Last month I took a group around the South Island on the One of a Kind Autumn Assault workshop. 5 days of photography around some of the most spectacular scenery New Zealand has to offer.
Conditions turned out to be just amazing, we’d timed the Autumn colour perfectly, so we headed off on an 1800 kilometre journey, sometimes shooting all day for an epic long weekend of photography.
The weekend started with a crazy run into Hooker Valley, usually we shoot this later in the trip due to timing, but we got to Mackenzie area earlier than normal, a good thing as it was rained out the other mornings. Several of us stopped along the path to shoot the last rays of sunset on Aoraki, myself and 3 of the group made it to Hooker lake but the best light had already been, its such an amazing location you can shoot it in any conditions, I chose a composition with the river in the foreground with a leading line to the mountain, the sky peppered with the early night stars.
The next few days were spent shooting around Lake Tekapo, with a sunrise at the church, along with many other photographers. This place is now crazy busy any time of year, any time of day or night. Its an awesome spot though and its great to see many people out enjoying photography, getting something unique from here now is a challenge, through I like the cool lighting and atmosphere on this one in the pre dawn light.
After a swift breakfast at Run 76 the light was still quite pleasing so we headed out to shoot Kellands ponds & Waipero Arm by Twizel. The Colours were great and sitting out in the sun relaxing after a busy and early morning was quite pleasant.
Lake Ruataniwha on the way back looked amazing, a swift stop and we all piled out of the van, this is a 3 shot hand held panoramic, gorgeous colours and a near perfect mirror on the lake surface blew us away, before we knew it we had 40 other people around us taking photos. This proved to be pretty standard for the trip, everywhere we went dozens of tourists turned up shortly after!
Sunset had me hunting for a great location away from the crowds. We checked out the East side of the lake and found a cool spot with plenty of nice rocks in the foreground. Also it had a good view of Motuariki island. It was one of those sunsets you hope happens and often doesnt. Kept me on the edge of my rock (perched in the high winds) hoping for big colour, and it eventually delivered.
All happy we headed back into Tekapo to spend a long time waiting for pizza at Tin Plate. The night looked pretty clear but with a full moon all trip astro was mostly off the cards.
We rose to a stormy morning, this 24 hours was going to be a challenge to shoot according to the weather reports. A return to Aoraki wasnt going to happen. I took the group around to a few spots, nothing looked on, with driving heavy rain coming in from the lake. We headed back to Peppers but as we arrived some light and magic started to happen. A very swift trip back to the lake front had us literally sprinting for a composition, I had no chance to check camera settings, or even if it was in focus, trusting instinct and my gear in the rain, 3 shots fired before the light left us, one shot salvageable, the others ruined by rain.
Sunset with conditions all over the place was a challenge, I’d hoped to go to the Nevis valley but with possible big storms that didnt seem a wise choice, so we found ourselves at the Bendigo reserve amongst old mining ruins. Sunset was amazing, and the place is truly spectacular, the highlight of the trip for one person. I found it hard to focus on a good composition and ended up doing far more exploring than shooting, watch out for the open mine shafts!
Staying a couple of nights Wanaka means good access to great places to eat, and after a fantastic Mexican and a few hours processing we hit the sack. We got to our next location nice and early to get a good spot, it used to be one place you can shoot almost to yourself, but now 30-40 people is not unusual, or more.. For me in Autumn this location is all about the golden colours of the poplars behind the famous willow. To get my preferred view on this I needed to be in the lake. So I stripped off my shoes an socks, with shorts on I waded into the lake, to be followed by anther 2 of the group.
We spent the rest of the day travelling over the Crown Range, around Arrowtown, the most spectacular place in Autumn.
Lake Hayes, and on through Queenstown to finish at Glenorchy for sunset.
Our last morning on the trip and people wanted another shot at that crazy tree in the lake in Wanaka. We arrived at a similar time, but it looks like the crowd was learning the need to get here early, a few full sized tour buses already on site. It looked like a total zoo. Luckily my group trusted me enough by now, we zipped off to shoot sunrise somewhere else.
The other place was Glendhu Bay. A spectacular bay at Lake Wanaka, towards Mt Aspiring national park. Wow what a feeling , setting up our cameras with the bellbirds singing all around it was quite an amazing moment. Compared to the push and shove at the overshot lone tree this was perfection. The view fantastic and the sunrise delivered.
With a sad heart we headed back to Christchurch and left the autumn splendour of Otago and Mackenzie behind us. All had several hundred images to thumb through and process. Thanks to everyone on the trip for making it such a blast!