Through the Camera Lens of Ally McFarlane
New Zealand is a photographer’s dream. Landscapes are so diverse and are ever-changing between seasons, sunrise, sunsets, day and night, which is enough to keep any keen photographer busy. It was New Zealand’s ability to speak a thousand words in a single picture that drew professional photographer Ally Mcfarlane across the world from her small coastal town in Scotland. After travelling the country and finally calling it home, Ally knows a thing or two about capturing some stunning shots in New Zealand.
“For anyone coming to New Zealand, the advice I would give for taking great shots would be timing, angles and, overall, getting off the beaten track,” Ally says. “New Zealand is incredibly beautiful, so chase the landscapes and always take a second to turn around and check what’s behind you, as so many amazing photo opportunities can be missed from not using all available angles. Wake up early to catch the sunrise, stay up late to count the stars, and try and get to the places that are not on the generic to-do list these are the locations that will blow your mind.”
Of course, if you want some photos of amazing quality as you backpack around New Zealand, you’ll need the right equipment: “My camera bag includes a Nikon D5200 with 18mm-55mm/18mm-200mm and a macro 50m f/1.8D lens, so I can focus not just on the landscape but macro and portrait work too. As a second shooter, I generally carry my Go-Pro Hero 4 to shoot many different angles and perspectives”.
So where are some simply stunning photography locations? Ally shares her top photos from 10 breathtaking locations in New Zealand!
1. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Out of all my travels in New Zealand, this would be a bucket list must-do, as it has been voted one of the best day walks in the world. It’s clear why! The photography here is incredible, as the crossing passes over the volcanic terrain of the multi-cratered active volcano Mt Tongariro, passing the eastern base of Mt Ngauruhoe for all the Lord of the Rings fans, Mt Doom! Taking about 6-8 hours, it is tough but by far one of the best treks I have ever done.
Location: Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Tongariro National Park, North Island
2. Key Summit Walk
I love this location on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. If you are short on time and can’t complete the full multi-day walk, then this half-day walk offers spectacular views over the Humboldt and Darran mountains. All year round this walk is a must-do to see those awe-inspiring mirror lakes.
Location: Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park, South Island
3. Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove is one of the most photographed places in New Zealand due to its golden sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and the fact that it was featured in The Chronicles of Narnia. For photography, getting there early morning or sunset will give you the opportunity to take some amazing atmospheric shots!
Location: Cathedral Cove, Coromandel, North Island
This small town is, in my opinion, the coolest creative surfer town! Not only is it only a couple of hours from Auckland, but Manu Bay on Raglan’s coast has the longest, most accessible, and consistent left-hand break in the world. While here, I would recommend going surfing (even if you are a beginner), having fish and chips on the beach, and climbing the beautiful Mt Karioi. I love taking my camera to Raglan and just chilling on the beach, watching the surf, and catching some wicked shots.
Location: Raglan, Waikato, North Island
This shot was taken at the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes in Punakaiki. These limestone formations get their name from looking like giant pancakes. If you are searching for beautiful coastal walks, rugged landscapes and amazing black and white shots, this location is truly awesome.
Location: Punakaiki, West Coast, South Island
6. Road to Milford Sound
This road honestly has some of the most magnificent scenery I have experienced during my time in New Zealand. Around every corner, the view becomes more and more dramatic. If travelling this route, I would recommend leaving super early in the morning as you will want to stop along the way to take in these views before reaching the picturesque Milford Sound.
Location: Road to Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, South Island
7. Lake Matheson
The beautiful Lake Matheson is famous for its mirror reflection of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. When making a stop at Lake Matheson chill out at the local cafe, grab a coffee, and spend your day with a picnic, camera and beautiful views!
Location: Fox Glacier, West Coast, South Island
8. Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki is fantastic for photography due to stargazing, snow-capped mountains and endless beautiful landscapes. Not to mention Sir Peter Jackson chose this part of the Southern Alps as the setting for Lake-town in The Hobbit. In this location, you can enjoy walks, winter sports and, my personal favourite, stargazing due to the lack of pollution making the night sky crystal clear.
Location: Hooker Valley, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, South Island
This shot was taken in Whakahoro: quite literally the most off-the-beaten-track location I have been to in New Zealand. Located on the banks of the Whanganui and Retaruke rivers and being surrounded by the Whanganui National Park makes Whakahorovery special to photograph. If you are travelling here, you would have to use Stray or self-drive, but the activities are endless: blue duck spotting (one of the rarest ducks in the world), jet boating, kayaking or horse trekking.
Location: Whakahoro, Whanganui National Park, North Island
10. Mt Cook Glacial Lake
This is the perfect place to experience clear starry nights in the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve, turquoise lakes, snow-capped mountains and New Zealand’s highest peak poised in the middle of the Southern Alps, Mt Cook. I love this location as compared to the beaches and usual greenery that New Zealand has to offer, here the landscape is vast, rugged and full of amazing places to capture some beautiful shots.
Location: Mt Cook Glacial Lake, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, South Island