New Zealand. Aotearoa. Land of the long white cloud. No matter what you call it, New Zealand will leave you speechless with the beauty of its mystical fjords, pristine beaches, and glacier-carved mountains. Join seven other adventurous photographers on the trip of a lifetime through the dramatic landscapes of New Zealand’s South Island. From the stunning grandeur of Milford Sound and the soaring peaks of Aoraki National Park to the unreal blues of Lakes Pukaki and Wanaka, this 12-day New Zealand Photography Tour will provide photographic opportunities on an epic scale. The photography will be incredible, the scenery breathtaking, and the memories will last a lifetime.
The name of the trip says it all: glaciers and fjords. The trip begins with over a week spent exploring the some of the most stunning parts of New Zealand’s dramatic Southern Alps. Here we will photograph New Zealand’s highest mountain, its largest glacier, and a few of its biggest and deepest lakes. We will then move south to wind our way by plane, coach, and boat through one of the world’s most spectacular national parks, Fiordland, where 500-meter high waterfalls are commonplace, where the ocean reflects like a mirror, and where we may see one of the world’s rarest penguins.
Helicopters, planes, and boats
On this trip we experience the landscapes like few others do: from the air, and the water. In Aoraki Mount Cook National Park we will embark on a helicopter excursion through the Southern Alps to photograph mighty Aoraki from the air. The trip is timed so that we can catch the full moon setting behind this peak just after sunrise.
In Queenstown we will take the second of our scenic flights: this one over the entirety of Fiordland National Park, to land at the airport in Milford Sound. For many people, this is one of the most beautiful experiences life has to offer.
Once in Milford Sound we also take a scenic boat ride to experience the wonder of this place up close. Finally, we conclude the trip with an overnight cruise through stunning Doubtful Sound, a wild and pristine place that defies description.
That means this trip includes two scenic flights, two stunning boat cruises, wine tasting, and more cute baby sheep than you can count. Plus, we’ve included all meals and transportation, along with a few other fun surprises. All you have to do is show up and have fun.
On top of all of that we’re also doing more for conservation. We’re donating a portion of the trip proceeds to two environmental causes: The first, Give Back Nature, plants trees. And we fund enough tree planting to ensure the trip is not just carbon neutral, but actually carbon negative. Second, we are funding efforts to remove a highly invasive weed from Fiordland’s waterways, helping keep New Zealand’s wildest corner as pristine as it’s meant to be.
So join us for 12 days, 11 nights of incredible photography, delicious food, and fantastic company.
Secure your spot with a $2999 deposit.
Josh Cripps – Lead Guide and Chief Sand Fly Squisher
Josh has been visiting New Zealand since 1998 and cumulatively has spent over a year of his life traveling through, exploring, and photographing this amazing island nation. He even lived for a short time in the far north town of Kaitaia. He’s been chased by seals at Arnott Point, eaten the best whitebait sandwich in the country, and explored ice caves in the west coast glaciers. Josh thinks New Zealand’s South Island is quite possible the most beautiful chunk of land on the planet and relishes every minute he spends there.
Part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, Fiordland National Park comprises over 4,800 square miles of glacier-carved fjords and sounds, deep river valleys, and rugged peaks. One of the high points of Fiordland, Milford Sound, has been called the 8th wonder of the world. From a deep, tranquil bay Mitre Peak rises straight up over a mile high to present a truly breathtaking view. Abundant precipitation and sheer-walled mountains create two powerful year-round waterfalls and hundreds of ephemeral ones.
An instructor favorite location, Mt. Cook / Aoraki National Park showcases beautifully braided rivers, iceberg-dotted lakes, and more than 70 named glaciers, including the Tasman Glacier, the country’s longest. It’s also home to New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mt. Cook, which rises nearly two vertical miles from the surrounding plains. But for all its ruggedness, Mt. Cook National Park is highly accessible, and a few short tramps will put us in position for prime photography.
Near Queenstown we will find glacial valleys, vast lakes, and steep mountains. Here the opportunities for breathtaking photography are limitless.
