International National Parks

New Zealand Photo Prep Part 10 – Photography Planning for Fox Glacier\Arthur’s Pass, 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 tenth installment of my photography planning for the trip, I am going to cover our tenth destination, which is Fox Glacier and Arthur’s Pass.  I am going to outline the research I did on what the top photography locations in the Fox Glacier and Arthur’s Pass area, 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 Fox Glacier and Arthur’s Pass, 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 Fox Glacier and Arthur’s Pass area.  By doing this research now, it will ensure that I don’t miss photographing anything spectacular when I arrive in Fox Glacier and Arthur’s Pass 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 the Fox Glacier and Arthur’s Pass area 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.

Fox Glacier and Arthur's Pass Photo Locations Map

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Blue Pools
Knight’s Point Lookout
Jetty on Lake Matheson
Heli Glacier Hike
Otira Viaduct Lookout
Devil’s Punchbowl Falls
Sunset Point

Blue Pools

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A view of the Blue Pools taken from Google Street View

The first spot that I would like to highlight in my photography location guide for Fox Glacier and Arthur’s Pass on New Zealand’s South Island is a really fun spot near Fox Glacier.  The Blue Pools is a really beautiful area that every photographer that makes their way to Fox Glacier should see.  The Makarora River’s Blue Pools are incredibly beautiful and fun to photograph.

The best part is, it only takes a short hike to access them.  To give you an idea of where the pools are and how to get to them, I have included a photo map for you to review below.  If you visit, make sure you bring a wide-angle lens with you because you are going to be in tight by the pools and it will allow you to get more landscape into your shots.

Blue Pools - Photo Map

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Because the Blue Pools are in the middle of a forested area, this isn’t the best location to visit to get good Golden Hours shots.  If you are interested in getting some great sunrise and sunset shots in the Fox Glacier and Arthur’s Pass areas, I would recommend looking at one of the other locations I highlight in this guide.

Knight’s Point Lookout

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A view of Knight’s Point Lookout taken from Google Street View

The second location that I would like to highlight in this guide is another location that is in the Fox Glacier area.  The Knight’s Point Lookout is the coastal location that I am looking the most forward to shooting while I will be on New Zealand’s South Island.  Like the Twelve Apostles in Australia, this gorgeous stretch of coastline includes an abundance of beautiful sea stacks.  For an idea of where this lookout is and how to access it, I have included a photo map for you to review below.  When you visit, I would recommend bringing a wide-angle lens so that you can capture as much of the landscape as possible.

Knight's Point Lookout - Photo Map

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Lucky for me, when we visit the Fox Glacier area in early October this year, the sun will set is an almost ideal location for me to get some fantastic sunset shots from Knight’s Point Lookout.  To give you an idea of where the sun will rise and set while we are there, I have included a map for you to review below.  As Knight’s Point Lookout is on the west side of the South Island, it is a great spot for sunset shots.  If you plan on getting some sunset shots from this point, I would strongly suggest that you carry a sturdy tripod with you.

Knight's Point Lookout - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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Jetty on Lake Matheson

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A view of the Jetty on Lake Matheson taken from Google Street View

Heading inland from the coast and towards Fox Glacier, another great spot to get some photos in the area is at Lake Matheson.  In particular, the Jetty Viewpoint at Lake Matheson has some spectacular views.  To give you an idea of where Lake Matheson and the Jetty Viewpoint are in relation to Fox Glacier, I have included a photo map for you to review below.  When you visit Lake Matheson, I would suggest you bring a wide-angle lens with you so that you can capture as much of the landscape in the area as possible.

Jetty on Lake Matheson - Photo Map

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Because the Jetty Viewpoint is on the west side of the lake, you are positioned much better to get sunrise pictures from this viewpoint than you are for sunset pictures.  As you can see in the map below, when I visit the Fox Glacier area in early October, the sun will rise in a great location for me to get some good sunrise shots from the Jetty Viewpoint at Lake Matheson.  If you are interested in getting some great sunrise shots from this spot, I would recommend that you carry a sturdy tripod with you.

