Top 10 Landscape Photography Locations in New Zealand – Whilst there is absolutely no shortage of incredible locations for landscape photography in New Zealand, planning a trip to the greatest can be a challenge. To help (or potentially hinder by giving you more places to visit) in this process, we’ve compiled a list of what we consider to be the Top 10 Landscape Photography Destinations in New Zealand. Being far to hard to pick a definitive top spot, here they are in no particular order
Lake MathesonA gem of New Zealand’s West Coast, Lake Matheson sits at the foot of the snow-capped Southern Alps, giving glorious reflections on a calm day of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. Created by the retreat of nearby Fox Glacier around 14,000 years ago, this glacial lake sits incredibly only around 5km from the ocean. Maori used the lake as a plentiful source of food, within its dark but bustling waters live Eels and many other freshwater fish. Attracting photographers from all over the world, situated in the North of the Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage area of the West Coast, the lake’s view is one of the staple images of New Zealand landscape photographers portfolio. Whether coming on a misty morning or with a crispy clear day - the budding photographer is guaranteed to find a stunning shot with the mirror-like water and through the walkway on the track to the viewpoint. Furthermore, being surrounded by pristine farmland, this location presents ample opportunities for capturing unforgettable images on the West Coast.
Nugget PointOne of the most iconic and recognisable vistas with perhaps the most well-known lighthouse in New Zealand, Nugget Point juts out to the Southern Ocean where the sky and the ocean become one. Below the cliff tops are various more rocks, whereby the Point conned its name by Captain James Cook in reference to them resembling nuggets of gold. Coming within the golden hours can provide you with unparalleled opportunities for an aesthetically lovely composition. Shooting either the Nuggets from the viewpoint perched on a cliff edge or taking a further afield view to capture leading lines toward the Lighthouse and ocean beyond, there is no shortage of grandeur. Amidst the rocks and cliffs below you can also see an abundance of famed wildlife in the region including New Zealand Fur Seals (as there is a colony below) and various species of birds. You will need a longer lens to capture them though, it’s a fair way down, around 76m above the sea!
Mt NgauruhoeMt Ngauruhoe - better known to some as Mt Doom from Lord Of The Rings - is a near-perfect example of a conical Volcano. The volcano is also New Zealand’s youngest and most active in the last few thousand years, with 70 recorded eruptions since 1839. The last eruption occurred in 1975, so not as much reason for concern nowadays! Today the volcano stands beautifully in the landscape of Tongariro National Park, besides two other volcanoes: Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro above the desert floor within an alpine region, created by many volcanic eruptions. Around the park and the mountain there are also various stunning waterfalls, rivers and lakes to photograph. Between the seasons, the landscape here changes dramatically. In the summer months, you will find arid land with incredibly hot weather at times, revealing a much rockier mountain. Conversely, during the winter months, deep snow can blanket the landscape and create a winter wonderland. On the face of the mountain when not covered in snow, the landscape is desolate - sharing many similarities with an extraterrestrial landscape. A simply stunning location to photograph which is incredibly unique to Aotearoa.
Cathedral CoveOne of the must visit the sites of the Coromandel Peninsula, Cathedral Cove was settled in by Ngāti Hei as early as the 14th century. Famous for its gigantic stone archway, sheltering the white sandy bay in and air of cathedral like majesty and looking out onto a crystal clear ocean; dramatic cliffs and pohutukawa blossoming through the summer months. Just off the beach at Cathedral Cove is a large pinnacle of pumice breccia rock known as 'Te Hoho' or Sail Rock. Over centuries this has been sculpted by wind and water - it now looks like the prow of a large ship steaming into the beach. For snorkelers and scuba divers, Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve provides a visual feast of sponge gardens, reef systems and marine life to observe. Some of the greatest example of landscapes here make use of Long Exposure techniques. Combined with the near fantasy framing the dynamism in the photograph creates extremely compelling imagery.
Moeraki BouldersMoeraki Boulders are a group of large, remarkably smooth spherical concretions on Koekohe Beach near Moeraki on the Otago coast. Sometimes referred to as ‘Dragon Eggs’, the golden light of sunrise and sunset being reflected by the waves splashing upon them gives them a flaming setting. The concretions that are exposed became so through erosion of the coastal cliffs. Even today, remaining boulders in the cliffs will at some point fall on to the beach as they come loose due to further erosion. It is estimated the boulders originally started forming in ancient sea floor sediments around 60 million years ago, and the largest boulders have taken around 4 million years to get where they lie today and to their current size. For the landscape photographer, there are few better places to explore long exposure settings and techniques. There are a significant amount of boulders to choose from, each with their own unique look and effect upon the ebbing and flowing ocean. The minimalism of the landscape provides the ability to shoot in all conditions - giving you stunning moody shots on the grey mornings and spectacularly popping colours at pristine sunrises and sunsets. It is recommended to head for the sunrise due to the popularity of the boulders with tourists, often at all other times throughout the day you will find concerning amounts of people running into your shots.
Purakaunui WaterfallsA serene three tiered waterfall set amongst the forests of the Catlin’s Forest Park - Purakaunui is suggested to be New Zealand’s most photographed waterfall. Away from the Alpine regions of the country, it is rather interesting to find such a waterfall, standing at 20m high. The walk out, although short and relaxing, provides various examples of some of New Zealand’s native bush - again giving context to the setting deep within the forest. There are various spots one can view the waterfalls from, either upon the viewpoint with a straight view or with added foreground interest on the rocks below - also easy to get to. During the autumn months, the trees surrounding the waterfalls come alive with colour and cover the rocks and stream below with yellow confetti like leaves. The added pop of colour adds extra sense to the scene and creates lovely colour harmony.
Wharariki BeachHome to some of the most spectacular coastline in Aotearoa, Wharariki boasts incredible white sandy beaches, stretching far and wide, with the astounding Archway Islands in the distance - monoliths rising out of the ocean. The list of features you will find to photograph here is extensive and amazing in one of the most inaccessible parts of the country. Reached with a pilgrimage across farmland, when you climb over the hilltop to reveal an unscathed area of coastline it feels as though you could spend an eternity here. The extensive sands retain incredible shapes and contours thanks to the strong coastal winds.
Milford SoundMilford Sound sits within Fiordland National Park in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. The park is part of Te Wahipounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Despite its name, Milford Sound is actually a fiord, not a sound. It is also the only fiord in New Zealand that is accessible by road. However, its remote location, surrounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest terrain, means its special features remain unspoilt. Māori people living in the South Island discovered Milford Sound more than 1,000 years ago. Tribes would travel there to fish and hunt around the fiord, and to collect precious pounamu. These treks from the east used traditional pathways across passes, including what is now known as MacKinnon Pass on the Milford Track. In Māori legend, Milford Sound was formed by Tu-te-raki-whanoa. He was an atua (god) who was in charge of shaping the Fiordland coast. Chanting a powerful karakia (prayer), he hacked at the towering rock walls with his toki (adze) called Te Hamo and carved it from the earth. The Māori name for Milford Sound, Piopiotahi, means “a single piopio”. When the legendary hero Maui died trying to win immortality for his beloved people, a piopio (a long-extinct native bird) was said to have flown here in mourning. Milford is yet another of the New Zealand landscape photographers must hit spots - the foreshore walk providing some of the most recognisable shots of New Zealand throughout the world. Mitre Peak rises high above the fiord giving an incredible natural symmetry to the landscape with its perfect conical construction. There are various elements of foreground interest to build your composition with, including stunning Silver Beech trees above the beach, mossy rocks exposed a lower tides and various calm pools for reflections of the mountain ranges in the background.
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