New Zealand has two kinds of large wildlife: birds, and aquatic animals. We’ll see birds for sure, and in Mt. Cook and Fiordland it’s very likely that we’ll encounter two of my favorites: the kea (mountain parrot), and the fantail. In terms of sea life there’s an almost 100% chance we’ll see New Zealand fur seals in Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. If we’re really lucky we may also see some dusky dolphins or penguins.


In some areas we will encounter sandflies, New Zealand’s pesky flying insect. These flies are small and silent but can produce very itchy bites. In general sandflies are attracted most to ankles, wrists, and dark clothing. The best defense is to cover up completely with light-colored garments and have a hood or hat to protect your head. Sandflies won’t come out in the cold, the wind, or after dark.

Strong bug repellent (available widely in New Zealand) is also effective at keeping sandflies at bay. Sandflies are most prominent in low-lying gravelly or coastal areas, such as Milford Sound and areas of Mt. Cook National Park. In these areas I try to cover up from head to toe and am almost never bothered. But it is important to note that sandflies can be annoying if you are not prepared.

For more information on sandflies please visit this webpage: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/sandflies-and-mosquitoes/page-1.

If you are especially susceptible to or frustrated by insect bites, you may wish to purchase an inexpensive head net, though personally I don’t find them necessary: http://www.bestglide.com/Basic_Head_Net_Info.html

Group Communication, WiFi, and Electricity

WhatsApp Group Chat

Before the tour please download WhatsApp to your phone. This is how we will communicate and share photos during the trip.

Once you have WhatsApp installed, click this link to join the group:


Mobile Phones

Any factory-unlocked smart phone will work in New Zealand. You can buy a local sim card (Vodaphone NZ has great options for travelers). If you don’t have an unlocked phone it will still be possible to place calls and send messages over WiFi, using Skype or WhatsApp.


Generally speaking WiFi is widely available in New Zealand, though it’s not as prevalent or as cheap as in the US. All of our hotels provide WiFi, though not always for free, and in some of the smaller or more remote lodges the connection can be unreliable. We recommend turning off any auto-update or auto-backup software on your phone and computer so as not to inadvertently use up your data. Don’t expect to always have a good connection.


New Zealand’s electrical standard is 230/240 Volts AC, 50 hz. Please make sure your electrical items like chargers and laptops can accept this standard. Otherwise you will need an adapter. Their plug is two or three angled, flat pins:

The Four Things Every Great Photo Needs

Just like your heart has four essential chambers, every successful landscape photo is built from four essential parts:

  1. A strong subject and story
  2. A compelling composition
  3. Good camera technique
  4. Interesting light

This is one of the most important things I can ever teach you. In fact it’s so important I call it the Golden Rule of Landscape Photography. If you have those four things, I guarantee you will have a fantastic landscape photo.

Conversely, if your photo is missing any of those 4 parts it won’t have a heartbeat, and it will be a dead photo. If you take nothing else away from this tour, take this idea. Write it on a sticky note, put it on your bathroom mirror, and repeat it till it’s second nature: Subject and Story, Composition, Technique, and Light.

Each of these four things plays a critical role within your photo, so let’s take a look at what each one needs to accomplish.

I often use the terms subject and story interchangeably, but in essence what I mean by these terms is “what is your photo about?” A good subject or story is anything that you find interesting, beautiful, or unusual about the scene in front of you. This could be a striking mountain, or the patterns in some ice, the way a leaf is backlit the sun, or something more abstract like the relationship between two lone trees. Anytime you catch yourself thinking, “hey, isn’t that cool?” you have the potential for a good subject.

There is one big exception to this: light and colorful clouds are usually not distinctive enough to stand alone as the entire story of your photo. Although you will find that good light is often a supporting character because it has such a powerful effect on mood and emotion.

It’s also critical that your subject is something that you care about. This is to say, your subject and story should make you feel an emotion, whether it’s awe, serenity, apprehension, or something else. The more you care about your subject the more you will engage with it. The more engaged and passionate you are about your subject, the more that will translate into your photos, and the more other people will be drawn to your photography.

Look at these two photos. They have some similarities: they were both shot at sunset along the coast, and both feature beautiful light. So why is the photo on the bottom so much more engaging? It’s because it has an actual subject and tells a story about what that place is like. The photo on the top doesn’t give the viewer any clues about what that place is, or why it’s special or unique or interesting. It’s completely lacking a story.


The goal of your composition is to show off the most interesting attributes of your subject/story. If you love how huge a mountain is, your composition should show that hugeness. If you love the way the ocean rushes up the beach right to your feet, your composition should show the waves in an immersive way so that your viewer can also feel like their feet are about to get wet.