Wanaka is a land of rolling hills, pastures, and idyllic scenes. Not to mention an enormous, gorgeous lake, alongside access to tremendous scenery in Mt. Aspiring National Park.
On this trip you will enjoy two spectacular scenic flights. The first takes us around the Southern Alps, encircling the two highest peaks in New Zealand, and landing on New Zealand’s longest glacier.
Our second flight will take us from Queenstown over Lake Wakatipu, and into Fiordland National Park. There’s no more impressive way to experience the grandeur of this wild landscape.
The climax of the trip is surely the last few days. We start with a short boat cruise through Milford Sound, taking in thundering waterfalls and towering cliffs.
Then we move on to Doubtful Sound, where we spend a night aboard the Fiordland Navigator, wandering through this mystical corner of New Zealand.
Who is this Photo Tour for?
This New Zealand South Island photo tour is for upbeat, adventurous photographers who appreciate a wide array of landscapes and scenes. If you love intimate details of ferns as much as grand landscapes, then this trip is for you. There is a wonderful range of subjects and scales to explore through the South Island of New Zealand, and photographers open to all kinds of different shots will find great joy on this trip. The focus of this trip is glaciers and fjords, so expect to see lots of stunning mountains, rivers, ice flows, lakes, waterfalls, and fjords.
This tour is for photographers of all experience levels, from pros to novices. That being said, you will get the most out of this trip if you understand the basics of exposure and composition.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare is to know your camera. Understand how to change the settings, how to zoom in to 100% on Live View and on Playback, and how to quickly access the histogram and menus. When the good light is changing rapidly, simply knowing how to work your gear quickly and efficiently will set you up for success.
This is a group trip, and morale is a key factor to everyone’s enjoyment. Our favorite kinds of photographers:
If this describes you, we’d love to have you aboard this tour. Negative, complain-y, or high-maintenance “everything needs to be my way” photographers need not apply.
In short, this tour is for anyone who wants to explore and photograph stunning scenery with a fun group of like-minded people. The trip is limited to 8 participants for a small, personal feel.
About New Zealand’s South Island
Photographers will find NZ’s South Island to be a land of stunning beauty and wonderful photographic opportunities. The landscapes are dramatic, varied, and accessible. We will photograph marvelous glaciers, soaring snow-capped peaks, breathtaking fjords, lush rain forests, and rugged coastlines. On top of the scenery itself, the light in New Zealand is truly mesmerizing. The weather in New Zealand is constantly changing, and interacting with the country’s unique geology in a way that produces absolutely beautiful conditions. While this is not a guarantee of anything, I will say that I’ve seen more double rainbows in New Zealand than everywhere else in the world put together. 🙂
In addition to the photography, you will find New Zealand to be a charming country that’s easy to explore. The Kiwis are an extremely friendly people who are in love with their wonderful land. Prepare yourself for incredible scenery, stunning photos, and memorable experiences with our New Zealand photography tour.
This New Zealand photo tour is appropriate for photographers of most fitness levels. You should have good balance and mobility. Hiking is minimal, perhaps only 1-2 miles total each day. However, in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park you should expect walks of up to 30-45 minutes (with +/- 300 feet elevation change) each way to reach certain shooting locations.
Walking in the mountains can be strenuous at elevation and we recommend preparing for the trip by walking at least a few miles per week leading up to the tour. All participants are expected to carry their own camera, personal gear, and water during the tour.
This is a photo tour, meaning that we are focused on getting you to the right places at the right times to create amazing images. We don’t have any boring lectures, and we don’t force you to learn the latest complicated processing techniques. This trip is about having the best possible experience in New Zealand’s stunning South Island. That means in addition to shooting we are also enjoying meals together, learning the history of these areas, and allowing for down time so that you can stay rested and excited. We set a relaxed pace during the tour so that you will enjoy each day, rather than feeling exhausted, burned out, or mentally fatigued. This trip is FUN, not boot camp.
We are here to help, without overwhelming you.
