This journey will take you from the garden city of Christchurch (still recovering from the 2010 earthquake) south into the heart of the Southern Alps, where we photograph New Zealand’s glacier-covered mountains, punctuated by Mount Cook. We then continue south to Queenstown, home to the aptly-named Remarkables mountain range. To the west are the glacier-carved valleys of Fiordland and Milford Sound, which offer extraordinary photographic opportunities in all weather conditions. An off-road foray into the Fiordland National Park follows before we head to timberline near Te Anau for incredible mountain vistas. Then, it's on to Wanaka, where a private helicopter transfer will whisk us into the mountains at first light to photograph early morning views high over Lake Wanaka. We travel over to the rugged West Coast via Haast River Valley, enjoying the opportunities along beaches and coastal wetlands where few have photographed before. Farther north at Fox Glacier, we helicopter over the glacier itself to shoot aerial views of the Mt. Cook massif, ice caves, crevasses, and hanging ice formations. Traveling up the coast and through mountain passes, we arrive at the coastal town of Kaikoura, where the highlight at this crystal-clear mountain-ringed bay is a private charter boat trip to photograph the acrobatics of the dusky dolphins, as well as wandering albatross, giant petrels, and other pelagic birds.
October 10 – Day one ARRIVAL DAY IN CHRISTCHURCH
Fly into Christchurch International Airport (CHC; flights are not included) where you will be greeted by a friendly executive cab driver and transferred to our group's hotel for our introductory meeting and orientation, followed by a group dinner at one of Christchurch’s fine restaurants. Overnight in Christchurch at CenterPoint on Colombo, a short walk from the city center, still recovering from the 2010 earthquake.
Oct 11 – Day two CHRISTCHURCH - AORAKI/MT COOK NATIONAL PARK
We depart Christchurch this morning and travel south across the pastoral Canterbury Plains towards the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and our base for the next two nights in nearby Twizel, which provides an array excellent photographic options and flexibility to respond to changing weather in the mountains. Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain at 12,218ft. (3724m), the centerpiece of the majestic Southern Alps. Aoraki was given by the indigenous Maori and means ‘cloud-piercer’, an apt description as this mountain backdrop soars 10,000 feet above turquoise Lake Pukaki and the braided Tasman River which offer stunning foreground subject matter. In the early evening we take a short walk to position ourselves to capture the last light on the mountains. Overnight at Mountain Chalets in Twizel.
Oct 12 – Day three AORAKI/MT COOK NATIONAL PARK
We are out in the field pre-dawn, and drive to a nearby location to photograph the first light in the Tasman Valley. The setting is once again Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Southern Alps, with this location offering stunning panoramic perspectives. We then visit Mount Cook village for breakfast. After refreshing, we take a short drive up into the mountains to photograph the Southern Alps, before returning to the village for lunch. After lunch there is some time to relax, take a stroll around the village before we meet up again in the late afternoon to shoot the last light on Aoraki/Mt Cook. Overnight at Mountain Chalets in Twizel.
Oct 13 – Day four AORAKI/MT COOK NATIONAL PARK – LAKE WAKATIPU, QUEENSTOWN
Another chance to photograph sunrise on Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Southern Alps before we depart and travel south towards Queenstown. Along the way we go off-road and drive deep into a mountain valley, and pursue new compositions where few other travellers ever venture. We then continue on south through the unusual Lindis Pass, as we travel down into the Central Otago region. We arrive at Queenstown on the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu in the late afternoon and set up for our last-light shoot of the aptly-named Remarkables mountain range. Overnight at Heritage Hotel in Queenstown.
Oct 14 – Day five QUEENSTOWN - MILFORD SOUND
We leave Queenstown this morning and make our way to Milford Sound, which is located in the northern part of the Fiordland National Park. While most visitors make this a hurried day trip, we will be staying for two nights to take best advantage of the vast range of wonderful opportunities found in this area. The drive to Milford Sound passes through breathtaking glaciated valleys and we make stops to photograph along the way. We arrive at Milford Sound in the afternoon and shortly after take a private-charter photography cruise through the fiord and out to the Tasman Sea. In addition to the tremendous landscape of sheer mountains, plummeting waterfalls, and untouched coastline, we may encounter penguins, seals, and dolphins. Overnight in new luxurious Mountainview Chalets at Milford Lodge.
Oct 15 – Day six MILFORD SOUND
We have a full day of magnificent photography in the Milford Sound area today. At sunrise we will be down on the waterfront making use of the early light on Mitre Peak and the surrounding mountains. After breakfast, we spend the day exploring tree fern-filled rainforest and pristine rivers. At last light we are back on the Milford Sound shore hoping for a colorful end to the day. Overnight in new luxurious Mountainview Chalets at Milford Lodge.
Oct 16 – Day seven MILFORD SOUND - TE ANAU
After a sunrise photo session of the fiord we journey back through the mountains to the lake town of Te Anau. In the afternoon we drive into the Fiordland National Park, to a seldom-visited area and take a short hike through the forest for a late afternoon-sunset session on the rocky shore of a pristine and little-visited lake surrounded by mountains. Overnight at Anchorage Motel Apartments.