The simplest way to achieve this is to fill your frame with what you like, and exclude things you don’t like (or just aren’t interesting to you). This is the #1 rule of composition. Let’s look at this example.

Here’s an unremarkable photo of the world-famous Wanaka Willow in New Zealand. This is a stunning location, and the tree itself is really unique and beautiful, so why isn’t this photo also unique and beautiful? It’s because the composition isn’t doing enough to show off what’s cool about the tree, while it’s including too much of what’s not interesting about the scene. For example, the tree branches are full of great shapes and details, but here they blend in with the mountains in the background. And those muddy pools and rocks in the foreground aren’t attractive, yet they take up a lot of space in the frame.

But if I move to my left a bit, the tree doesn’t blend in as much with the mountains in the background. And if I shoot from down low so that the branches stick up more into the sky, the cool details pop out a lot more. Shooting from down low also gives me the added benefit of minimizing the visual chaos of those muddy rocks and pools. By using my composition to show off what I like about the scene (and minimizing what I don’t like), I’ve got a much stronger photo.

Good Camera Technique

When I say “good camera technique” I’m talking about so much more than just f-stops and histograms. Camera technique should also help you bring out the most important aspects of your subject/story.

In the field you should always ask this question: “Do the camera settings I chose, and the way I’m using my camera, help tell the story I want to tell?”

For example, if you really love the blue in an iceberg but you choose a white balance that turns the iceberg muddy brown, that choice is not enhancing the characteristics you are drawn to in your subject. Which of these photos is more evocative? More likely to make your viewer say “Wow! That ice is so blue!”

Or say you are photographing at a waterfall that makes you feel serene and peaceful. But if you choose a fast shutter speed that stops the action of the falls, you’re more likely to create a sense of anticipation and tension in your photos. Whereas a long exposure will help convey the peacefulness you are feeling. Notice how these two photos are identical in terms of composition, light, and exposure. But which one uses good camera technique to express the peaceful feelings you are experiencing? Clearly it’s the one on the bottom.


Light is one of the most powerful elements in the story of a landscape. It’s so powerful that it can make a bad photo seem good. But if you actually have a great photo with a strong foundation, good light will make it legendary. Light is like the special sauce you put on your hamburger. If it’s good it’s really good. If it’s bad it ruins the whole meal, even though it’s just one ingredient.

But what is the goal of the light in our photo? Again, it’s to help tell your story of a place.

Sometimes, oftentimes, that story is as simple as, “This place is so beautiful and unusual!” So if you add some beautiful, unusual light to the photo, that enhances that story.

This is why landscape photographers LOVE shooting around sunrise and sunset. This is when you get light that is more colorful and more dramatic. And yet it’s also softer and more flattering on the landscape. It works really well for those kinds of stories.

But good light, storytelling light, is not just about pretty colors. It’s also about feeling, emotion, and what you want to convey to your viewers.

Say you are standing in a field of wildflowers and you feel happy and uplifted. But then you take a photo during an afternoon thunderstorm. The light in that photo might be interesting and dramatic, but does it tell the story of you feeling bright and joyous? Definitely not! In a situation like that you are better off waiting for a moment when the quality of light matches your emotions, say in the early morning when the sun casts a golden glow over your scene.

There you have the four essential elements that go into giving your photo a strong heartbeat and bringing it to life. And you can see that all of them revolve around the concept of visual storytelling.

Wide Angle Foregrounds

Both Death Valley and the Alabama Hills are rich with fascinating patterns and objects that can serve as impactful foregrounds in wide angle compositions. To make the most of these, here are some suggestions:

  1. Use your widest lens, anything around 14-16mm is great.
  2. Look for an object or pattern that is about the size of a large pumpkin.
  3. Ideally your f/g element should contrast with the surrounding landscape. Look for color contrasts, light/dark contrasts, or contrasts in texture.
  4. Get down low so your camera is about waist-height from the ground, and roughly arm’s distance from your foreground element.
  5. Compose so that your f/g fills most of the bottom third of your frame, and then place the horizon about 1/3 of the way from the top of the frame.

Using this simple framework will allow you to create stunning in-your-face wide angle compositions like these.

How to Use Composition, Technique, & Light to Tell Your Story

In the previous lesson we learned to create our story of a place by asking What we like, and Why we like it. Now it’s time to turn that story into a photograph. We can do that by asking a third question: How?

“How can I exaggerate the elements of my story using my camera?”

