The North Island is separated from the South Island of New Zealand by a three hour ferry ride. Commercial trucks, motorcycles, caravans and pedestrians all pile in for the ship. Ferry rides are always exciting, but we have some trepidation as we know we still have a five hour drive once we arrive in Picton at 3:00pm.
Exploring New Zealand’s South Island
The very winding dirt road out of the port of Picton where the ferry terminates is described by many as the most beautiful stretch of road in New Zealand. Not knowing the condition of the road after recent heavy rains, we opted for the safer, much less scenic paved route. Yet another caravan drawback.
My first photo destination on the southern island was Pancake Rocks. We were able to walk to the spot shown below from our muddy campsite in Punakaiki. While walking, we saw where the road was down to one lane due to mudslides and the sidewalk to Pancake Rocks was now in the ocean.
We Survived Cyclone Gita
While shopping for provisions, the cause of the severe rains we were experiencing finally became clear by these newspaper headlines. So the heavy rain and wind was not just normal wet season weather. These were among the worst rains and winds experienced by New Zealanders in 20 years.
We got stuck in a several mile traffic backup due to the rain washing much debris on the road near Pancake Rocks. Local dairy farmers got out their heavy equipment and came to the rescue. I told a dairy farmer he should take up a collection from the grateful tourists.
It was easy to spot the tourists from the locals. The tourists had rain gear. This local farmer did not even have shoes. He and his very large dog enjoyed all the activity and chatting with the tourists who normally speed by his rural farm.
From Palm Trees and Surfers to Glaciers
South Island, New Zealand is somewhat a mix between California and Montana. Snow, glaciers, palm trees and surfers are never too far away. It is a long narrow island with high mountains between the two coasts. We had made reservations for a helicopter flight to hike on this glacier. The flight before ours took off fine, but our flight was cancelled due to more incoming bad weather. Our backup reservations the next morning were called off as well. My photography was foiled yet again by cyclone season, but saved me many hundreds of dollars in the process. This glacier view is seen after a short, easy hike from the glacier parking lot. Numerous tall, beautiful waterfalls are seen along the way as well.
When visiting sites that offer helicopter rides, imagine the noise. During the sunny periods, numerous helicopter companies were buzzing about the sky to the point where you had to stop talking during the fly overs. What a summer irritation for the residents.
The Famous Blue Pools??
The many photos of these pools show brilliant, light-colored turquoise pools. For some reason, the water could hardly have been more green during our visit. Photos from the bridge were not possible due to the many scantily clad bathers jumping into the green river below, screaming all the way down, and who would want to see a photo of that? Possibly the water was a bit murky from the heavy rains the area had received.
Don’t Chase Photographs
Photographers will sometimes try to replicate a beautiful photo or iconic scene. This of course is generally impossible. The light will always be different and likely not as good. However, this specific tree was well-known to me and thousands of other tourists. I stayed in the town of Wanaka for two rainy nights hoping to get a good photograph. On our last day there was a slight let up in the never-ending rain. I ventured out, only to have the rain start up again. However, the rain and the fog simplified the photo by eliminating the background. It is my favorite of the trip so far.
For the sake of comparison, my prior day’s photo is below. While it has the added attraction of three perching cormorants, it is my opinion that the loneliness and isolation of the tree comes through better in the above photograph where the background is obscured. What do you think?
Milford Sound at the Island’s Southern End
These flightless weka birds roamed freely around our Milford campsite. Fully grown, these birds are about the size of chickens.
Photography Style, by Design
Here is a photograph of the mountains and scenery while boating around Milford Sound. This is what I envision most people shot during the boat ride that day, wide-angle, expansive shots of the landscape. If my intent was to actually inform future travelers what to expect, I would take these photos too.
My goal is only to take photographs that are pleasing to me. This is not an informational travel blog for future visitors to New Zealand. There are already plenty of those. My typical photographic style is to get in close. So from the above wide-angle shot, I zoomed into the composition which caught my eye to produce the image below. I’m often attracted to layers and curves. Hopefully you can see the photo below may be more interesting, but tells you less about the surrounding scenery. My go-to travel lens is a Sony 24-240mm. That covers a lot of ground and is very versatile.
Queenstown, Just for Fun
The biggest mountain in Queenstown is one huge fun park. Not cheesy with neon signs, just a spectacularly beautiful mountain with toboggan sled rides, bungy jumping, zip lines, hiking, gondolas, bicycle trails, restaurants and more. We opted for the gondola and toboggan ride. The photo below is a panorama taken with the iPhone. Could this place be any more beautiful?
Queenstown Bungy Jump
Bungy jumping was invented in Queenstown in 1988. The college student inventors claim a 100% accident free record. Despite this, the one voting member of our caravan voted no, for all members of our party. An interesting thought is, what if she had voted yes? What would I have done then?
Last Stop, Mount Cook National Park
Hummm, I posted these two New Zealand blogs out of order, so next week we backtrack to French Polynesia, then on to Australia.