Thursday, December 5, 2013


End of November, I left for a two week photo-flying adventure to New Zealand. While we had been to New Zealand on a similar trip before (Flying Camper trip 2006), we this time decided to limit ourselves to the South Island.

Rather than carrying my normal heavy DSLR equipment, I only took two mirror-less Fujifilm cameras and a few small lenses and a lightweight tripod. More info on the testing of the pre-production Fujifilm X-E2 on the New Zealand trip, can be found in this previous blogpost.

On trips like these we typically also rent a single engine aircraft beside the normal rental car to travel around the places we visit; making it a "photo-flying adventure. This gives me the opportunity to do some aerial photography of the same places I do landscape photography of. Rather than flying high wing Cessna's which we normally rent, this time we went for a low wing Piper Warrior III. This meant I had to shoot through the plexi windows rather than an open window in the Cessna. Not ideal...

My wife, who also holds a pilots license, is the one who does most of the flying, while I concentrate on the aerial photography part. 

Bench at Lake Tekapo

Even though the road trip was separate from the flying part, I will be combining both in  a single blogpost as most places were photographed from the air and on the ground.

We started the trip in Christchurch  the largest city of the South Island, which is clearly still recovering from the 2011 earthquakes that killed almost 200 people. One of the buildings that was completely destroyed was  the Cathedral in the center of town. Although the new church, made of cardboard and plastic, seems to be not very much liked by the majority of the citizens, it makes for an interesting architectural photo subject. 

Cardboard Cathedral Christchurch, NZ

Leaving Christchurch, our main landscape photography interest were five large lakes in the centre of the South Island. The first one being Lake Tekapo; known for its small church ( Church of Good Shepherd) and beautiful lupin flowers at this time of the year.

Lake Tekapo church with lupins

Just to the West of it, you'll find the beautiful turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki, which to the North encloses part of the Mount Cook National Park. 

Lake Pukai with the Southern Alps in the background

While we stayed at Aoraki-Mount Cook village, we did a few interesting hikes; one being a 4 hour trekking trip along the Hooker trail to eventually reach the amazing Hooker lake at the foot of Mount Cook; New Zealand's highest mountain (3754m). A must do if you are in the area!

View on Mount Cook from the Hooker valley

The next lake we spend some time at, was Lake Wanaka; a place which is well known by landscape photographers for its single tree in the lake. Not wanting to duplicate the  images, I would like to refer the readers to my Pic(k) of the week 48. Trying to come up with something different, I also shot some of the trees on the shoreline of the lake.

Lake Wanaka at sunset

Looking for a more quiet place to stay at, we made Lake Hawea just to the East of Wanaka, our home for the night. 

Flying over Lake Hawea

Further to the West, one finds the adventure town of New Zealand, Queenstown

Queenstown aerial

Given the surrounding mountains, the approach is a bit more demanding but very scenic!

Long final Queenstown

The master plan was to find our way through the valleys and eventually end up on the West coast. After the 2006 visit, places like Milford Sound were high on the list, but low cloud in the valleys unfortunately meant this could not be done safely…

Rather than ending up in the Northern part of the country near Hokitika, we eventually landed 1000km South in Dunedin. One of my preferred aerial photography subjects are textures in fields like this one below. Something that clearly can only be seen from the air and that would be a non-event from the ground!

Strange field pattern North of Dunedin

Blueskin bay, North of Dunedin

On the East coast near Moeraki, between Dunedin and Oamaru; we spend some time at the Katiki Point Wilflife reserve. Around sunset, we witnessed numerous seals and yellow eyed penguins coming back from their day at see.

Yellow eyed pinguin near Moeraki

The Moeraki boulders, are unusually large spherical boulders which have been formed over 4 to 5 million years on the seabed. Even though photographing them at low tide is far better, high tide was unfortunately my only option! 

Moeraki boulders

Although the weather held us from completing the full planned route, it has been another successful photo-flying adventure! The South Island of New Zealand, is likely after Iceland, my personal nr 2 of visited countries for landscape photography.

Clouds drifting into Akroea

Remember; a good traveler has no fixed plans and has no intend on arriving" Lao Tzu


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