Jetty on Lake Matheson - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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Heli Glacier Hike

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One of the biggest attractions in the Fox Glacier area of New Zealand’s South Island is the glacier itself.  Being one of the biggest glaciers in the world, it really is something spectacular to behold.  There is no better way to see the glacier and get some epic photographs than to take a glacier heli-hike.  On these guided tours, a helicopter flies you up to the glacier (so that you don’t have to spend days hiking up there yourself) and you do some hiking on the glacier.  This is a fantastic way to experience just how amazing glaciers are.

Fox Glacier Heli Hike - Photo Map

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While it is doubtful that you will be on the glacier at sunrise or sunset while taking one of the guided heli-hikes, you may want to try and get some sunrise or sunset pictures of the glaciers from one of the many viewpoints in the Fox Glacier area.  If you are interested, I have included a map below that shows where the sun will rise and set while I am in New Zealand in early October.  You can use The Photographer’s Ephemeris to determine where the sun will rise and set when you visit.  Keep in mind, I would recommend you have a sturdy tripod with you if you are going to try and shoot at dusk or dawn.

Fox Glacier Heli Hike - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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Otira Viaduct Lookout

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A view of the Otira Viaduct Lookout taken from Google Street View

As you make your way to Arthur’s Pass, which is another gorgeous area on the western coast of New Zealand’s South Island, one of the first photo-worthy locations that you will encounter that I want to highlight is the Otira Viaduct Lookout.  The viaduct runs thru some of the most stunning landscape you will see on the South Island and is definitely worthy of a stop to capture.  If you are wondering where the Otira Viaduct Lookout is and how to access it, I have included a photo map for you to review below.  I would definitely recommend having a wide-angle lens for this viewpoint in order to capture as much of the landscape as possible.

Otira Viaduct Lookout - Photo Map

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Lucky for me, I should be able to get some good sunset shots of the viaduct and the surrounding area if I am at this location in the evening hours.  To be honest, if you are looking for great sunset shots, I would definitely recommend some of the other locations in this guide over this one, so if you have limited time in the area I would keep that in mind.  Also, remember to always have a sturdy tripod with you if you are going to shoot during sunrise or sunset.

Otira Viaduct Lookout - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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Devil’s Punchbowl Falls

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A view of the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls taken from Google Street View

One of the most spectacular features of Arthur’s Pass National Park on New Zealand’s South Island is the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, which I have pictured above.  This beautiful waterfall is set in some stunning landscape and is an absolute joy to photograph.  It is especially impressive in the spring season when the snow and ice melt makes the waterfall more powerful.

If you are interested in visiting the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, I have included a photo map below that outlines where the falls are located and how to access them.  If you are going to visit the falls to take pictures, I would recommend bringing a wide-angle lens with you so that you can capture the full falls and the surrounding landscape.

Devil's Punchbowl Falls - Photo Map

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While there are other locations on in this guide that are easier and more impressive to shoot at sunrise and sunset, visiting the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls at dawn or dusk to take pictures in good light is never a bad idea.  When I will be visiting Arthur’s Pass National Park in early October, the sun will be rising in an ideal location for me to get some good shots of the falls with the sun rising.  Because the viewpoint faces the falls to the East, you are going to always be able to get better sunrise shots of the falls than sunset shots.  Remember, if you are planning on shooting the falls at sunrise, I would recommend bringing a sturdy tripod with you.

Devil's Punchbowl Falls - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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Sunset Point

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A view of the Sunset Point taken from Google Street View

Out of all of the coastal locations that I am highlighting on New Zealand’s South Island in these guides, this may be the one location that I am the most excited to photograph at.  I mean, with a name like “Sunset Point”, how can you not be intrigued to photograph here?  In truth, it really is one of the best locations on New Zealand’s South Island to take sunset photographs.  Not just because of its location, which I discuss in more detail below, but also because it has some absolutely stunning coastline.  If you are going to visit this location to take photographs, make sure you bring a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the coastline as possible.

Sunset Point - Photo Map

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As I mentioned, with a name like “Sunset Point”, the fact that you can take amazing sunset photographs at this location is fairly obvious.  If you look at the map below, you can see exactly why this location is so popular for sunset photography.  Standing on the peninsula on the western coast of the South Island, you are setup all-year to be perfectly located to get pictures of the sun rising over stunning coastline.  If you want to make sure your sunset pictures turn out, I would strongly recommend that you carry a sturdy tripod with you.

Sunset Point - Sunrise and Sunset Detail Map

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