I like to say that your job as a landscape photographer is to make a caricature of the landscape, because your goal is to exaggerate the things you find most compelling, while minimizing everything else. You already know what you like and why you like it. Now you simply need to exaggerate those things using your composition, your camera settings, and the light present in the scene.

Let’s look at the same waterfall example from a few lessons ago. If you like the waterfall because the motion of the water makes you feel peaceful, you can exaggerate that motion by using a long exposure. In this case we are using our camera settings to emphasize the qualities of the waterfall that are most striking to us.

Let’s look at a few more examples. Check out the following scene. It was a howling windy day (even though you can’t tell from this photo). I loved the clouds overhead because they were absolutely FLYING through the sky.

How can I exaggerate that motion to show the force of the wind? By using a very long exposure (120 seconds in this case) to show how fast the clouds were moving. See how this photo conveys the energy of the wind so much more clearly?

Here’s another example. Check out this view from just outside Yosemite.

What do I like? The rock in the foreground, the lake, and the mountain on the left.

Why do I like it? I like the rock because it has such a cool crack in it with a great shape. I like the lake because it is reflecting the deep colors of the sunrise and creating a stunning contrast with the sharp details of the landscape. I like the mountain because it feels big and has a unique shape.

How can I exaggerate those things? I can exaggerate the shape of the rock by getting close to it with a wide angle lens. I can exaggerate the colors and contrast of the lake by using a long shutter speed to smooth out the water. I can exaggerate the size and uniqueness of the mountain by shooting vertically to exclude the other large mountains from the frame, making this mountain more dominant.

Here’s a scene from the Alabama Hills.

What do I like most? The central mountain in the background really speaks to me.
Why do I like it? It feels huge, like it looms over the entire landscape.

How can I exaggerate that?
  If I use a telephoto lens to fill the frame with just that mountain, that’s a good start. I can also add a person to the scene for a sense of scale, and to help the viewer imagine themselves looking up at the huge peak.

Finally, let’s look back at the mountain scene we talked in our previous lesson. In this scene I liked the mountain in the back because it sticks up above the landscape, the stream because its flowing motion contrasts with the details of the rocks, and the sky because of the color and texture. How can I exaggerate those things and minimize everything else?

First off, I can create a composition that contains just those things. That’s a great start! But I can do more. I can emphasize the size of the mountain by making sure it’s the highest point in the composition. I can emphasize the flow and contrast of the stream by smoothing it out using a long exposure. I can exaggerate the color and texture in the sky by waiting for sunset, ensuring I capture the best moment of light, and by adding contrast and saturation in post. And now this photo is telling the story I want to tell about this place.

You see, there’s nothing magical about this process. It all starts with thinking about the story you want to convey to your viewers, and how you can emphasize that story through your choices of composition, camera technique, and light.

What I love about this approach is that by focusing on telling a story (instead of trying to shoot a “pretty picture”) you automatically build a kick ass photo with a super strong heart beat.

Now, that’s enough Photo Philosophy. Let’s take a look at some practical approaches to photographing in the amazing locations we will visit on this trip.

Ask WHAT? and WHY? to Create Powerful Stories for Your Photos

Let’s dive into Visual Storytelling. Before we begin, you need to understand that the subject and story is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of any photograph. If you don’t have this you don’t have a photo.

And yet, most landscape photographers never consciously think about the story that they want to tell when they are photographing. They simply think “oh, that’s pretty.” And CLICK! they hit the shutter button. But if you’re one of those rare photographers who thinks the story you want to tell, you will automatically create more personal, beautiful, and meaningful images.

The key to Visual Storytelling is understanding what YOU are trying to convey about a place. In other words: What strikes you most about the place you’re in? What would you want someone else to understand about that place?

If you encapsulate those ideas in a photo, you will be a outstanding visual storyteller.

The easiest way to do this is by asking 2 simple questions, What and Why:

What do I like? Why do I like it?

I recommend you do this before you even take your camera out of the bag. Wander around, exist in the scene for a while, just look, observe. Then ask “What do I like?” and “Why do I like it?” Here’s how…


Look at the entire scene you’re in and identify the literal stuff that speaks to you the most. Whatever it is that’s calling to you, this is the starting point for your story. Out of all the stuff that makes up the scene in front of you, pick out just 2 to 4 things that you are most drawn to. This will help keep your photo simple.

For example, there is a lot of stuff in the scene below! Clouds, mountains, grass, flowers, blue sky, a river, snow, reflections, etc. But if I take a moment to ask “What do I like THE MOST?” it comes down to the pointy mountain in the back left, the nice light in the sky, and the flowing creek. YOU might be drawn to different things, and that is totally ok. It’s what makes us each unique as artists. But the process of figuring out what you’re drawn to is critical no matter what.

