking in at our accommodation we will hike (on very well maintained tracks) to Hooker Lake, a small glacial lagoon. This offers an excellent view of Mount Cook at sunset and twilight. Depending on weather conditions this is an ideal location for night photography as well. The hike is an easy walk but will take approximately 1 ½ hours each way. Overnight Mount Cook Village.
DAYS 4 & 5. April 18, 19, Wednesday and Thursday
A sunrise shoot from an excellent vantage point taking in the nearby mountains offers superb photographic potential. After enjoying a hearty breakfast and a mid morning checkout we then take a scenic drive from Mt. Cook to Lake Tekapo where turquoise lakes and majestic mountains take your breath away at each turn. Arriving at Lake Tekapo (where we will base ourselves for 2 nights) we will have the opportunity to photograph the beautiful stone Church of the Good Shepherd. Lake Tekapo gets its turquoise color from fine rock-flour (ground by glaciers) which is suspended in the water. The Church of the Good Shepherd was built in 1935 for pioneer families. Its altar window frames a perfect view of the Southern Alps. In June 2012 Lake Tekapo was named the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve. The skies here are almost completely free from any light pollution offering excellent stargazing. By staying in Lake Tekapo 2 nights we will have several opportunities (weather permitting) to capture the Milky Way and possibly shoot some star trails.
During the full day at Lake Tekapo we will set up a room to conduct a Photoshop and post-procession session. Please bring any images that you would like to have critiqued. You will also have time to enjoy some of the short hikes around the lake at your leisure. Overnight Lake Tekapo.
DAY 6. April 20, Friday
After our last sunrise shoot at Lake Tekapo, we head to the coast of Otago and Koekohe Beach, near the fishing village of Moeraki to photograph the mysterious Moeraki Boulders. No one can say for sure why these boulders lay here or why some are smooth and round while others are porous, but they offer many photographic opportunities. As the tide swells in around the boulders we are able to capture the smooth water motion circling them. This is a great place to experiment with neutral density filters and long exposures. Some of the 5 million year old rocks have now collapsed and broken open and these also offer photo opportunities. The Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, believe that these boulders are magical kumara potatoes and calabashes which fell out of a mythical canoe Arai-te-uru. Wet weather shoes are recommended but gumboots are available for purchase locally and are cheap if you do not wish to bring any with you. Overnight B&B Oamaru
DAY 7. April 21, Saturday
We have the opportunity to once again shoot the Moeraki Boulders at sunrise and twilight. This gives us the chance for different types of lighting conditions. After breakfast overlooking Koekohe Beach and mid morning checkout we drive a short distance to Nugget Point. Nugget Point Lighthouse is aptly named as it is surrounded by a scattering of rocky islets – nuggets. From the point you'll amazing views along the coastline in both directions. Along the shore you can see fur seals and sea lions lolling and playing in rock pools. Roaring Bay is an easy walk and offers the chance to hide and wait for yellow-eyed penguins. Early morning and sunset are the best times for viewing. The lighthouse itself with its wood fenced path leading up to it offers up great photo opportunities. Nugget Point Lighthouse was built from 1869-1870 and was first lit on July 4, 1870. Overnight Clutha.
DAY 8. April 22, Sunday
We continue to follow our routine of an early morning shoot, followed by breakfast and a mid morning checkout before heading to the Catlins. The scenery around us changes and we sit back to enjoy the beautiful rolling hills of the Catlins area. A short hike takes us to Purakaunui Falls – a beautiful 3-tiered waterfall that is amongst New Zealand’s most photographed waterfalls. Tonight we will be lodging in two houses and a B&B in amongst the rural hills of the Catlins area. The House on the Hill offers beautiful views and wonderful photographic opportunities followed by an evening with dinner provided. The house is very comfortable and offers a games room as well as a wood combustion heater for coziness. Bathrooms are shared bathrooms but there are two in the houses. We have chosen this location to offer a variety to the norm in your New Zealand adventure and to be close to waterfalls versus having to drive an extra hour each way to reach our waterfall destinations.
DAYS 9 & 10 April 23, 24, Monday and Tuesday
This morning we photograph McLean Falls in diffused light -- perfect for long exposures -- before making our way back to Queenstown. After lunch afternoon we will take the Skyline Gondola above beautiful Queenstown for breathtaking views. It is the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere and offers spectacular 220 degree panoramic views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak and of course Queenstown.
On the 27th we get up early for a sunrise shoot around Lake Wakatipu before heading to beautiful Arrowtown, which will be stunning in fall colors. This delightful historic town will leave you enchanted. The old historic buildings nestled in amongst tall rich color will have you snapping away.
This afternoon will be at your leisure to explore the beauty of Queenstown and perhaps do that little bit of shopping before me meet in the lobby at 6:30pm to head into town for dinner.
DAY 11 & 12 April 25, 26, Wednesday and Thursday
We have the opportunity for one last sunrise shoot around the Queenstown area.
After breakfast we will drive to Milford Sound where we will spend the next 2 nights. Staying at the Milford Sound Lodge will offer us the opportunity to photograph in this beautiful part of New Zealand during the golden hours without the hours of bus travel in and out of the Sound. Our cabins are only a 15 minute walk to the seashore or a two minute drive, so we will have plenty of flexibility and opportunities to photograph in this stunning location. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. In any weather you will find Milford Sound breathtaking. The mountain peaks scrape the sky, waterfalls are plentiful and flow even more magnificently after rain, and it often does rain, and the fiords' cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters. During our stay we will enjoy a 2 ½ hour Milford Sound Nature Cruise and there will be opportunities for those who wish to enjoy a hike to do so.
DAY 13 April 27, Friday
After one last sunrise shoot in Milford Sound we make our way back to Queenstown arriving late afternoon. Tonight is at your leisure but Jim and Renee will be available for a critique or for a relaxed discussion of photography.
DAY 14 April 28, Saturday: Departure
Your transportation to the airport can be arranged at the hotel.
IMPORTANT: This tour will have moderate day hikes of approximately 30-90 minutes for some of the shooting locations. Also, if it is raining with potential for good conditions to prevail for photography, we may find ourselves doing some of these walks while it is still raining in hopes of the better weather arriving by the time we reach our destination. If you have certain physical limitations, please send a note to Jim to discuss this.
TOUR COST: $5750. Includes all accommodations in double rooms on a shared basis, all breakfasts, welcome and farewell dinners, dinner at the Catlins accommodation, luxury van, local driver, gondola ride in Queenstown, boat ride in Milford Sound (for the Milford Sound extension), photo instruction, critiques on demand, Photoshop instruction.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: $990
Not included: International and domestic airfare, meals not listed in the paragraph above, items of a personal nature, all drinks, alcohol, passport and visa costs (if applicable), tips for local service providers, and travel insurance.