New Zealand

New Zealand – a photographer’s paradise

Viva Expeditions  |  17 July 2020

Text and Photos: Marco Hidalgo

As a professional photographer I work with light, light is basically the only means to achieve images and thus it becomes as important as the subject matter itself. Sometimes amongst photographers we like to think of ourselves as light chasers, because we are constantly not only chasing new opportunities to create photographs, but chasing the best light possible. 

Having worked as a travel photographer for many years and photographed all seven continents with my camera, I have found that travelling in New Zealand is like a dream come true for photographers. In my experience, this is because the light in New Zealand is ideal to capture the beauty of the landscapes of the North and the South Islands alike.

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Coromandel: copyright Marco Hidalgo

So, what it is so special about New Zealand? It is clear, the light in New Zealand is most of the time crystal clear thanks to the low pollution, low population density and the constant winds that carry away any suspended particles and moisture. The result are colours that come alive without the need of Photoshop. On a pleasant afternoon the light in New Zealand seems to caress the landscape, whether it is having a glass of wine at a winery in Waiheke or admiring the rugged peaks of Fiordland.    

Eastern beaches are ideal to photograph at sunrise. Getting up before dawn and experiencing the calm sound of the waves while waiting for the sun to come out is like a ritual of purification. Sometimes the weather is predictable, but other times it seems like it won't help at all; surprisingly thanks to the fast winds of New Zealand this can change at any moment and I have experienced some amazing sunrises even with apparently adverse weather conditions. The secret is being there!

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Milford Sound copyright: Marco Hidalgo

Check out some of our New Zealand tours in Otago

Milford Sound offers the opportunity of photographing vertical landscapes and pristine nature. A boat ride along the fjord is the best way to experience the height of the peaks and feel the force of nature that created such an amazing landscape. The feeling of being in the fjord makes us realise that this is no permanent place for humans to be, we are just temporary and very fortunate guests. Milford Sound is guarded by the famous Mitre Peak which like a sentinel, looms silent in majesty when photographed at dawn or dusk.

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Mt Cook National Park: copyright Marco Hidalgo

Alpine environments are easy to reach in the South Island, they offer photo opportunities like no other. Glaciers seem to be so close that we can almost touch them, boulders and moraines become subjects of beauty, while the sky and the clouds collude with each other to provide a spectacle of mystery and awe to the surrounding mountains and glaciers.

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Fiordland: copyright Marco Hidalgo

Another great opportunity to shoot around New Zealand is the local wildlife, this will most of the time be happy to pose for the camera, thanks to the excellent protection they have enjoyed; New Zealand wildlife generally does not see humans as a threat providing a great opportunity for photographers to get close and obtain a spontaneous and natural response from the animals.

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Kea in Fiordland: copyright Marco Hidalgo

Check out some of our New Zealand tours in Otago

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Northland: copyright Marco Hidalgo

Rotorua is famous for its Maori cultural offerings, but these can also be found throughout New Zealand. Best exemplified by their famous carving style, applied sometimes profusely on their beautiful Maraes and Wakas. Maori cultural offerings complement the New Zealand experience of amazing nature. As a photographer it is clear to me that the Mana of these remote islands and its ancestral people is well expressed in these powerful and captivating carvings.

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Catlins: copyright Marco Hidalgo

Fog and clouds can also be one of the graphic elements in the New Zealand imagery repertoire. They help capture the mood of remoteness and the mood of a faraway land detached from the rest of the world. The mountains and the bush, the sea and the sand are a common denominator of the New Zealand landscape, they are the ethos of these islands alongside its volcanic and geothermal activity that beats like it's own heart.

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Southland: copyright Marco Hidalgo

Check out some of our New Zealand tours in Canterbury

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Punakaiki: copyright Marco Hidalgo

Road trips give us the sense of being part of the landscape, they can surprise us at any turn and become a fleeting painting that dissolves as we turn away. A helicopter flight will provide a different experience, the sense of unity as we are able to see how everything connects and how the parts are closer to one another than what we usually think.

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Punakaiki: copyright Marco Hidalgo

Check out some of our New Zealand tours in Canterbury

We started our day with a serene sunrise, and we can end the day with an equally serene sunset on a west coast beach. Chances are that the light will be good, and chances are that the landscape will be equally good. For the perfect sunset photograph, I recommend to find a suitable spot earlier on the day and then come back at the right time, or simply wait there till the right moment comes around; the light, the clouds and the heavens will very likely put together something special.

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