View Full Version : New Zealand advice and locations

12-Dec-2005, 18:58
Hi again everyone. I have a trip scheduled for New Zealand in less than 2 weeks. We'll be there for 2 weeks. Can anyone give me some recommendations on locations for landscape shooting or recommendations on how to go about the whole thing? I'll have my Tachihara, a Mamiya 6, and a Canon 20D. I think my wife will primarily use the latter.

I'll be bringing a *lot* of film - color slides, negs, and B&W. Does it make sense to find someone there who will develop for me or should I bring the exposed film back with me too?

I'd love to hear your thoughts - especially from some people who have been or who live in NZ. I'm very excited about the trip and would love to capture some stunning landscapes. Becuase of the nature of the trip, I'll be able to take photos wherever/whenever I want, but I'll be somewhat tied to a schedule once we make one, so lighting may not match up with the ideal time to take a particular photo.

Thanks everyone,

12-Dec-2005, 19:18
Hey Jon I don't have any advice to give but I am intending in going there myself in 2007. I'd be interested in hearing what others have to recommend and if you could, please write back and let us know how your trip went one you get back. Enjoy!

12-Dec-2005, 22:10
Hi Jon,

I was there about 2 months ago. We drove from Christchurch to Wanaka down to Queenstown. Then from Queenstown to Milford Sound. Coming from Australia I was completely amazed by how 'mountainous' the place compared to 'good o flat Australia'. It was Lord of the Rings scenery throughout. I shot with a toyo AII with a 90/210mm. You need to bring your own film if you shoot large format. I bought some 120mm in Christchurch and Queenstown. If I had to recommend one part of the trip it would be the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound. It is utterly spectacular. Weather was mild(5C-25C). Should warmer now. I brought wet weather gear although it didn't rain much during the trip. I brought stuff back to develop in Australia and put the film through carry on. Got x-rayed and it came out fine. I think there is a prolab in Christchurch where they might even develop 5x4


Ralph Barker
12-Dec-2005, 23:00
I spent a couple of weeks on the north island about 15 years ago and loved it. Lots of nice places for landscape work. When driving around in the mountains, pay close attention to the vegetation in the gullies and ravines - the ferns and other plants there look almost prehistoric. The south island, which I wasn't able to visit, is completely different in character, I understand, but also very beautiful.

You might also want to post your inquiry on the APUG forum (http://www.apug.org/forums/home.php), as I believe there are a couple of New Zealanders who post there.

12-Dec-2005, 23:08
Thanks for the replies so far. I failed to mention that I plan to cover both islands, and am currently torn between trying to see a little of everything or more of fewer things (my wife leans towards the former and I'm torn either way). When the trip comes to a close, I will be sure to post my experiences and perhaps some scans.

Clayton Tume
13-Dec-2005, 02:46

I'm in Wellington at the bottom of the North Island. As Ralph says there's plenty of interesting stuff to photograph in the north but if I was on limited time I would highly recommend spending more time in the south. The scenery down there is simply spectacular. The route Li-hsia took is not to be missed, if I was only going to one place that would be it.

The interesting thing about NZ is there's a bit of everything, mountains, lakes, volcanoes, geysers, glaciers, the list goes on and on......and great fishing if you have time.


Scott Bacon
13-Dec-2005, 07:26
You're in for a real treat! My wife and I honeymooned in NZ in '99 and
absolutely fell in love with the place - great people and food - spectacular and
diverse scenery. I've been trying to figure out a way to get back ever since. I
have a
<a target="_blank" href="http://baconphoto.com/travel/1999-nz/index.shtml">
travelogue</a> on my website and would be happy to respond to questions via

Alex Ragen
13-Dec-2005, 07:53
I completely second Li-hsia's advice and add the following : don't waste time on the North Island. The South Island is where you want to be and all the places Li-hsia mentions are spectacular.
We flew from Rotorua on the North Island to Queenstown (stopping off in Christchurch) and we said that if the plane had turned right around and taken us home from there that would have been enough beauty for a lifetime, and we thought ourselves so lucky that we were able to get off the plane in Queenstown and spend a week in the area.
I developed my 120 E6 at Ken's Lab in Christhcurch (http://www.kens.co.nz/), a few blocks north of Cathedral Square. It took only a few hours.
have a great trip!

Joffre Swait
13-Dec-2005, 09:12

I spent a week on the South Island this past summer. The North Island has its attractions, but I found the western side of the southern island to be far more dramatic. Imagine draping the Amazon rain forest over very steep (pyramidal) mountains, and that's what the southern end of the South Island is like. That's the Milford Sound and associated region ... The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound is spectacular, you can spend several days doing just that. Return for different light conditions, different times of day.

