Last month my son Mitch and I spent 2 weeks in New Zealand. We aim to catch up a few times each year to explore our shared passion for Photography … and coffee, banana bread, dark chocolate, schnitzels and a developing taste for dark beer! Usually it's a road trip, camping and hiking in Oz - this time flights to Queenstown to explore the south west of the South Island.
Mitch had done most of the planning this time, scheduling this trip for Winter to hopefully maximise "snow opportunities" … suffice to say it was definitely "maximised" ! 😃 More on this later!
Within 10 minutes of jumping in the hire car at Queenstown Airport, with a lengthy drive south to Te Aanu ahead that evening, we'd pulled over to shoot the sun setting on the mountains … Queenstown's famous Remarkables … it was going to a very long 2 weeks!
Our plan was to target just a few key locations - Fiordland, Lake Matheson, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Wanaka. Quite a bit of driving which meant lots of time for catching up, music and podcasts!
We'd also arranged to spend a day with William Patino, exploring his "backyard" of Fiordland and taking in Williams approach and thoughts on Photography. I first met William back home, when he was just getting into Photography - officially he was still an Air Con Technician, but it was obvious he had a rare gift for Photography and a passion to match! Mitch and I were so keen to spend the day with him!
Just as we arrived in Te Anau the first major weather "event" hit … we had to quickly rearrange accommodation plans, and re-schedule our workshop with Will.
We headed north for an o'night stop at Cromwell, hoping that the "event" would send some snow to Lindis Pass. A great surprise along the way was The Coffee Bomb - a roadside van run by 2 lovely ladies - GREAT Coffee! Checking out the pass that afternoon, there was some, but not so much. Next morning, more on hope than anything else, we jumped in the car a couple of hours before sunrise and headed back to Lindis Pass. We were surprised with some lovely sunrise glow, a little extra snow and the satisfaction of watching a sunrise unfold in such a stunning location!
Next up was the long drive over Haast Pass and up to Fox Glacier to hopefully capture some nice shots of Lake Matheson.
Such a beautiful drive … but first Coffee! We found an awesome café in a new estate of Albert Town - great coffee and a great late breakfast! During our camping road trips back home, it’s not uncommon for us too make a “quick” 1 hr “detour” for good coffee!
Back to the drive … Lakes Hawea and Wanaka, Thunder Creek Falls, Fantail Falls and the Blue Pools - all lovely spots, in which to took opportunities to explore and shoot. After emerging on the West Coast, we were greeted by falling Snow at sea level! Amazing!
Lake Matheson was so much more stunning in real life than the pics I'd seen on social media! Absolutley Breathtaking! And to quote a good Aussie movie … “How’s the Serenity!” 😃
We made the most of our time there - scoping out potential locations and compositions that afternoon, then heading back there a couple of hours before sunrise to shoot some Astro. We were again greeted with a lovely sunrise as well. We had one technical hitch in getting to the lake that morning - the doors on our trusty Subaru were frozen shut!!! The ice on the windows so thick!!! So lucky we packed thermals, gloves, extra beanies, extra thick socks ……
Back again later in the day for sunset and some more Astro, then back to Neve Café for a couple of beers and their now famous "Cheese Burger" Pizza … just what we needed!
Next on our hit list was Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park. We could see it from Fox Glacier, roughly 36 klms as the crow flies, by car … 5 1/2 hours! Plenty of time for a chat, chocolate, some podcasts and music! Another great coffee find back in Wanaka … The Coffee Shack, a converted garage!
We had planned to do the Hooker Valley Walk - unfortunately closed. We explored other options around the park (more Plan B’s) - though not really that difficult to find beautiful scenes with Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman framing the valley!
Back to Te Anau now for our workshop with Will - something we had been looking forward to for months!
Like most of our mornings, it started a couple of hours before sunrise, meeting at Will's home and jumping into his van, heading off into Fiordland. When we were here the week before, the weather "event" had caused the closure of the road to Milford Sound, and had kept it closed for most of the time since. Unfortunately, due to avalanche hazard warning it was still closed, despite the weather being much better.
A quick "team" meeting with Will and we mapped out a Plan B for the day, starting with sunrise at Lake Gunn, with a stunning mountain backdrop - I know - EVERYWHERE in NZ has a stunning mountain backdrop! A few of hours exploring deep into the lush Fiordland Forests … mountain streams and sun stars; misty, moss covered trees, all expertly guided by Will.
The day was capped off with a late evening flight over to Doubtful Sound from Te Anau, with Will skilfully directing our pilot to get the best angles and views along the way!
With windows open most of the time, I’d forgotten how cold it gets at that altitude … So if you do it, don’t forget your beanies!
Our penultimate stop was Wanaka. Again our planned hike along the Rob Roy Glacier Track was closed. Another Plan B required. We ventured out next morning (yes a couple of hours before sunrise!), heading west to do a sunrise hike. There was some light rain that we thought would clear … wrong!
The further we went the heavier it became, and the temperature dropped. Soon, it looked like we were in a Star Wars movie, zooming through the galaxy onboard the Millennium Falcon!
So much Snow! SO MUCH SNOW!!
We decided to make the most of it, looking for scenes along the Haast Pass road, which, strangely enough we had all to ourselves! 😃
Hands frozen, the poor Subaru again frozen, but SO MUCH SNOW!
Amazing experience! Really Cool! 😃
Time to head back to Queenstown … our 2 weeks was nearly over. Just enough time to squeeze in another forest hike (95 Floors according to Buffy, my iPhone!) and shoot the Remarkables on sunset and sunrise! Oh, and some great food and a Trivia competition at the Frankton Arm Tavern!
This was the first time I'd been to NZ with "photographer eyes" … stunning scenery everywhere, hard to not see everything in terms of "composition"! Our day with Will was just what we had hoped for - If you ever get the opportunity to be part of one of his workshops - do it!
Big thanks to Mitch for all the time and effort he put into the trip - I'm so fortunate that we are able to have these times to share with each other!
Until our next trip Mitch!