In the field your guides are always available to answer questions, provide guidance and feedback, and give you ideas of how to approach your photography. In short, if you have questions, we’re here for you. At the same time, it’s important to avoid spending every field session cramming your brain full of as much photography knowledge as possible, as this only leads to overwhelm and an inability to retain anything.
Your guides will also be shooting photos during the trip, both to provide examples and ideas, and so that you can see the scene through their eyes, get inspiration, and learn about their approaches to photography.
If you have any questions about the tour experience, let us know!
5:15 am – meet in the hotel parking lot and drive 15-30 minutes.
5:30 am – walk 15- 30 minutes over good terrain to our shooting location.
6:00 am – arrive on location 30 minutes prior to sunrise and begin exploring and shooting.
6:30 am – sunrise.
8:00 am – wrap up morning shoot, and walk back to the coach.
9:00 am – breakfast.
10:00 am – check out of hotels as applicable.
Midday – lunch, rest, import photos, optional talks on approaches to landscape photography, transportation between locations.
5:00 pm – meet for an early dinner.
5:30 pm – leave for afternoon shooting session. Drive 30 minutes.
6:00 pm – hike 15-45 minutes over good terrain.
6:30 pm – arrive on location 2 hrs before sunset to explore, see the landscape, and shoot.
8:30 pm – sunset.
9:00 pm – wrap up afternoon shoot, and return to the coach.
9:30 – 10:00 pm – arrive back at hotel.
Note that these times are given as a general sense of what to expect. Exact meet times, drive times, and hiking distances will vary day to day. Some drives are as short as 5 minutes, some are as long as 60+ minutes. Some hikes are 2 minutes, some are 45 minutes. We do our best to spread out the long drives and hikes, but we always let the conditions guide us to the best spots each day.
Our itinerary is organized to visit some of the most spectacular locations on the South Island. The tour is 12 days total, with a rest day in the middle. We’ll set a relaxed pace on the trip, with emphasis on shoots during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset, with breaks in the middle of day for meals, optional side-trips, or transit between hotels. NZ is a small country and most of our hotel locations are less than a 3-hour drive apart.
Day 1, Arrival Day
Meet in Queenstown for orientation, introductions, a relaxed evening shoot, and a delicious kick-off dinner. We are staying in Queenstown this night.
Days 2 – 11
After a sunrise shoot on Day 2 we’ll set off for three nights at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, where rugged mountains and milky-blue lakes dominate the landscape. We’ll enjoy glacier-sculpted scenery from easy hikes in the park as well as our own private flight-seeing tour and glacier landing.
Next we will venture to Wanaka for two nights to enjoy the incredible scenery and hospitality of Wanaka and the Matukituki Valley. Sheep, wineries, elegant trees, delicious food, and massive lakes are on the itinerary for this stop. We will have a planned rest day in Wanaka. Then it’s a short drive to our next location of Queenstown, where we are staying for 2 nights. This hip city is in one of the most beautiful locations in New Zealand, with towering peaks, glacial valleys, picturesque lakes, and other secret finds within easy access.
After Queenstown we’ll enjoy an epic scenic flight into one of the most incredible parts of New Zealand: Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. There we will spend two nights drinking in the spectacular scenery of New Zealand’s largest national park, both by land and by a cruise through majestic Milford Sound. Then we’ll head to Manapouri for our overnight journey into Doubtful Sound, an experience that will leave you shaking your head with wonder.
Day 12, Last Day and Departure
On our last day we finish our Doubtful Sound cruise by noon, then return to Queenstown around 3:30 pm. Lodging this night is not included. Bid your new friends and fellow photographers goodbye and reminisce about an awesome tour.
*all times and dates in this itinerary are given for New Zealand in October, which will be GMT+13. When making flight bookings, please make sure the date you arrive in Queenstown coincides with our itinerary. We reserve the right to revise this itinerary at any time. For detailed trip information please contact me.
This New Zealand photography tour meets and disbands in Queenstown, a vibrant city on New Zealand’s South Island. Participants are responsible for their flights to and from the Queenstown Airport, the local transfer to our first hotel, and the local transfer back to the airport once the tour has finished.
