International National Parks

New Zealand Photo Prep Part 8 – Photography Planning for Te Anau, South Island

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.

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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.

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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 eighth installment of my photography planning for the trip, I am going to cover our eighth destination, which is Te Anau, New Zealand, and the Fiordland National Park area.  I am going to outline the research I did on what the top photography locations in Te Anau 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.

Resources I Used

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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 Te Anau, here are some of the best resources that I used to do my research.

With these resources in hand, I sat down to start looking for places and things that I would like to photograph in the Te Anau area.  By doing this research now, it will ensure that I don’t miss photographing anything spectacular when I arrive in Te Anau and 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.

Photo Spots I’ve Identified

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After doing my research, I identified ten locations in Te Anau 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.

Te Anau Photography Map

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Milford Sound Cruise
The Chasm
Eglington Valley
Lake Gunn Viewpoint
Pop’s View

Milford Sound Cruise

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The first place near Te Anau and the Fiordland National Park that I would like to highlight in this photography guide is undoubtedly the most famous of all the locations in this area of the South Island of New Zealand.  Milford Sound is world renown for its stunning beauty and the high rock cliffs, beautiful waters, cascading waterfalls, and abundance of wildlife make the sound a photographer’s dream.

One of the best ways to explore Milford Sound is to get out on the water on a cruise where you can appreciate both the magnitude and the beauty of this amazing place.  I have included a map below that outlines the typical cruise route on Milford Sound for you to review below.  If you do decide to visit, I would recommend carrying a wide-angle lens so that you can capture as much of the landscape as possible.

Milford Sound Cruise - Photo Map

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Milford Sound is one of those locations where you can find great spots to photograph the sunrise and sunset pretty much all year round.  There is so much beautiful landscape that finding beautiful scenery to photograph as the sun comes up or goes down is not a challenge.  Below is a map that outlines where the sun will be rising and setting when I visit Milford Sound in late September of this year.  If you plan on getting some shots at Milford Sound during the Golden Hours, make sure you carry a sturdy tripod with you.

Milford Sound Cruise - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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The Chasm

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View from the Chasm Overlook taken from Google Street View

The next photography location that I would like to highlight in this guide is another absolutely beautiful place.  The Chasm, as it is called, is a series of incredible rapids and waterfalls along the Cheddau River near Te Anau on New Zealand’s South Island.  There is a viewing platform that you can hike to in order to get a bird’s eye view of this amazing water feature.  If you are going to visit to photograph the Chasm, I would recommend bringing a wide-angle lens because you are in close to the falls and rapids from the viewing platform.

The Chasm - Photo Map

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While the Chasm is an amazing landscape that is great to photograph, because it is located in the forest it isn’t the ideal location to photograph at sunrise or sunset.  If you would like to get some great sunrise or sunset photographs while you are in the Te Anau and Fiordland National Park area, I would focus on one of the other locations that I highlighted in this guide.

Eglington Valley

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View from the Eglington Valley viewpoint taken from Google Street View

Aside from Milford Sound, one of the locations that I am the most excited about photographing in the Te Anau and Fiordland National Park area is the Eglington Valley.  This large valley is nestled in among some of the most beautiful mountains on the South Island.  If you have ever seen the TV series Departures, Justin and Scott can be seen walking in Eglington Valley both in the second episode on New Zealand and in the intro for season one of the show.

It’s an absolutely epic landscape that I am so excited to be able to photograph on this trip.  If you plan on taking photographs when you visit Eglington Valley, I would strongly recommend that you bring a wide-angle lens with you.  This way you will be able to capture as much of the valley and the surrounding mountains as possible.

Eglington Valley - Photo Map

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Out of all of the places I am highlighting on this list, Eglington Valley may be the best location to take pictures during sunset.  All year round, this location is set up to be an incredible sunset photography location.  No matter what time of year you visit, you will be able to photograph the sun setting behind the mountains that sit just across this magnificent valley.  If you are planning on shooting some sunset pictures at Eglington Valley, I would recommend carrying a sturdy tripod with you.  I would also recommend reading my guide on predicting amazing sunrises and sunsets so that you can plan your stop at Eglington Valley for when the sky will be the most colorful.

Eglinton Valley - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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Lake Gunn Viewpoint

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View from the Lake Gunn Viewpoint taken from Google Street View

While it is hard to compete with the ocean-side mountains at places like Milford Sound, the inland lakes in the Fiordland area are also very beautiful and photo-worthy.  One of the prettiest lakes in the area is Lake Gunn, which is located on the outskirts of Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island.  If you would like a better idea of where the lake is located, I have included a photo map below for you to review.

There is a viewpoint along Lake Gunn that offers visitors absolutely breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.  It is a really convenient stop on your way to visit Fiordland National Park.  If you are going to stop to get some photos at the Lake Gunn Viewpoint, I would recommend having a wide-angle lens with you so that you can capture as much of the lake and mountains as possible.

Lake Gunn Viewpoint - Photo Map

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Lucky for me, when I visit the Te Anau and Fiordland National Park area in late September, the sun will set in an ideal location for me to get some great sunset pictures at the Lake Gunn Viewpoint.  As you can see in the map I have included below, the sun will set just across the lake from the viewpoint, which is perfect for photographing sunsets over the lake.  If you are going to visit the Lake Gunn Viewpoint to get some sunset shots, I would recommend carrying a sturdy tripod with you.

Lake Gunn Viewpoint - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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Pop’s View Lookout

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View from the Pop’s View Lookout taken from Google Street View

The final location that I am going to outline in my photography scouting guide for the Te Anau and Fiordland National Park area of New Zealand’s South Island is the Pop’s View Lookout.  This viewpoint is famous for the incredible mountain views that visitors get from this location.  Your jaw will drop when you see the stunning mountain vistas in front of you as you approach this viewpoint.  The image I took from Google Streetview above really does not do this viewpoint justice.

If you decide to visit Pop’s View Lookout to get some great shots of the mountain vistas, I would strongly recommend that you carry a wide-angle lens with you.  This way you will be able to capture as much of the landscape as possible.

Pop's View - Photo Map

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Although Pop’s View Lookout is located in the middle of a forest, the viewpoint is elevated enough whereas you can still manage to get some great sunset shots from this location.  You can technically get sunrise shots from this location as well, but the prettiest landscape that you can see from Pop’s View Lookout is to the West, which is why sunset shots are more desirable at this spot.

Because Pop’s View Lookout is so elevated, it also allows you to get some great sunset shots pretty much all year-round.  I have included a map below that outlines where the sun will rise and set when I visit Pop’s View Lookout in late September of this year.  If you plan on getting some sunset shots from Pop’s View, make sure you bring a sturdy tripod with you.

Pop's View Lookout - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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