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New Zealand: Where to go? How to prepare?

PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 12:09 am
by Thomas
As I understand from some posts in this forum and also some other people I know, New Zealand is a photographers dream.
Perhaps we can collect some tips here where to go for the most spectacular views or the most rewarding "things" in NZ and how to best prepare for getting the best shots either tech-wise or time of day or weather condition.
And if you're citing places in NZ to go, please give latitude/longitude measures to find it right away in google earth :)
Also a collection of links to travel tips or NZ-photos may be helpful for the crowd. Let me start with
Or some hints on how to frame the glow worms at Waitomo Caves (at 38° 8'12.24"S, 175° 0'18.54"E I assume, please correct me when I'm wrong :!: )

Re: how to frame the glow worms at Waitomo Caves

PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 10:15 am
by Bob Andersson
Hi Thomas,

The glow worms will be a difficult subject and I can't even remember whether photography is allowed in the caves. For certain flash photography is an absolute no no and would rather defeat the point.

If you do the same tour I did last year there is one cave of glow worms where you might have success provided you have a tripod - remember David Attenborough? The best glow worms are viewed from the boat so photography is not an option there.

The other difficult subject was the nearby Otorohanga Kiwi House - Flash photography of the Kiwis is forbidden and as they are rather lively you will find it difficult to avoid motion blur.

I guess sometimes it is better to forget the camera and just concentrate on soaking up the experience. Both venues have good souvenir shops.


PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 9:15 pm
by Gordon Laing
Hi Thomas, as Bob says, most of Waitomo is viewed from a moving boat (thereby making any effective photography very difficult), although as I recall, there was a small group of glow worms before you boarded the boat which could be photographed with high ISO. As Bob says though this is one of those things which is much better viewed by eye!

I'll put together a small list of some of the locations I personally adore down here, although be warned, some require a bit of hiking - or as they call it down here, tramping...


PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 7:25 pm
by Thomas
Apart from the glow worms, how is the situation in the Waitomo Caves photography-wise? Lots of illumination where you can shoot in available light (provided you crank up your ISO) or does anybody know whether flash is allowed and makes sense (not with the glow worms)?
The risk really is for the uninitiated traveller/photographer that you have to know to be prepared - otherwise the most impressive cave-trip is over and you (a) got no good photos, because you didn't know the situation plus (b) you dont have a good impression from the trip because you were constantly struggling with your equipment. That would be the worst case scenario for me! Although I'll bring my wife with me, so that she can tell me afterwards what I have missed :twisted:

PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 5:33 pm
by Thomas
I'm currently preparing a detailed plan for a 4-week round trip through New Zealand. You know, there is so much to be seen and even 4 weeks are not enough :?
It comes in form of an excel spreadsheet with dates, distances, times and points of interest. In its general form it has been reviewed by one local and one tourist I know well and who has been to NZ in Dec06/Jan07.
So I hope it is quite well thought out and gives you a good idea where to go in NZ. It covers 4500km (!) and doesn't even touch anything north of Auckland. If you have to shorten it, cut 4-5 nights out of Wellington, Nelson, Coromandel, Te Anau, but you certainly will regret it.
Here is my trip planner!
(...I will report afterwards how usefull it was 8) )
Any suggestions are welcome, esp. with respect to the (photographic) conditions in the Waitomo caves, or any other point of interest :idea:
If you'd like to PM me: You're welcome!
Here is the site I used to start planning:
And here is another site of someone who loves NZ and shows photos of his travel(s): He will post his new pictures soon...

PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 9:40 pm
by Gordon Laing
Hi Thomas, I reckon you've got a pretty awesome itinerary there!

You'll have a fantastic time!

The only thing I'd recommend which you haven't included is an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, but then you do have a flight and a shorter cruise in the Fjordland area, so you'll get a good look!

Here's a couple of warnings you should be aware of though:

1: Unfortunately, thieves target cars left at trailheads, so don't leave any valuables in there. But then I'd say this is pretty sensible advice anywhere these days.

They say the Craters of the Moon can be very bad for this, as are any walks which will take you a day or more. Luckily the trailheads for most of the big walks can be accessed by buses if you don't want to leave your car there.

2: Beware the Sun! New Zealand has one of the highest levels of UV in the world and unless you are very careful, you WILL get sun-burnt. I would advise nothing less than factor 30 and also a wide-brimmed hat.

3: Some of the popular hiking trails are longer, harder or higher than you might think. Always be prepared with plenty of water, food, proper hiking boots, waterproofs and warm clothes even in the height of Summer.

We saw so many poorly-equipped people on the Tongariro crossing wearing trainers and carrying minimal water or extra clothing. This is a really serious walk and people have got (and continue to get) caught out. Don't be put off though - the walks in NZ are some of the best in the world and the Tongariro crossing is probably the best one-day hike I've ever done (if it's clear!), but just make sure you're prepared.