Don’t try to create a single image that contains EVERYTHING in the scene. It will be too chaotic and the viewer won’t know what is most important to you. If you find that you are drawn to many, many different things within your scene, that’s totally fine. It simply means that you should create many, many different photographs to capture all of those stories.

Pro Tip: If you’re not sure what you’re drawn to, imagine describing that place to someone who’s not there. What are the key elements you would tell them about? That’s your WHAT.


The next step is to ask “Why?” – Why do I like these specific things? Why are they interesting to me?

Your goal is to dive deep into that stuff you like and identify the specific characteristics that you find compelling.

Let’s look at that mountain scene again. I was drawn to the pointy mountain, the nice light in the sky, and the creek. If I ask “Why do I like those things?” I come up with these answers:

  • I like the mountain because it has a cool shape that sticks up above the surrounding landscape.
  • I like the light in the sky because it has a nice color and is creating beautiful textures in the clouds and on the mountains.
  • I like the creek because the flowing water makes me feel peaceful. And the movement of the water makes a neat contrast with the stillness of the rocks around it.

What do I like and why do I like it? – This is the key takeaway from this lesson.

All we are doing here is asking two simple questions. But by consciously thinking about WHAT you are most interested in in the scene, as well as WHY it’s interesting to you, you are creating your story of that place. This is what you need to convey to your viewer, and what you need to put in your photo.

And how to do that is exactly what we’re going to cover in the next lesson.

Food, Transportation, LNT, Group Etiquette


Breakfast is included every day of the trip. 

Snacks – there are endless snacks throughout the trip. Fruit, crackers, chips, cookies, Tim-Tams, popcorn, etc. Eat them!

Lunch and dinner – The welcome dinner on night 1 is provided. Aside from that lunch and dinner is up to you. Generally, most of our participants eat a big breakfast, snack during the day, then have dinner. We love to eat dinner together as a group when possible, but you are always free to do your own thing, have solo time, or take a quiet night in.

Field Etiquette

Common courtesy is king. Don’t leave your bags or tripods lying around. Ask others if you can walk in front of them. Communicate politely when someone gets in your shot. It’s bound to happen, so just be nice about it.


Transportation is provided throughout the tour in our own private coach, starting on March 30th, and ending on April 11. On March 30, the coach can pick you up from the airport or from your hotel. Once we have everyone’s arrival details we will let you know the pickup information.

Leave No Trace

During the tour we will follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles:

  1. Plan Ahead & Prepare – for each excursion we will have a plan to ensure we have enough food, water, and safety supplies.
  2. Travel on durable surfaces – we will never drive off-road. And when hiking we will avoid areas where foot travel could leave a lasting impact.
  3. Dispose of waste properly – we will pack out all waste from our field excursions, including any random trash we find.
  4. Leave what you find – don’t disturb rocks or vegetation. No souvenir collecting.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts – NA for this trip.
  6. Respect wildlife – don’t approach wildlife or behave in a way that impacts their natural behavior. E.g. don’t leave food behind or disturb their habitat.
  7. Be considerate of others – this tour is conducted on public lands and we will have other visitors near us. Be considerate of them and each other so that we can all enjoy the landscape.

Health and Safety

Your guides are first aid / CPR / wilderness first aid certified. They each carry a first aid kit and some emergency supplies. Your lead guide carries a GPS locator beacon. In the event of an emergency, get to a safe area, stay put, and call 111.


At this time of year the weather is typically excellent for photography, with lots of mixed clouds and sun, which means great light. Expect temperatures between 30°F and 70°F (-1°C – 21°C). Also, don’t forget that even though a 50° morning doesn’t sound very cold, it can be downright chilly when you are standing still for an hour doing photography. This goes 2x if the wind is blowing.

Be sure to check the updated forecast for Dunedin, Milford Sound, Queenstown, and Mt Cook National Park before you travel, and be prepared for wind, rain, and even snow.

Camera Settings You Need to Know

Don’t fight your gear.

Here are settings we see people struggle with over and over on our workshops and tours. Practice changing or accessing these settings before the trip and you will have more success in the field.

  • Know how to quickly adjust your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Even if you aren’t fully comfortable with understanding these settings, know how to change them.
  • DOF preview button.
  • Be able to turn on your 2/5/10 sec timer, and change your shooting mode from single shot to timer and back.
  • Be able to turn exposure bracketing on and off.

  • Be able to quickly zoom to 100% in Live View and Playback.

