We woke up in Queenstown on Day 1 of our South Island photography adventure! Amanda and I were both looking for and taking beautiful images, as well as scouting for a potential workshop during this trip, with our little one, Aria, along for the ride.
We arrived late at night the evening before after a long train/train/train/plane trip to get here. From Queenstown Airport to Queenstown city where our accommodation was booked was a stupendously expensive taxi fare, so we caught a shuttle bus in.
A mandatory wander into the town centre and stop at FergBerger for dinner was had. The staff were amazingly nice to us and to our daughter, giving us a free small chips to keep her entertained during the wait to order. The food was really good and highly recommended.
We headed back to the hotel for an early night ready for a big day ahead.
First thing upon waking, looking out of our balcony to the view and having breakfast was to get back to the Airport to pick up our Motorhome! We caught an Uber as it was a bit cheaper, still expensive though.
The check in process was fairly ordinary, bored backpackers running the joint with lots of forms to be filled out etc. We had a similar Motorhome in Melbourne previously so knew most of how it worked. A big grocery shop later, and a new pair of hiking boots for me (mine fell apart, was a good start!!) and we were on the road.
Queenstown is an absolutely gorgeous little town, in such an epic location, Amanda and I were both in absolute awe of it as we headed out, seeming to drift between mountains and water, with beautiful autumn tree’s dotted around.
Arrowtown was the first destination for us, we had heard of it as the Autumn capital of the southern hemisphere, and driving towards it it was NOT hard to see why. We made several early stops at Lake Hayes for some gorgeous reflection autumn shots, and a few stops by the side of the road, as the incredible yellow, green and red pine trees stretched up the side of mountains, and spotted an isolated hill here and there.
I was in an Autumn wonderland, it’s so rare in Australia to see beautiful Autumn trees in nice spots.
We eventually made it to Arrowtown proper, and manouvered the big Motorhome through town to a small parking area near the river. Amanda had commenced driving by now, letting me jump in and out of the van quickly to take photos, or snap from the passenger seat after we had pulled up. This arrangement was more common than not during this trip, I tended to drive the more pedestrian, mundane bits whilst Amanda drove the really gorgeous spots, allowing for more spontaneous stops.
We had heard about a little Police Hut in Arrowtown, left over from the mining era, and a popular photographic composition. We arrived to find it in the middle of a parking lot with cars on either side, and many tourists standing in front! Not really what the tourist brochures show! I was disappointed, but I do understand – sometimes being able to separate these interesting things from the area around them is a great skill.
We returned to the van and had lunch (motorhomes are bloody amazing for trips like this. A quick lunch on civilized seats at your table, prepared in your kitchen, whilst in a dirt parking lot!)
Amanda stayed in the van with Aria whilst I did a short hike to the famed Arrowtown River for a shot. The light was just right, and I spent about half an hour madly taking panoramic stacked shots until it changed, and the sun sank behind a nearby mountain.
We headed out of Arrowtown after that, still in love with the autumn hues, and headed for our camp for the night – the side of Lake Dunstan, at Lowburn. On the way we stopped at the Roaring Meg, an interesting blue water gorge, that used to be covered in pine trees. The photos we had seen of this during our research were epic in their beauty. Unfortunately for us, the NZ Gov seem to have instigated a program to poison and remove many of these non-native pine tree’s. All that was left were dark grey stumps, still clinging to the side of cliffs, with turbulent blue water beneath.
We also stopped at a few interesting Orchards, in an area famous for them. The symmetry and geometry of the tree’s really struck me, so I spent a good 20 minutes shooting!
We reached our destination just before sunset, an amazing free camp by the side of the lake. We parked the motorhome about 10m from the waters edge, started the water heater for dinner and popped outside for sunset photos. As I was scouting for compositions, the girls were enjoying the waters edge, Amanda also scouting. A very determined duck found us and followed us for about 400m around the edge of the lake! We had an epic sunset that night, with beautiful soft hues dominating the sky, and the lakes stillness reflecting. I found it really difficult to get any foreground interest in the shots, but that’s not always necessary when you have a grand scene in front of you.
A delicious dinner and early night for us in our home for the next week.