Oct 17 – Day eight TE ANAU - WANAKA
After photographing sunrise at Lake Te Anau we depart for Wanaka, arriving in the early afternoon. We take a break and meet up again to shoot the last light on Lake Wanaka. Overnight at The Moorings Luxury Studios
Oct 18 – Day nine WANAKA - HAAST
Following another early morning session on Lake Wanaka, we leave the lakes district behind us and travel over to the wild and isolated West Coast. Our base for the next two nights is the small village of Haast. In the late afternoon we set up at a nearby beach, which is covered with twisted and knotted driftwood. Overnight at Heritage Park Lodge.
Oct 19 – Day ten HAAST
Another early start this morning to get us in position for first light. We photograph along the coast before moving into a stunningly beautiful and ancient rainforest wetland. We then return to the village for brunch before heading out again for more wilderness photography. Last light finds us out on the coast again. Overnight at Heritage Park Lodge.
Oct 20 – Day eleven HAAST - FOX GLACIER
We continue north today and arrive at the Fox Glacier village in the late morning. A nearby forest offers wonderful macro opportunities of moss-covered trees, ferns, and cascading creeks, and we will spend time exploring this magical location. In the late afternoon we drive to a rural location to photograph Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Southern Alps. Overnight at Sunset Motel.
Oct 21 – Day twelve FOX GLACIER: HELICOPTER AERIALS
This morning we go down to the nearby heli-pad for an exhilarating one-hour aerial shoot of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and the Southern Alps. This is aerial photography at its best with the doors removed for unobstructed shooting. We will make a series of flights in a capable Hughes 500 helicopter with two guests per flight in the right-side photo positions, along with one photo leader seated behind the pilot, not photographing, but instead directing the pilot and offering guidance to set up photographic compositions for the guests. Please note that this is weather-dependent for the helicopters to operate, though in the case of inclement weather we have two mornings and two afternoons to find a suitable weather window for these flights. After returning to the base we will have breakfast and then venture out again to photograph forest and glacier scenes. In the afternoon we take a well-earned rest before re-grouping for our evening of photography with the mountains as the backdrop. Overnight at Sunset Motel.
Oct 22 – Day thirteen FOX GLACIER - GREYMOUTH
We leave our accommodation pre-dawn in the hopes of capturing the famed mountain reflections of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman at a nearby lake. After breakfast we depart Fox Glacier and travel north towards the coastal town of Greymouth. We photograph the last light of the day at a nearby coastal location. Overnight Coleraine Motel.
Oct 23 – Day fourteen GREYMOUTH - KAIKOURA
An early start today as we will be travelling from coast to coast, with scenic mountain passes along the journey. Our destination is the peaceful seaside town of Kaikoura, on the east coast. Overlooked by majestic mountains, this coastal town was once only known for the rock lobster caught here. Now, Kaikoura is famous for the abundance of marine mammals and pelagic seabirds found in its sheltered bay. We arrive in Kaikoura in the late afternoon and photograph the rocky coastline and as the sun sets with the coastal mountains as a backdrop. Overnight Admiral Court Motel.
Oct 24 – Day fifteen KAIKOURA: DUSKY DOLPHIN EXCURSION
After a sunrise shoot along the coast we board our private boat charter to photograph dusky dolphins - natural acrobats who can often be seen leaping and flipping. These photogenic animals typically gather in pods of hundreds of individuals in the early morning to socialize and play, so we will be out at sea at the perfect time to capture all the activity. Also, as a special bonus we will photograph resident-wandering albatrosses and other pelagic bird species. This is a fantastic opportunity to photograph these enormous birds at close range. Once back on shore we will enjoy a relaxed breakfast before visiting a NZ fur seal colony along the coast. After lunch we take a break, with time for a nap or a bit of shopping in town. We meet again in the late afternoon for our farewell dinner together to celebrate our incredible journey through the South Island. Overnight Admiral Court Motel.
Oct 25 – Day sixteen KAIKOURA - CHRISTCHURCH - DEPART
We enjoy our last sunrise shoot together this morning, before we travel south to Christchurch to where our adventure began two weeks earlier. For those departing this afternoon we say farewell and safe travels. Accommodation for this night can be arranged for guests who plan to fly home the following day.
INCLUDED: Accommodation for fifteen nights, based on single occupancy (prorated double-occupancy available). All meals and beverages (including wine or beer with dinners). All in-tour photographic instruction, land transportation, and guide services by leader team of two photo pros plus one group assistant/driver. Private-charter boat excursions: Dolphin watch private charter, Milford Sound photo cruise. Private-charter helicopter excursions: Fox Glacier aerials, and Wanaka heli-excursion. Department of Conservation concession and permit fees, all local taxes. All gratuities.
EXCLUDED: All international air travel and domestic transportation within your home country, any other travel services required to arrive at the tour commencement location, along with all associated taxes, levies and insurances. Immigration, duty, passport and visa fees where applicable. Personal items including gifts or other purchases, any paid communications, hotel room service or minibar charges, travel insurance, etc. Optional activities not explicitly listed as included in the itinerary, e.g. additional helicopter flights, additional whale watching excursion, etc.