  • Enable Back Button Focus.

  • Know how to change from autofocus to manual focus and back, be able to move your focus point, and turn on focus peaking.

  • View the Histogram in Live View and Playback.

  • Activate the Level in your Live View.

  • LENR – Know where to find Long Exposure Noise Reduction in your settings and how to turn it on and off.
  • Change the aspect ratios of your photos, from FX to 5:4 to 1:1 to DX (if your camera has these features).
  • Know how to change the brightness of your screen.

  • Know how to access your Menus, quickly scroll through, change and confirm settings.

Bonus Settings

These are totally optional but can be helpful:

  • User Modes – These allow you to save a bank of settings to a mode so in the field you can quickly jump from landscape settings to wildlife (for example).
  • My Menu Custom – Most cameras have a Custom Menu where you can save your most used menu items. Highly recommended.
  • Custom Shooting Menus in Live View. Many cameras allow you to customize your I or Q menu to access common shooting options quickly from the live view screen.

Acknowledgement of Risks and Image Use Agreement

Acknowledgement of Risks

Please download and sign this form, and bring it with you to the initial meeting. You can also email us a digital signed copy. 

Image Use

During this tour we may take behind the scenes photos and videos of the tour participants. These photos are used to share among the group, as well as for promotional purposes on our website or other marketing materials. If you would prefer to not have your image appear in these materials, please let us know.

Cancellation and COVID-19 Policies

Cancellation and Refund Policy

Deposits are non-refundable. Additional payments toward your balance are fully refundable up to 120 days before the tour. If you withdraw from the tour and we are able to fill your spot, we will refund your payments (including deposit), less a $200 administrative fee and any discounts given to fill the space.

We strongly recommend purchasing trip insurance to cover your costs in case of cancellation or withdrawal. 

If you have a personal emergency such as a medical emergency or a death in the family, please contact us. We are willing to work with you to reschedule or refund your fee on a case-by-case basis. This tour requires a minimum of 5 participants. In the case of under-subscription we reserve the right to cancel the tour, in which case your registration will be transferred to another tour of your choosing. Or we may conduct the tour with a single instructor. 

COVID-19 Policy

Our number 1 rule regarding covid is this: if you are sick prior to the tour, please stay home. We will transfer your payment to another tour or workshop.

Packing Lists

Camera Gear and Other Equipment

  • DSLR or Mirrorless Camera.
  • Lenses from wide to telephoto. We recommend the following four lenses or equivalent: 
    • Ultra Wide (14-24mm or 16-35mm)
    • Mid Range (24-70mm)
    • Short Telephoto (70-200mm)
    • Long Telephoto (100-400 or 200-500mm)
  • Sturdy tripod.
  • Extra Memory Cards (we recommend at least 128-256 GB total), extra batteries and a charger.
  • Filters. I recommend a CPL, plus 6-stop and 10-stop NDs.
  • Remote Shutter Release.
  • Camera Manual.
  • Chamois Cloth to wipe down your lenses and filters.
  • A blower to keep your gear dust free.
  • Optional: Camera Rain Sleeve / Shower Cap.
  • Flashlight or Headlamp.
  • Refillable water bottle.
  • Comfortable camera backpack you can hike with.
  • Trekking poles can be very helpful.
  • A laptop if you wish to edit your photos during the tour.


Due to variable conditions, we recommend bringing multiple layers of non-cotton clothing (Merino wool and synthetics are highly recommended). Specifically you should pack:

  • Base layers for top and bottom.
  • A warm jacket and pants.
  • A warm hat and gloves.
  • Warm socks and sturdy footwear. We recommend two pairs of shoes: waterproof hiking boots for our photo excursions, and casual shoes for dinners and walking around during the day.
  • A windproof rain jacket and rain pants. Mandatory.
  • Lighter layers for warm days. A sun hoodie or wicking long-sleeve shirt will be comfy and prevent you from getting sunburned.
  • Shorts or lightweight pants, and lightweight hiking socks.
  • A wide-brim hat, sunglasses, and a large water bottle will be indispensable.
  • A change of “city clothes” for dinner and walking around during the day.
  • Sunscreen is also a must.
  • Bug repellent. You can buy it at any pharmacy in New Zealand. Wear light-colored layers for when we are in sandfly areas. 
  • Highly recommended: a black, non-reflective jacket or hoodie for our scenic flights will dramatically help cut reflections off the windows.
  • DO NOT BRING: lots of changes of clothes. You will find that you tend to wear the same thing day after day.

    Hotel Information

    March 30 – Larnach Castle, Dunedin – The coach will bring us all there together from Dunedin City Center.

