Archway Islands, Wharariki Beach, South Island, New Zealand

The northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island is windy, very windy. And sandy, very sandy. This combination leads to the formation of sand dunes, which over the eons become sandstone. Because sandstone is soft it is easily eroded. And at Wharariki Beach -where I spent the last three days- the sandstone has eroded to create two of the most beautiful offshore islands I’ve ever seen.

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Punakaiki Pancake Rocks: New Zealand Photography Adventure, Days 13-14

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks in the afternoon, Dolomite Point, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

I really like pancakes. I also really like rocks. So when I found out there’s a natural phenomenon on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island called The Pancake Rocks, I knew I was going to have to pay a visit. The pancake rocks are perched on a tiny coastal outcropping near the town of Punakaiki and do a lot to live up to their name. The rocks are made of a series of limestone “pancakes” that were originally laid down in a process called stylobedding, which is scientist speak for “we have no idea how this happened.” Over time the layers have been eroded over to form a rock garden of fantastically sculpted shapes.

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Fox Glacier Heli-Hike: New Zealand Photography Adventure, Day 12

Fox Glacier Ice CaveHave you ever been on a glacier? No, that’s not the right question. Better: have you ever been IN a glacier? For me the answer to both was a resounding no, until today. One of the most amazing things about this trip is that I am able to take advantage of opportunities I wouldn’t normally be able to afford. So far that’s meant a rental car, a Fiordland cruise, and perhaps coolest of all, a heli-hike to the dramatic Fox Glacier.

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Arnott Point, Haast, West Coast, South Island, New ZealandThe seals and I, we have an uneasy truce. As long as I don’t go in the water, they won’t bite me. Seems like an easy arrangement to uphold, but just to reinforce it they bark at me and mock charge from time to time. But I bark right back and the peace is upheld. All the same, my adrenaline is pumping and I’m almost happy when the sunset fades and I can skedaddle from their turf.

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Fiordland National Park: New Zealand Photography Adventure, Day 08

Fiordland makes you spoiled. After seeing Mitre Peak rising 5000 feet straight up from Milford Sound, mere mountains just don’t do it for you anymore. You see the endless 1000 foot waterfalls cascading down sheer cliffs and suddenly your backyard falls don’t quite cut the mustard. Any old river coursing through hilly terrain? Boring once you’ve seen Monkey Creek.

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Sunset at Lake Te Anau, South Island, New Zealand

It’s always good to see old friends. And even better when they turn up in unexpected places like Queenstown, New Zealand. My college roommate, Dustin, had just finished a cruise between New Zealand and Australia and decided to hop back over to NZ for a few days before he returned to his job designing robots at the University of Colorado.

Having visited NZ a few times before I wanted to play tour guide for Dustin, but that can be difficult to do when your friend is so happy to be in New Zealand that he doesn’t care what he sees. So, Dustin, where do you want to go? “I don’t care, this is awesome!” What do you want to see? “Doesn’t matter, this is amazing!” Anything in particular you feel like doing? “Whatever, everything is fantastic!” After a few more questions like this I began to suspect that Dustin might not care what we did, so I pointed the car south and we headed off to Fiordland National Park.

But a late start prevented us from getting any farther than Te Anau before nightfall so we booked into a hostel, cooked a bit of pasta, and called it a night.

Mt. Aspiring National Park: New Zealand Photography Adventure, Day 04

Fall color on the Matukituki RiverI learned a lot about locksmiths today. Did you know that you can become one through a correspondence course? Or that you don’t need a license to locksmith but if the Old Boys don’t like you will never be able to buy any locksmithing tools? But the most interesting thing I learned about locksmiths today is that they have all kinds of neat gadgets for prying your car door open and unlocking it from the outside. Very handy when you get back from shooting a stand of trees and discover that your keys are locked inside your car.

A few other, non-locksmith-related things I learned today: distances are damn deceiving in this country. It might be something about how the mountains rise straight up out of the glacial plain that make it impossible to estimate how far away they are. But personally I believe it’s a trick orchestrated by the Departent of Conservation to get people to go on walks that are a good deal longer than they intend.

Also, the hobbits were on to something. Tramping barefoot across grassy meadows is pretty outstanding.

Wanaka: New Zealand Photography Adventure, Day 03

Photographer Josh Cripps at Wanaka Willow

How far would you go for a tree? Last night I realized that 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 personally ever seen. It’s like a bonzai on steroids, with gracefully sculpted limbs and the sweetest 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.

(If you’d like your own opportunity to shoot this amazing tree, be sure to check out my New Zealand Photography Tour. This epic workshop spends quality time in and around Wanaka for great photography. Check it out here.)

Arrowtown and Glenorchy: New Zealand Photography Adventure, Day 02

Rees Valley, Glenorchy, South Island, New Zealand by moonlightGlacial meltwater is cold; don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. And it seems even colder when you’re all by yourself in a remote valley where the only sounds are the gurgling of a river and the cries of some nocturnal hawk. Another fun fact you may wish to keep in mind should you find yourself standing in a glacially-fed river: shin-high rubber boots don’t do you any good if you’re standing in knee deep water.

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