Speaking of hiking equipment, one of the best investments you'll ever make is a long-sleeved merino top. These are the rolls royces of hiking tops, keeping you warm when its cool, cool when it's warm, and most importantly of all, dry from sweat - and amazingly smell-free afterwards! Icebreaker are the biggest brand and you can buy them pretty much anywhere in the world, although suffice it to say as an NZ institution, there's plenty of them here! If you're into hiking, I can't recommend them highly enough.


PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 8:18 pm
by Thomas
Thanks for your valuable advice, Gordon!
We already bought two backpacks to carry all the necessary goods (plus tons of photographic equipment) with us that is waterproof and just small enough to go as hand luggage on our flight to NZ.
I also bought a Lowepro TLZ 2 (top load zoom 2) plus chest harness. Not to carry the camera but just the two lenses, the flash and other bits and pieces. But I'm not content with everything on my back, around my neck and what have you!
I still think that I'll put the camera around my neck to have it ready whenever an opportunity presents itself. Switching lenses is lower priority so they might end up in the back pack where they are safe and water protected. But if you have to switch lenses fast, this is not the optimal solution! Currently I'm experimenting with a lens bag attached by a carbine to the harness of the back pack. I'll keep you posted...

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:23 am
by Thomas
And if you're visiting the Fjordland (as you should have planned) don't forget to bring clean towels, paper tissues, an umbrella etc. with you to keep your equipment (esp. the front lens) dry!
The water is coming from huge waterfalls
or just falling from the skies
See my collection of wet Fjordland pics here!

I even think of switching to UV-filters, because they are easier to clean than the front-lenses...

PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2007 9:21 am
by Phil Lee
I'm half way through my New Zealand trip now. We're in Dunedin for the next 2 nights and are then off to Te Anau followed by Queenstown. My D80 has been performing really well. It's been good to have the laptop with me to check on the photos each night. I got some really good photos on the whale watch trip in Kaikoura and I managed to take 240 photos on a 60 minute ski plane flight over Aoraki Mount Cook today. The weather was great so hopefully some of them will have turned out OK.

PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 9:25 am
by Thomas
Another experience from my trip to NZ:
Bring a good/powerful flash. If you're at one of those Maori cultural events, you need serious firepower to catch them singing and dancing on the stage. Best to be done in Rotorua.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 10:46 pm
by Thomas
In the glowworm caves it's not allowed to take pictures! So bring your eyes and don't bother, whether you have the right equipment with you :wink:
@ Phil: Yes, the laptop is nice to have, BUT: My D80 performed in a way that I did not really need it. The only thing that did not work out beeing the night shots of the milkyway :?
In the end I made 2500 photos that occupied 30GB space (RAW+jpeg), so be prepared to have some form of additional starage space with you! That's where a laptop comes in handy :idea:

Here is a collection of my pics taken on my trip: ... 087057866/

Volcanic Valey

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 9:14 pm
by Thomas
If you're visiting Rotorua, you're certainly interesting in the volcanic activities around this city.
Just one advice: Visit both Waimangu and Wai-o-tapu!
Why? Both are great sites and both are quite different in appearance.

Wai-o-tapu is like a big collection of boiling, steaming holes/craters in the earth, collected at one place, just like an exhibition.
this photo/See more here...

Waimangu on the other side is a natural valley with different volcanic activities, lakes and a hot/cold river flowing from the entry of the park down to a beautiful lake.
this photo/See more here...

We visited Wai-o-tapu first and were wondering whether it would be worth it to go to Waimangu also. We didn't regret our decision to see them both :!:

PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 2:27 am
by norbs
Some good reading above.

Im off to NZ in November, just doing a loop of the South island, so will go through all the above notes.


PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 4:41 am
by Gordon Laing
Hi Norbs, good to hear you'll be visiting in November!

We have another thread with some specific tips for the Queenstown area here:


PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 2:40 pm
by DavidL

How long you plan to visit NZ ?

I was there back in 2002 for 3 weeks - visited both North and South islands. (P&S at the time)
Fantastic place ! :D
Wish I had can go back for a longer visit !

North island - Paihia I think for Dolphin watching with some maori culture

Theres' also a glow worm cave but i cant remember where, it was on dry land - so your gear will not get wet unlike Waitomo in the south island

Rotorua is a must - mudbath -
Lake Taupo
Botanica garden in Wellington
Whale watching in Kaikoura - advance booking :oops:
Penguins watching - forgot the place
Castle in Dunedin - name escape me
Queenstown - plenty of activities here
Puzzleworld - i think arrowtown
Fox glacier !

The list goes on...!!