    March 31 – Highfield Mews, Oamaru

    April 1 – Hermitage Hotel Studios, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

    April 2 – Hermitage Hotel Studios, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

    April 3 – Hermitage Hotel Studios, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

    April 4 – Te Wanaka Lodge, Wanaka

    April 5 – Te Wanaka Lodge, Wanaka 

    April 6 – Novotel Lakeside, Queenstown

    April 7 – Novotel Lakeside, Queenstown 

    April 8 – Milford Lodge Chalets, Milford Sound

    April 9 – Milford Lodge Chalets, Milford Sound  

    April 10 –  Fiordland Navigator Ship, Doubtful Sound

    April 11 – we will return to Dunedin around 6:00 pm. There is no hotel provided this night.

    Where and When to Meet

    On March 30 we will be meeting at 2 pm in the lobby of the Scenic Hotel Southern Cross. Our coach will pick you up on the 30th, either from the airport or your hotel, and bring you to Southern Cross. Otherwise you can make your way there on your own.

    Location: https://goo.gl/maps/G6CcEdpnKWrUcr6j9

    We will introduce ourselves before hopping on the bus to Larnach Castle. After checking in at the castle we will hold the tour orientation meeting, then go out for an early dinner before photographing sunset from the beautiful castle grounds. 

    Getting To Dunedin 

    I recommend taking a Super Shuttle from Dunedin airport into the city center. It costs about $25 USD one way for a shared ride, and the shuttle will drop you at your hotel. This is also a good way to get back to the airport after the tour.


    Visa Information

    New Zealand has new rules regarding foreign travelers. 

    Visa Waiver Citizens

    If you are from a visa-waiver country (most countries included the USA), you need to obtain a New Zealand electronic Travel Authorization (NZeTA). You will need to pay the processing fee ($17-23 NZD), plus an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) which is $35 NZD. I recommend getting your NZeTA at least a week prior to the trip due to processing times. Obtain your NZeTA here: NZeTA Website

    Non-Visa Waiver Citizens

    If you are from a non-visa waiver country, you will need to check your traveler requirements on the NZ Immigration Website here:


    COVID-19 Info

    Travelers are no longer required to fill out a covid-19 declaration form or provide proof of vaccination before visiting NZ.

    Important Dates

    March 30, 2023

    First day of the tour. Please arrive in Dunedin prior to 2 pm. On March 30 we will be meeting at 2 pm in the lobby of the Scenic Hotel Southern Cross. Our coach will pick you up on the 30th, either from the airport or your hotel, and bring you to Southern Cross. Otherwise you can make your way there on your own.

    Location: https://goo.gl/maps/G6CcEdpnKWrUcr6j9 


    April 11, 2023

    Last day of the tour. On the 11th, the coach will bring all of us back to Dunedin, and we will arrive in the city around 5:30 pm. There aren’t really any hotels right next to the airport. In the past most people book a hotel in Dunedin City Center and then take a shuttle to the airport the next day, which costs about $25 USD. Probably quite a few of us will be flying out on the 12th and myself or our bus driver will be happy to assist in making shuttle bookings.

    Typical Daily Schedule

    For reference, here’s what a typical day will look like. Sunrise is around 7 am, and sunset is around 6:30 pm. Note: due to Daylight Saving Time during the first two days, sunrise is 8 am, sunset at 7:30 pm.

    • 5:45 am – 8:30 am: sunrise excursion, drive 15-30 min and walk ~0.5 miles to our shooting location. Shoot for 1.5-2 hours, then go to breakfast.
    • Mid-morning – return to the hotel for a break, or to pack up for transit between locations.
    • Midday – rest or transit between locations. Hotel check in as applicable.
    • 3 pm – 7 pm: excursion to shoot sunset, drive 15-30 min and walk ~0.5 miles to our shooting location.
    • Evenings: we will look for opportunities to do night photography as conditions allow. Otherwise we will take the evenings to relax, edit images from the day, and enjoy nice meals together.

    Our goal is have fun, and to keep your energy levels up throughout the tour, so we do not set an extreme pace. Our longest walks are in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, they will be approximately 30-45 minutes each way. It is possible we will have a single day in the park where we walk up to 6 miles in total, spread out through the course of the day. Most days will be 1-2 miles walking total.

