Lake Wanaka willow in fall color, South Island, New Zealand

Taken at Lake Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand on April 8th, 2012

How far would you go for a tree? I flew halfway around the world for one. If this seems crazy to you please realize that this is no ordinary tree. Nay, it’s the famous Wanaka Willow, quite possibly the coolest tree I’ve seen. It’s like a bonzai on steroids, with gracefully sculpted limbs and the most amazing location ever. Growing directly out of one of the most scenic lakes on the planet, this tree is worth traveling for. Especially in April when the willow’s golden Fall foliage shines brightly against Lake Wanaka’s deep blues.

This photo is in my top three shots I’ve ever taken. In fact, no other photo I’ve taken has ever come as close to the vision I had for it as this shot. I’d spent years dreaming about visiting this tree and thinking about how I wanted to shoot it, how I could take a shot that put my own unique stamp on the spot. In my mind’s eye I pictured the tree in all its autumn splendor, the golden leaves contrasting beautifully against the blues of Lake Wanaka’s waters, with long exposure clouds streaking overhead. When I arrived at the tree on this morning to find completely cloudless skies I was disappointed, but managed a few shots anyway. Then, just as I was packing up to leave I noticed some billowy clouds beginning to traverse the lake. A few minutes later I pulled out my 10-stop ND filter and was able to capture this 62-second exposure, and the vision I’d held for the previous two years was staring at me from the back of my camera. Safe to say it was a pretty great moment.

See more beautiful New Zealand photos in this gallery.

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