The Catlin mountains on the eastern side of the South Island are interesting, but quite pastoral. I'm glad I went there, but I wouldn't return for photographic purposes.

If you've got questions, please feel free to write me offline.

Joffre Swait

Howard Berg
13-Dec-2005, 11:38
I agree with Scott's and Joffre's advice. I was on sabbatical in 1996 in Hamilton (N.I.) and spent weekends driving to different parts of the North Island--quite beautiful. The last two weeks we packed the car and toured the South Island, which is less populated, and remarkable in that one can drive a relatively small distance and see dramatic changes in the landscape. The Kaikoura region in the NE of the SI is nice for a dramatic image of the mountains edging up to the ocean (and sea life, the Kaikoura peninsula). And the west coast of the SI, the Pukaiki coast, is unique, with a tropical microclimate (palms) at Pancake Rocks in the National Park--those limestone formations are great LF studies. Further down the west coast you will have a chance to take a (short) hike to two glaciers (Franz-Josef and Fox), which are in a region of temperate rain forest. As the other responses indicate, the drive from Wanaka (through Queenstown, Te Anu) to Milford is not to be missed. Expect rain at Milford Sound. There are tremendous LF photography opportunities, and plan to bring your exposed film home for development. The exchange rate is favorable for US travelers, and the family-owned motels are well-kept. Two-lane roads throughout--watch out for the sheep! If you want any more advice, contact me offline...


Rob Hale
13-Dec-2005, 15:11
Hi Jon

A quick kind of round up for you. As a North islander ( Bay of Plenty ) I would suggest you bear in mind that from top to bottom we are a 1250 miles ( 2000 km ), no great distance on motorways but a rather more arduous when catching ferries between islands.

So this leaves some options :-

1./ do both islands and bring a light quick automatic camera and use it to take notes, al la sketch book and use the pics to plan your second ( and dare I hope longer trip ). Fly into Auckland and drive up - ( hmm how far you are flying, if you are not a seasoned long distance flyer and you coming down from up north then you should take a break before driving too far – um – some where pleasant just out side AKL. Kaipara harbour north and on the west coast ) - north at least as far as the Bay of Islands before turning round and heading south. On the way back at Auckland you will have to decide “classic tourist” or country side. If you are into landscapes then go round North Cape and head down into Hawkes Bay back to Taupo and south to Wellington. That’s North Island once over very lightly. Cross over on the ferry and head for Christchurch. If you went round North Cape then head down the west coast from the ferry, loop round the bottom, Milford Sound etc and up to Queenstown and fly out from Queenstown.

2./ Bring all your gear and take a much slower and shorter trip. Li-hsia trip is a good option. Bear in mind that if you are doing LF then at 3 shots a day you will not cover any great mileage ( I allow at least an hour per LF scene ).

3./ Do the west coast starting from Christchurch, again take your time and make some stunning pictures.

Film is not cheap here so bring what your need. I carry on all film and get hand inspection, now while hand inspection is a right in the USA it is not in most other places including NZ but if ones request hand inspection politely then you will get it ( I have not been turned down yet ). Kodak HD 35 mm is normally availably in the duty free at Auckland before you go through customs. Now then customs and MAF. DO PLEASE READ what the bits of paper say – our customs and MAF mean what they say and any food that’s on the lists will give you grief if its in your luggage, your incoming luggage will x-rayed and dogged.

Labs have been recommended, for ULF up to 11 inches wide C41 any length there is a lab. here in the bay which I use – not had a problem yet.

What ever you decide on have a brilliant trip.


14-Dec-2005, 00:45
Thanks so much for the input, everyone. I'm rethinking our previous tentative itinerary based on your recommendations. I may contact some of you off board as I think all this through.


Paul H
14-Dec-2005, 15:59
I'm from Wellington in the south of the North Island.

I would strongly recommend you do one island or the other. Two weeks is not enough time to cover both islands, especially when you take into account the inevitable jet lag, lack of motorways and having to drive on the correct (LEFT!) side of the road.

Despite what some say, the North Island is beautiful too, but it is different (and warmer). You can head north from Auckland to the Bay of Islands and all the way up to Cape Reinga, then back down and across to the Coromandel, then down the east coast. Either go straight to the Hawkes Bay, or follow the road round to East Cape, Gisborne and then Hawkes Bay. You can the go over the Napier Taupo road and explore the volcanic plateau. If you have time, you can either go down to the Wairarapa and across to Wellington, or you could go further west towards Taranaki / Raglan then back to Auckland.