    In general we will select our shooting locations based on the group’s abilities and energy levels. On days where we’ve had long morning walks, we will aim for a shorter evening walk. If we have a longer sunset hike, the next morning we will do shorter walks. We will make adjustments as we go on so that each day is fun and challenging, but not exhausting

    Itinerary and Trip Overview

    Day 1, March 30th

    The Plan: Meet after lunch in central Dunedin. The coach will transport us to Larnach Castle where we will have a tour orientation and introduction. We will then walk around the Castle grounds for some sunset photography followed by dinner prepared by the castle chef. Relax tonight and get a good night’s sleep.

    Accommodation: Larnach Castle, Otago Peninsula

    Meals Provided: Welcome Dinner at Larnach Castle


    Day 2, March 31st

    The Plan: Kick off the photography with a morning shoot on the beautiful Otago Peninsula, followed by breakfast at the Castle. After a leisurely morning, we will depart Dunedin for Oamaru. For sunset we we shoot the Moeraki Boulders.

    Physicality: <5 min walks over grassy paddocks and along the beach.

    Approximate Travel Time in the Coach: 1.5 hours from Dunedin to Oamaru.

    Accommodation: Highfield Mews in Oamaru.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Snacks


    Day 3, April 1st

    The Plan: Sunrise at the Moeraki Boulders followed by brekkie in Oamaru. Pack up and drive to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Sunset shoot in the park at a stunning vista.

    Physicality: A short beach walk in the morning. A walk of up to 45 minutes each way in the evening. Tracks in Aoraki Mt. Cook national park are excellently maintained with up to a 300 foot elevation change. Some short steep sections, stairs, and swing bridges possible.

    Approximate Travel Time: 3 hrs from Oamaru to the National Park, plus lunch and toilet breaks.

    Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Snacks


    Days 4-5, April 2nd & 3rd

    The Plan: for two solid days we will explore Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park, where stunning mountains, glaciers, and rivers are all easily accessible. Shooting locations and times will be weather dependent. During a good weather window we will take off for a magnificent scenic flight around the Southern Alps and landing on the Tasman Glacier.

    Physicality: Walks between 30 to 90 minutes round trip. Tracks in the national park are excellently maintained with up to a 300 foot elevation change. Some short steep sections, stairs, and swing bridges possible.

    Approximate Travel Time: All drives in the park are <20 minutes.

    Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Snacks


    Day 6, April 4th

    The Plan: One final sunrise shoot in the national park, followed by breakfast. Then we leave this amazing place and drive to Wanaka, making a stop at beautiful Lindis Pass along the way. Wine tasting this evening and an afternoon shoot at stunning Rippon Vineyards.

    Physicality: Walks between 30 to 60 minutes round trip with up to 300 feet elevation change. Some steep sections, stairs, and swing bridges possible.

    Approximate Travel Time: 3 hours from the Park to Wanaka, plus Lindis Pass and toilet stops.

    Accommodation: Te Wanaka Lodge.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Snacks


    Day 7, April 5th

    The Plan: This is the halfway point of the trip, and we’ll enjoy a rest day today. Catch up on shopping and laundry, sleep in, and enjoy the mellow Wanaka vibes. Explore the town, or go for a hike. But be sure to take time for yourself so that you’re energized for the second half of the trip.

    Physicality: It’s up to you!

    Approximate Travel Time: NA

    Accommodation: Te Wanaka Lodge.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Snacks


    Day 8, April 6th

    The Plan: Sunrise at the world famous Wanaka Willow. After breakfast we’ll drive to Queenstown, making a stop along the way at one of my favorite places in New Zealand. Hint: it has nothing to do with photography, and everything to do with tasty treats. 🙂 That evening we will shoot sunset along stunning Lake Wakatipu.

    Physicality: Easy walks of <10 min over gravel. Approximate Travel Time: 1.5 hours from Wanaka to Queenstown, plus a fun stop. For the evening shoot the drive may be up to 45 minutes each way. 

    Accommodation: Novotel Lakeside.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Snacks


    Day 9, April 7th

    The Plan: We will photograph sunrise at stunning Moke Lake then return to the hotel for breakfast. In the evening we will venture toward Glenorchy, a charming village in an unbelievably beautiful setting, with huge peaks, lakes, and glacial rivers in every direction.

    Physicality: Easy walks of <10 min over gravel or boardwalks.

    Approximate Travel Time: Drives of up to 1 hour each way possible.

    Accommodation: Novotel Lakeside.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Snacks


    Day 10, April 8th

    The Plan: Catch a sunrise near Queenstown then load up in two planes for our second scenic flight of the trip. This flight will take us over Lake Wakatipu and into Fiordland National Park, touching down at the airstrip in Milford Sound. We can wander around this 8th wonder of the world or take a short stroll to our hotel and relax while the coach makes the journey around with our luggage. That evening we will venture out into the tidal flats to photograph the sunset over stunning Mitre Peak.

