LAST UPDATED: 11/30/23 – Photography Planning for Queenstown
For those of who read my Art of Travel Photography series, you know that one of the most important tips for taking good travel photos is to understand what you will be photographing before you travel. This is important for a number of very good reasons. First and most importantly, if you aren’t familiar with what is at your destination, you might not even make time to see some of the amazing things you could have seen, let alone photographed them.
Even if you do have a good itinerary planned that covers all of the top things that you would like to see at your destination, understanding exactly how you are going to photograph these subjects or locations before you travel can save you valuable time. I like to know where the best spots that give you the best angles are before I arrive. That way I am not wasting valuable travel time trying to figure out where to take the best shots.
Finally, understanding what you want to photograph and how you want to photograph those subjects or landscapes before you travel will help you prepare what type of gear you will need to have with you. For instance, what time of day is best to photograph at these locations?
Where are the best spots at these locations to capture sunrises or sunsets? What type of lens will be best for capturing the subjects or landscapes at these locations? These are just some of the questions that the proper advanced research can answer.
With about a month to go until our trip to Australia and New Zealand and the itinerary for our trip all set, I figured now was as good a time as any to start doing the photo prep for the trip. In this series, I am going to walk you thru my photography prep for each of our destinations in Australia and New Zealand. If you haven’t had a chance to review my planning process for our Australia and New Zealand trip, I have linked those articles for you to review below.
In the seventh installment of my photography planning for the trip, I am going to cover our seventh destination, which is Queenstown. I am going to outline the research I did on what the top photography locations in Queenstown are, where it is best to photograph in those locations, which time of day it would be best to photograph the locations, and what type of photography equipment I will need to get my desired shots.
- Part 1 – Photography Planning for Sydney, Australia
- Part 2 – Photography Planning for Cairns, Australia
- Part 3 – Photography Planning for Melbourne, Australia
- Part 4 – Photography Planning for the Great Ocean Road
- Part 5 – Photography Planning for Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
- Part 6 – Photography Planning for Mount Cook, New Zealand
- Part 7 – Photography Planning for Queenstown, New Zealand
- Part 8 – Photography Planning for Te Anau, New Zealand
- Part 9 – Photography Planning for Wanaka, New Zealand
- Part 10 – Photography Planning for Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Resources I Used
When doing photography planning for any trip, the first step I take is to do research on the location to see what there is to photograph, where the best places to photograph those subjects or landscapes are, and when and how to photograph them. When it came time to do my research on Queenstown, here are some of the best resources that I used to do my research.
- In Far Away Land – 10 Awesome Photography Spots Around Queenstown
- The Wandering Lens – The Best Photography Locations in Queenstown
- Destinationless Travel – The 11 Most “Instagrammable” Spots in Queenstown
- Queenstown.com – Top 10 Most “Instagramable” Spots in Queenstown
- Queenstown.co.nz – Top Ten Most Photogenic Spots in Queenstown
- Queenstown.co.nz – Best places to catch the sunrise and sunset in Queenstown
- Instagram Photos with the #Queenstown Hashtag
- A Search of “Queenstown New Zealand Photography” on Pinterest
With these resources in hand, I sat down to start looking for places and things that I would like to photograph in the Queenstown area. By doing this research now, it will ensure that I don’t miss photographing anything spectacular when I arrive in Queenstown.
It will also help save me time trying to determine when and how to photograph the subjects and locations that I have identified. If you would like to learn more about the process I use when I do my photography research, I would suggest that you check out my Art of Travel Photography – Planning Your Shots guide.
|Planning Your Travel Photos|
Photo Spots I’ve Identified
After doing my research, I identified ten locations in Queenstown that I really want to take photographs at. I am going to cover each of these locations in greater detail, but as a summary, I have included a map and a list of all ten locations for you to review below.
|Skipper’s Road Lookout|
|Bennett’s Bluff Lookout|
|One Mile Carpark|
|The Road Between Queenstown and Glenorchy|
|Ben Lomond Summit|
Skipper’s Road Lookout
The first location that I want to highlight in my photography research for the Queenstown, New Zealand area is the Skipper’s Road Lookout. Queenstown is surrounded by some extraordinary mountains and getting high up in elevation can give you some breathtaking views of the area.
I outline several different hikes in this photography guide that will bring you to high altitude vantage points that are great for photography, but I wanted to highlight a location that you could get to without hiking as well.
Skipper’s Road is a great option for those who want to see the Queenstown area from a high elevation but aren’t able to do a lot of hiking. For an idea of where this viewpoint is in relation to Queenstown, please see the map I have included below. I would recommend bringing a wide-angle lens with you to capture as much of the landscape as possible.
