Moeraki to Queenstown

One of the things I really like about travelling is having some flexibility in the plans to adapt to local information... after such a magic morning at the Moeraki Boulders, I needed to make it to Queesntown to meet up with the group of other photographers but I didn't have a fixed plan for the route... I discussed the different options with the motel owner when I checked out and got recommendations for things to see along the way... 

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Overall it's a very interesting drive across much of the width of New Zealand... every corner was a temptation to stop and explore... from one of the largest gold mines in the southern hemisphere at Macreas Flat to the home of Curling in Naseby... since I live in the south of Germany, i found it funny to see a Black Forest Cafe in Naseby so I definitely had to stop and have lunch there... it was really good food and I struck up a conversation with some locals at the next table... turns out they were hanging a selection of Night photos from around the world to prompt the listing of the local area as a Dark Sky reserve... I got a sneak peek as I was going to miss the main show and end up helping them setup some parts of the exhibit :-)

After lunch, I moved further down the road and made a stop in St Bathans, another old mining community... they have taken the time to really preserve the old buildings and ruins in the village and lots of information around town on the inhabitants during the glory days... the weather wasn't the best for photography (very flat cloudy skies) so I was more in tourist mode than photographer mode but that was soon to change...

As I left St Bathans and headed back to the main road, I was struck by some dead trees I could see beside the road... turns out they were in the middle of a dam beside the road... since it was clearly private property, I approached the local farmer to get permission to take enter the his fields... I think he was surprised there was anything photogenic on his farm...

 2 minute exposure... Phase One XF IQ250, Mamiya 24mm Fisheye, Nisi 3 Stop Medium GND and 6 Stop ND, Custom holder

2 minute exposure... Phase One XF IQ250, Mamiya 24mm Fisheye, Nisi 3 Stop Medium GND and 6 Stop ND, Custom holder

I hope you'll agree it was worth the stop... I really enjoy the long exposure effect of smoothing the water and clouds... by the time I was finished here, the rain clouds were starting to roll in and I still had approx two hours drive to get to Queenstown... there were so many other places I could have stopped along the way so it just means I need to go back and spend some more time in the area... I rolled into Queenstown and got checked into the Heritage Hotel before jet lag kicked in... as luck would have it, the others from the group were just meeting for dinner so it was a good time to sit down and get to know some new friends

A dream morning...

Leaving Christchurch, I moved on to my next location... it was quite a drive (over 3.5 hours) since the roads are a bit different to Germany :) I'm very glad i took the option to stay in Christchurch on the first night to get some rest... would have been crazy to attempt this directly from the airport (at night)... my goal was to reach Hampden on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand...

I arrived around the time for sunset but there wasn't much sun to be seen as the heavens opened as I got to my motel... I did take a quick trip to the beach to make sure i knew where everything was in the morning as this location would be an early start for sunrise... following advice from the motel owner, I went to the Moeraki Tavern for dinner which was an excellent suggestion but just make sure you're not too late as things close early in these small towns... more on that later in the trip

I'd love to tell you I planned my visit to this area in minute detail... consulting long term weather forecasts and tide tables but in all honesty, I got lucky... I only had one night / morning in the area (could have maybe squeezed another) and the tide was coming in at a perfect time for sunrise... so the alarm was set with hope that the rain would clear overnight

Let me tell you that 5am is one of my least favourite alarm times but looking out the window made it worthwhile as the rain was gone and enough clouds to be interesting... so I grabbed a quick coffee, a snack, my headlamp and headed to the beach... I was the only car in the carpark... this was surprising as Moeraki Boulders is one of the most popular photo locations in New Zealand but I wasn't complaining... I walked about 10 minutes up the beach to the main boulder area and actually took my first shot about 5:55am... I had to wait about twenty minutes for the light to improve and BOY... did it improve!!!! Over the next hour and a half, the light just got better and better... the sort of morning you dream of as a landscape photographer and I had the beach basically to myself... one other photographer turned up about 6:30am and a third around 7am... this gave me to the freedom to fine tune compositions and get some long exposures without getting in anyones way...  the only problem was the incoming tide which was giving me wet feet but that was a small price to pay... also had to remember to keep my bag on my back so it didn't get drenched as well... below is a gallery of images from the morning... just click for the next image...

Warning.... techie speak coming... to be able to smooth water and balance the sky, I needed to use Neutral Density filters... I have a set from NISI Filters... I used a solid 6stop to get the longer exposure times and a 3 stop Reverse Grad ND for the sky (otherwise the boulders would be too dark)... I can combine these in my custom holder for my Fisheye lens or in the NISI S5 150mm Holder on my other lenses.... if you want more details, just comment below or send me a mail... Here endeth the techie speak :)

This post is already a bit long so I'll talk about the travel to Queenstown in the next post

 

 

Christchurch - City of Art (and construction)

After 45 hours of travel (including an overnight stop in Melbourne), I finally touched down in New Zealand for the first time... after a small detour through the quarantine line (they wanted to check my hiking boots), I came out through customs and immediately was greeted with the artwork installed at the airport... this was to be a continuing theme as I walked around the city and there is even an app which highlights all the artwork...

I stayed in central Christchurch and there are still very visible reminders of the earthquake even though it's been more than seven years... there are many empty blocks and facades of building being held up by shipping containers... also lots of new construction right next door to buidling which are boarded up... quite a contrast.... I wandered the streets a bit and got some dinner while also find some spots for photos in the morning

 Seemed like a good attitude

One advantage of the long travel is that I slept well and was up (very) early and able to explore before much activity on the street... still got to chat to a few locals who were wondering why I was up and about so early... got a beautiful sunrise over the city and a few different locations... another advantage of the early start was I was able to go back and have breakfast and a nap before checkout time :-)

After checking out, I wandered around some more and visited some of the other artworks and graffiti locations... lots to see... another highlight was a stop at the Royal New Zealand Air Force museum... when I arrived it was extremely busy in the carpark but I then found out there is a church which holds services in one of the halls and everyone was leaving the Sunday morning worship... much quieter inside... If you enjoy history and flying (that would be me), then it's definitely worth a look... there is no admission fee but you can make a donation or purchase something from the shop and onsite cafe

Enjoy this selection of Christchurch images below...