    Physicality: Easy walks of <10 min over boardwalks, gravel, and small rocks. The tidal flats maybe slippery, mucky, or wet.

    Approximate Travel Time: 70 minute flight into Milford Sound. If you prefer to go by coach it’s roughly 4.5 hours from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

    Accommodation: Milford Lodge Chalets.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Snacks


    Day 11, April 9th

    The Plan: We get to spend this entire day exploring Fiordland National Park, both by sea and by land. After a sunrise at Milford Sound we will board a boat for a scenic cruise through the fjord, photographing waterfalls, soaring peaks, and lounging seals. Later in the afternoon we will enjoy one of the most beautiful, fairytale forests in the South Island.

    Physicality: Walks up to 30 minutes round trip, with up to a 200 foot elevation change.

    Approximate Travel Time: Up to 1 hour each way in the coach for our afternoon shoot.

    Accommodation: Milford Lodge Chalets.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Snacks

    Days 12, April 10th

    The Plan: Leave Milford Sound early in order to enjoy more breathtaking photography on the drive to Manapouri, where we embark on our overnight Doubtful Sound adventure. This is always a highlight of the trip. At this point there’s nothing left to do but drink in the amazing scenery and tranquility of Doubtful Sound for the next 24 hours.

    Physicality: Easy walks up to 10 minutes round trip. Optional kayaking or swimming in Doubtful Sound, weather dependent. 

    Approximate Travel Time: 2.5 hours from Milford Sound to Manapouri, plus toilet and quick shooting breaks.

    Accommodation: The Fiordland Navigator.

    Meals Provided: Breakfasts, Snacks, Dinner

    Day 13, April 11th

    The Plan: Wake up on board the Navigator and enjoy a final sunrise as the boat cruises the fjord on its way to an incredible place known as the Hall Arm. We then head to the bus for our journey back to Dunedin.

    Physicality: None, unless you count eating a 3-course breakfast as exercise…

    Approximate Travel Time: 3.5 hours from Manapouri to Dunedin, plus lunch and toilet stops

    Accommodation: None provided. If you are staying extra nights in Dunedin, I recommend the Scenic Hotel Southern Cross. Meals Provided: Breakfasts, Snacks

    *Please note that this itinerary may change at any time due to conditions, weather, or circumstances beyond our control.

    How to Make the Most of This Trip

    1) Get Rid of Your Photography Expectations

    There is arguably nothing more important to having a satisfying photographic experience than shooting from a standpoint of zero expectations. For example, while we all love to see dramatic clouds and intense colors in the sky, that doesn’t happen frequently in Death Valley. But that’s ok, because there’s actually nowhere else in the world I’d rather photograph under clear skies than this park.

    At every location we will be on the lookout for many kinds of scenes and compositions, from grand to intimate. Therefore, not having a fixed idea of what “the best shot” is for each location will allow you to be more fully open to the various opportunities we encounter.

    I will be pointing out the shots that I see at each location, the things I noticed, and how to approach capturing each image. 

    2) Set Clear, Specific Goals

    Pick one or two things you’d like to learn and focus on those. Don’t try to learn astrophotography, and abstracts, and macro, and luminosity masking all at once. You’ll overload yourself and your progress in each of those things will be much slower. Instead, choose the one thing you are most interested in and work toward that.

    It’s also imperative that you make your goal specific with a clear outcome: For example, these are all great photography goals:

    • I want to learn how to get my entire photo in sharp focus from front to back every single time.
    • I want to learn how to capture the Milky Way core and ensure it’s sharp.
    • I want to learn how to find and photograph in-your-face foregrounds.

    Notice how you can say definitively yes or no if you have achieved these goals. That’s the key of making a good photography goal. There’s a measurable, clear outcome.

    You should avoid generic goals like “I want to be better at photography,” because there’s no clear outcome. The more specific you are with your goal, the easier it will be to achieve.

    3) Ask Questions

    This is your opportunity to dig into the nitty gritty of landscape photography with your guides. Don’t be shy! We’re here to help. 

    We will do our best to guide everyone in the field, but we’re not mind readers: asking specific questions lets us know what we can help you with.

    4) Take Time to Decompress and Be Still

    Don’t feel that you need to be shooting every moment of every excursion. This can be utterly overwhelming and can create a strong sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) if you are not actively photographing. 

    We actively encourage you to take time to simply be in the landscape and enjoy it, without your camera up to your eye. Appreciate what makes this place special to you, relax, and unwind your mind. This trip should be as restorative as it is inspiring.