If you decide to go south, either fly direct to Christchurch or you could take an internal flight to say Nelson and pick up a rental. The far north western tip of the SI is very pleasant, especially Nelson Lakes, Abel Tasman, and even right out to Farewell Spit. Then head south down the West Coast (bring some wet weather gear). Take your time, there are plenty of sites here, including the bush (forest), old gold mines, glaciers, etc. Then across to Central Otago and to Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound. Then across to Dunedin and up to Christchurch.

Bring your film with you. You could get it developed in the major centres (Christchurch, Auckland, Wellington), but it will be cheaper back home. Make sure you keep it in your hand-luggage. DO NOT BRING IN ANY FOOD, not even food you were given in the plane. Expect that wooden tripods, walking shoes, etc. may be taken for cleaning. Watch the sun, the burn times are very short. Enjoy the bush walks, but do be careful and make sure you are prepared as the weather can change very quickly.

Have fun, and feel free to contact me if you wish.

ian leeden
14-Dec-2005, 18:59
Hi Jon,
If you try and do both Islands you`ll spend far too much time travelling and miss out on taking photos,
I love photographing in both Islands but if one had to choose it would have to be the South.... and flying into Christchurch will save you time.
The most dramatic landscape that is easily accessable is Fiordland and the south west coast..... with its stunning bush and mountains and glaciers. The central lakes ..Queenstown ,Wanaka, Hawea, Ohau, Tekapo, and Pukaki are all spectacular and are all reatively close to each other they could keep you occupied for your whole trip and longer !!!
I`m a large format user based in Central Otago, feel free to contact me offline.


David Fisk
29-Dec-2005, 20:55
If you get a chance, take a day and drive through the Catlins in the far south of the South Island. You can drive via Queenstown to Invercargill to Dunedin and get in most of the sights if you leave at 6 a.m. Highlights include Curio Bay, Niagara Falls ;-), McLean Falls, Lake Wilkie, Purakaunui Falls, Nugget Point and others. E-mail me and I'll give you more details.

2-Nov-2006, 23:37
So Jon, how was your trip? Can you share some of your experience as we have another forum member looking to go.

Brent McSharry
4-Nov-2006, 01:11
I also highly recommend the west cost of the south island, as well as the Fjordland region (which includes Milford sound) and Abel tasman (North West of south island). You will find some pro photo developers in Auckland and perhaps Christchurch.

5-Nov-2006, 16:36
Saulius - I've replied to his topic. Thanks, Jon

John Quinn
6-Nov-2006, 03:14
I spent two weeks in NZ last April. We spent all the time in the bottom half of the South Island ( between Christchurch and Milford Sound)-and the 2 weeks were not nearly enough time. We drove a circular route - Christchurch through Arthurs Pass to Greymouth, then down the west coast past Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers and on to Wanaka. We then went on to Queenstown, had a side trip to Glenorchy and Paradise, and back to Queenstown. We then went to Te Anu to walk the Milford Track ( fabulous) we then went back to Milford Sound, then back to Queenstown. We then drove back to Christchurch through the Canterbury area - to complete the circle.
This route worked well - we saw a variety of scenery and had a multitude of photo ops.
The roads are excellent, there is not very much traffic - so you can just amble along if you wish. People are very friendly and courteous. Motels are excellent, and inexpensive in comparison with US,UK and Australian prices.
Film is expensive and difficult to find - so bring it with you.
Immigration and Customs people were very friendly and polite.
We only saw a small part of NZ - but, I felt a bit frustrated in that the 2 weeks were not nearly enough time to see all we wished to see - I could have spent a week just going from Q'town to Paradise and Glenorchy and back -there is so much to see and photograph.
There is a guy on the Queenstown wharf who sells prints - he uses a 6 X 17 - he has some nice shots, I got talking to him and he was very helpful re sites.
If you go to Q'town dont miss the chairlift - fabulous views of the Remarkables - I missed - and I still regret it. Will have to go back again SOON.
Contact me if you need any further info re this route.

Craig B
6-Dec-2006, 12:06
I live in NZ so hopefully I can help here.
I shoot 4X5 and find it hard to buy film and get film processed.
To buy 4X5 film in NZ try Photo and Video international loacted in CHCH (www.photo.co.nz) I get the film sent to me on the west coast so you should be able to do the same to another part in the country. Wellington and Auckland also have places to buy 4x5 film but dont expect to buy it anywhere else.
To process I send all my film to Imagelab in CHCH (imagelab.co.nz) who process it and send it back. they do a good job. There is a Imaglab in wellington as well. In Auckland try PCL.

If you want to make the most of photography in NZ be prepared to go out in all weather bring gum boots (wellingtons?) and a large water proof unbrella so you can take images in the rain. I would recommend a traveling in a campervan to make the most of your trip and stay close to great shots that require an early start.

Feel free to ask some questions and Ill see if I can help