One of the great things about being at high elevation in the mountains is that you have beautiful scenery all around you that you can photograph. This becomes especially helpful when you are trying to capture shots at sunrise or sunset.
When I will be visiting Queenstown at the end of September of this year, I should be able to get some amazing sunrise and sunset shots from the Skipper’s Road Lookout because I have beautiful scenery all around me at this elevation. Remember, if you are going to take sunrise and sunset shots, you should bring a sturdy tripod with you.
Bennett’s Bluff Lookout
To get to the next location that I would like to highlight in this photography guide you will need to come down in elevation and head to the shores of Lake Wakatipu. I am going to highlight the complete road between Queenstown and Glenorchy later in this guide because it is an absolutely stunning drive, but there is one viewpoint along this drive in particular that needs to be highlighted.
Bennett’s Bluff Lookout is widely considered to be one of the best photography locations in the Queenstown area to get shots of the mountains and Lake Wakatipu. When you shoot from Bennett’s Bluff, make sure you have a wide-angle lens with you so that you can capture both the lake and the mountains in your shots.
Lucky for me, when we will be visiting Queenstown in late September of this year the sun will be setting just off the coast of Lake Wakatipu at Bennett’s Bluff Lookout. This means I should have some excellent opportunities to get some great sunset shots at this beautiful lookout point. Remember, if you are going to take shots at sunrise or sunset you should have a sturdy tripod with you.
One Mile Carpark
If you are looking for a quick and convenient place to get some great shots of Lake Wakatipu with the mountains as a backdrop, there may be not easier location on this list to access than the One Mile Carpark. You can get some truly spectacular shots of the lake and mountains from this location and not have to do a lot of hiking or driving to do so.
If you would like to know where the car park is and how to access it, please refer to the map that I included below. I would recommend having a wide-angle lens with you so that you can capture as much of the lake and mountains in your shots as possible.
When I will be visiting Queenstown in late September of this year, the sun will be rising in a great location for me to get some good pictures of the sun rising above the mountains behind Lake Wakatipu. As you can see in the map I included below, I should be able to get some great sunrise shots at the car park. If you are planning on getting some good sunrise shots at this spot, make sure you have a sturdy tripod with you.
Another great location in the Queenstown area for photographing is the Queenstown Gardens. Not only are the gardens are a beautiful green area within the city of Queenstown, but it is also a great place to take shots of the city itself. In fact, it may be the best place to get some night shots of the city of Queenstown because of its location.
If you are going to shoot at Queenstown Gardens, I would recommend bringing a wide-angle lens with you to capture as much of the landscape as possible. It may also make sense to bring a lens with some reach if you would like to get some closeup shots of the city from the gardens.
Unfortunately, when I will be visiting in late September the sun will not be rising or setting a position that will allow me to get either sunrise or sunset shots over the city of Queenstown. However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t be able to get some good Golden Hours shots from this location. As you can see in the map below, I should be able to get some good shots of the sun setting over Lake Wakatipu from the Queenstown Gardens. If you are going to take sunrise or sunset shots from this spot, make sure you have a sturdy tripod with you.
One of the locations in Queenstown that I am most excited to photograph at is also one of the most infamous viewpoints in the Queenstown area. Queenstown Hill is well known for giving visitors the most breathtaking views of the city, the lake, the mountains, and the whole surrounding area. From this elevated perch, you can really get a sense for how beautiful New Zealand’s South Island really is.
However, if you want to visit Queenstown Hill to take some photographs, you are going to have to earn it. There isn’t a road that takes you to the top of the hill, so you will need to hike. This 4.3-mile out-and-back hike isn’t overly difficult, but with roughly 1,300 feet in elevation gained throughout the hike, it isn’t easy either. The views from the top are worth it though. Make sure you have a wide-angle lens with you to capture as much of the amazing views from the top as you can.
Unfortunately, when I will be visiting Queenstown in late September the sun will not be rising or setting in a position that will allow me to get shots of the sun rising or setting above the city of Queenstown or Lake Wakatipu, but I will be at a high enough elevation that I should be able to still get some pictures with a colorful sky.
If you visit in December, you should be able to get some absolutely epic shots of the sun rising over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. If you do decide to make the hike to get some sunrise or sunset shots, make sure you bring a sturdy tripod with you.
If you would like to get some elevated views of Queenstown but aren’t interested in doing any hiking, then the Skyline Gondola may be just what you are looking for. You can get some pretty incredible pictures of Queenstown below from the top of the Gondola ride.