Transportation is provided throughout the tour, from our first hotel until our return to Queenstown. Transportation during the tour will be in a comfortable, private coach capable of holding the entire group plus our photo gear and luggage. Everyone will have two seats for themselves: one for you, and one for your camera bag.
The tour includes 11 nights of high-end hotel lodging throughout the South Island. By default everyone has their own room during the tour (with the exception of the Doubtful Sound cruise where we double up due to space constraints). Double occupancy may be available for a slightly reduced price.
Wi-Fi, while widely available, is slower than in many Westernized countries. We will generally have access to Wi-Fi at our hotels but expect that it may not be available everywhere. In Fiordland it is basically non-existent. In some places there may be a fee to access the internet.
Cell phone coverage is generally good, except for Fiordland.
Due to variable conditions, we recommend bringing multiple layers of non-cotton clothing, like Merino wool, fleece, or synthetic fibers. Light colored clothing is recommended as mosquitoes and sandflies are attracted to dark colors. Specifically you should bring:
This time of year we should experience beautiful spring conditions. Days will be mild and nights may be cool. Kiwis often claim their country can experience all four seasons in a single day, so participants on this tour should be ready for a variety of conditions from rain and snow to warm sun.
Average temperatures at this time range between 30°F lows and 70°F highs (0°C – 20°C). Temperatures throughout the South Island will be relatively similar, with perhaps +/- 10°F (+/- 5°C) differences.
A $2,999 USD is required to reserve your spot. The balance is due 4 months before the tour. Payment can be made via check, bank transfer, credit card, or PayPal. Payments made via credit card / PayPal incur a 3% fee.
New Zealand is a western, tourism-driven economy, and high travel costs should be expected. Currently the New Zealand dollar is worth about 65 cents US. Conversely, a US dollar is worth about $1.50 NZ. To help you plan your trip, here are some sample items and their cost in NZ dollars:
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (plus snacks) are included every day on this tour.
We take pains to ensure our activities are 100% above board. We obtain all the necessary permissions, certifications, and insurance required in order conduct our tours.
We are also strong advocates of Leave No Trace (LNT) wilderness ethics. We teach responsible photography practices and never sacrifice the environment for the sake of a photo. Our goal is to leave our tour locations in better shape than the way we found them.
Travel insurance is REQUIRED for this trip, which will reimburse you if you need to cancel for any reason, including COVID-19. It can also provide medical coverage, lost luggage coverage, and other benefits while abroad, and policies are generally inexpensive. IMG and Travel Guard are reliable companies.
It is important to note that travel insurance will generally only cover up to a certain dollar amount for high value items like cameras and computers. Therefore please pay close attention to the coverage on your policy. You may need to have your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance cover these items if you wish to have them fully insured. CHUBB provides outstanding camera insurance through the North American Nature Photography Association.
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. If we cancel this tour for any reason, your entire tuition fee will be transferred to another tour or refunded to you at your discretion.
If you have a personal emergency prior to the tour 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.
Unfortunately it does happen. Prior to the tour you should stock up on Vitamin-C, Airborne, or your favorite immune booster. During the tour make sure to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids to help prevent the chance of getting sick. We will have hand sanitizer onboard the coach at all times.
Motion sickness may also be a factor on New Zealand’s curvy roads. If you suffer from motion sickness please let us know and we will provide ginger beer as a great-tasting remedy, or seat you at the front of the bus.
Please bring any medication along that you require and advise us of any allergies. In some areas we will be 2-3 hours from the nearest doctor’s office or pharmacy, so be prepared.
New Zealand does not have any COVID vaccine or testing requirements. That being said, if you are sick prior to the tour, please stay home. We will work with you for a trip credit. If you test positive for COVID-19 while on the tour you will be required to isolate for 7 days.
Trip insurance is REQUIRED on this trip and will give you peace of mind in case of sickness.
Your guides are first aid / CPR / wilderness first aid certified. They each carry a first aid kit and 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.
We take safety very seriously and have developed a complete safety plan that is in full compliance with New Zealand standards and best practices for Alpine Hiking and Tramping. You can view the safety plan documents here: