It’s safe to say that landscape photography has taken me to some truly incredible places around the world, from the remote forests of Canada to the cutting glaciers of Iceland – environments that overwhelm, humble and inspire, all in one breath.
But of all the places I have visited, it’s New Zealand that continues to captivate me the most. From the mystery of Fiordland to the stunning heights of Aoraki, there’s always something new to discover and learn when travelling and shooting in this beautiful country.
To give you an idea of my current process and share what I’ve learnt so far, here’s a behind the scenes breakdown of my top camera gear, best lenses, and landscape photography tips for shooting in New Zealand.
My landscape photography equipment essentials
Currently I’m using a Sony A7Riii, along with a Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens, and the Sony 100-400mm lens. As a landscape photographer, the key thing I look for in a camera is a large Dynamic Range (DR), in-built stabilisation (IBIS) and high resolution (MP). A high DR means the camera can capture great detail without the need to take multiple exposures. I find the A7Riii’s full-frame sensor and BIONZ X image processor delivers highly detailed, low-noise stills – plus it has a very durable, weather-sealed body and great Image Stabiliser, making it perfect for rugged travel environments. I don’t use a tripod or any filters – I prefer to shoot entirely handheld, as it gives me more creative freedom in the field when composing.
My other regular equipment includes waders for crossing rivers, boot spikes for slippery surfaces, inflatable pack raft for rivers and lakes, and camping gear. It’s vital you know what kind of weather you’ll be shooting in so you can come prepared, stay safe, and give yourself the best chance of success.
My top landscape photography tips for New Zealand
1. Each season has something to offer
Summer is good for wild flowers and long daylight hours. Winter is great for ice/snow with softer light through the day. Autumn is common for pre-season snow storms and more comfortable temperatures than winter (there’s not a large amount of native deciduous trees here).
2. Weather the storm
Don’t shy away from adverse weather conditions, this is often when the magic happens, particularly at the beginning or end of rain/storms. Plenty of rain forecast? Head to Milford Sound and jump on a cruise – you’ll thank me later.
3. Give yourself plenty of time
Allow plenty of time when visiting the South Island and don’t cram in too much in a short amount of time. Quality is better than quantity. Select a couple of regions to visit and allow 2-3 days at each region.
There’s more to the South Island than the Wanaka Tree and road shots leading to Mount Cook – when driving, keep your eyes peeled for the myriad of locations that most people often drive right past. Allowing time for your drive is a must.
4. Be spontaneous
Don’t pre-book your accommodation – this will allow you to be spontaneous with your photography which is critical with landscape photography. If you’re travelling alone or in a small group you shouldn’t have an issue booking places last minute.
5. Sleep under the stars
If you want a proper experience of New Zealand, bring your tent and sleeping bag and hit the backcountry – this is where a lot of my images are made and there’s an infinite amount of possibilities.
6. Wear protective clothing
Sandflies are common in some areas at certain times of the year. Don’t waste money on repellent, just cover up as much as possible. A cap with a mesh face cover can really save you a lot of frustration.
7. You might find ice on the Tasman
Ice on the foreshore of the Tasman and Hooker lakes is a beautiful sight, and great to shoot. While it’s not guaranteed and is entirely dependent on recent glacial calving, the Tasman Lake will typically have more than the Hooker Lake.
8. Find a new angle – and don’t rely on drones
Consider taking to the sky for a unique perspective – a lot of my images are shot from helicopters and small planes.
A large portion of NZ is a ‘no drone zone’ , so if you want to use a drone you will need permission from the Department of Conservation (DOC). My advice is to leave your drone at home.
9. Head to the mountains for some stunning shots
Around mountains, telephoto lenses are a must. Keep an eye out for shrouded peaks with rising mist and cloud. If there are strong winds, lenticular clouds will commonly form to the NE and are visible around Ohau, Tekapo and Mount Cook region.
10. Find the right light
Light and atmosphere is everything, allow the light to dictate a lot of what you shoot – don’t ignore other possibilities just for the sake of ticking off a ‘hero shot’ somewhere.
When shooting sunrises and sunset around mountains, you’ll generally want to find compositions and locations that have direct light hitting your peaks (instead of them being backlit). This will often mean having your back to the sun but it will add a layer of depth and make the mountains pop from the background.
Figuring out what’s right for you
At the end of the day, no matter what, when, or how you choose to shoot, the natural beauty and stunning landscapes of New Zealand will never disappoint – so have fun, keep experimenting with your photography, and enjoy shooting in one of the most incredible places on Earth. It’s all about learning as you go, and figuring out what processes and equipment are right for you.
For a more detailed breakdown of gear, check out Ted’s Cameras’ complete guide to the best camera equipment for your next trip to New Zealand.
NOTE: This is an unpaid post in collaboration with Ted’s Cameras.