Not to mention, if you are up for some adventure, you can take a luge ride part of the way back down. For an idea of where the Skyline Gondola is located and where it takes you, I have included a map below. I would recommend having a wide-angle lens with you if you are going to shoot from the top because it will allow you to get much more landscape in your shots.
Lucky for me, when I will be visiting Queenstown in late September the sun will rise in the perfect location for me to hopefully get some spectacular photographs with the sun rising over Queenstown from the top of the Skyline Gondola. In fact, for most of the year, this is a great location to get sunrise shots of the city. Remember though, if you are going to shoot sunrise shots you should always have a sturdy tripod with you.
High vistas aren’t the only things to explore and photograph in the Queenstown area. In fact, the Queenstown area is chock-full of amazing landscapes that are photograph worthy. One of the most beautiful is Shotover Canyon, which is located just north of the city of Queenstown. The canyon is a well-known destination for jet boat rides up the Shotover River and is also home to a large swing that you can ride that propels you across the canyon.
The easiest way to visit the Shotover Canyon is to take one of the tours that visit the canyon. However, if you aren’t opposed to doing some hiking, you can hike to the start of the canyon and get some pretty incredible shots from there. I have included a map below in case you are interested in hiking to the canyon. I would recommend bringing a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the canyon as possible.
Seeing as though this location is inside a canyon, it is not the best location to try and get some spectacular sunrise or sunset photographs. If you would like to get some great sunrise or sunset shots while in the Queenstown area, I would suggest focusing on one of the other locations I outline in this guide that are more conducive to getting these shots.
If you have a vehicle with you in Queenstown, there are some beautiful areas just outside of Queenstown that I would absolutely recommend exploring and taking photographs at. At the top of this list is Moke Lake, which sits to the Northwest of the city. This beautiful little lake is nestled in the mountains and is absolutely stunning. If you decide to visit Moke Lake to take some photographs, I would suggest bringing a wide-angle lens with you to capture as much of the landscape as possible.
With beautiful landscape all around you, Moke Lake is one of those locations where you can get great sunrise and sunset photographs year-round. You just have to be willing to do a little bit of hiking when you reach the lake to get yourself into the right position to compose a great sunrise or sunset photograph. The map below highlights where the sun will be rising and setting when I visit the Queenstown area in late September. If you are visiting Moke Lake to get some sunrise or sunset shots, make sure you bring a sturdy tripod with you.
The Road Between Queenstown and Glenorchy
In case you missed it earlier in this guide, I already highlighted the top spot to visit on the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy. Bennett’s Bluff is a stunning viewpoint that should be near the top of the list for any photographer visiting the Queenstown area. However, the rest of this road is also worthy of exploring as well.
There are at least three additional viewpoints that I would recommend stopping at, which I have highlighted in the map below. If you are planning on driving between Queenstown to Glenorchy to get some photographs, I would recommend bringing a wide-angle lens with you to capture as much of Lake Wakatipu and the landscape as possible.
Lucky for me, when we will be visiting Queenstown in late September of this year the sun will be setting just off the coast all along Lake Wakatipu. This means I should have some excellent opportunities to get some great sunset shots at the beautiful lookout points along the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy. Remember, if you are going to take shots at sunrise or sunset you should have a sturdy tripod with you.
Ben Lomond Summit
The last location in the Queenstown area that I am going to highlight in this guide is also the most epic of all the locations that I am going to highlight. And when I say epic, I really do mean epic. Out of all of the high elevation vantage points that you can get to in the Queenstown area, the Ben Lomond Summit definitely offers the most spectacular views.
If you want to visit the Ben Lomond summit, you are going to need to plan ahead as it requires a 6-8 hour hike, round trip, to reach the summit and get back down. If you would like some more information on how to get to the trailhead for the Ben Lomond summit hike and more details on this hike, I have included a map with details below. I would make sure you have a wide-angle lens with you when you visit so that you can capture as much of the amazing landscape as you can from the top.
PRO TIP: If you want to save about an hour to an hour-and-a-half of hiking, you can take the Skyline Gondola and then pick-up the Ben Lomond summit trail from the top. This will make the hike a little bit shorter and remove a good chunk of the roughly 3,200 feet in elevation gain on the hike.
Because the Ben Lomon summit is at such a high elevation, you really can’t miss on getting some epic sunrise and sunset photographs no matter what time of year you visit. You should be able to get shots of the sun rising and setting over some truly spectacular landscape from this viewpoint. Remember, if you do decide to visit the Ben Lomond summit to get some sunrise or sunset shots, I would recommend taking a sturdy tripod with you.