Visionary Wild, LLC • 2200 19th St. NW, Ste 806, Washington, DC 20009

E-mail:    •    Tel: 1-202-558-9596 (9am to 5pm, EST).

Justin Black – Managing Director: 1-202-302-9030 • Email:

Jennifer Woolley – Director of Operations • Email:

We look forward to hearing from you!


Limit 6 spaces | $14,500* Closed
Expedition November 8 - 23, 2014 | View other workshops

New Zealand with Michael Melford, Justin Black and Phillip Bartlett

Map via Google

Motion picture director Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as the location to film the fantasy world of Tolkien's "Middle Earth" for a very good reason: the variety of incredible landscapes found in such a small area is simply astounding! Towering mountain ranges, wind-swept coastlines, pristine river valleys, and moss-covered tree fern forests are just some of the scenes we will photograph as we explore the South Island on this unique small-group 15-day journey led by National Geographic photographer Michael Melford, Justin Black, and renowned "Kiwi" landscape photographer Phillip Bartlett.

We wanted to take you to wild places on the South Island which are off the regular tourist path, locations which are seldom-visited, but that offer superb photography. To access these areas we will be travelling by 4WD vehicles, with a maximum of three passengers per vehicle. In addition, private-charter excursions by helicopter and boat provide us access to some truly phenomenal opportunities.

Click "read more" below right to see the itinerary and photo gallery...

Note: In response to frequent requests for small-group experiences, we have elected to offer this itinerary with a limit of six participants, so long as six clients are forthcoming and confirm via registration and deposit by October 1st, 2013. The small group option of course involves a premium in cost. If the small group option doesn't fill by October 1st, we will increase the group size limit to 10 participants, and correspondingly lower the price to reflect the broader distribution of group costs. We hope you can join us!

Our journey will take us from the Garden City of Christchurch south into the heart of the Southern Alps, where we photograph New Zealand’s highest mountains. We then continue south to Queenstown, home to the aptly-named Remarkables mountain range. To the west are the ice-carved valleys of Fiordland and Milford Sound, which offer ample photographic opportunities in all weather conditions. An off-road foray into the Fiordland National Park follows before we return to Queenstown for a well-earned rest. Revived and ready to go, we travel over to the rugged West Coast and take a private jet-boat charter up into the far reaches of the glaciated Haast River Valley, where few others have photographed before. Farther north at Fox Glacier, we helicopter onto the glacier itself for our exclusively-guided hike to photograph the subtle form and shape of cobalt-blue ice caves and formations. Travelling through mountain passes, we arrive at the coastal town of Kaikoura, where the highlight is a private charter boat trip to photograph the acrobatics of the Dusky dolphins, as well as albatross and other pelagic birds.


Nov 8th, Day zero – Arrival in CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND
Fly into Christchurch International Airport (flights and not included) and transfer to our group's hotel for introductory meeting and orientation, group dinner, overnight in Christchurch.

We depart Christchurch early this morning and travel south across the agriculture- intensive Canterbury Plains towards the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Hidden behind the Canterbury foothills are extensive valley basins backed by impressive mountain ranges and we take a diversion to a remote back-country location for our inaugural shoot. Wind- blown tussocks, alluvial-fan basins and ominous mountains provide us with a stunning introduction to the New Zealand landscape and we immerse ourselves in this spectacular environment as the early light fills the valley.
We then continue on to the heart of the Southern Alps and our base for the next two nights: the Aoraki/Mt Cook village. Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain at 3754m and the name Aoraki was given by the Maori and means ‘cloud-piercer’. In the early evening we take a short walk to position ourselves to photograph the last light on the mountains.

We are out in the field pre-dawn, and drive to a nearby location to photograph the first light in the Tasman Valley. Our subjects are again Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Southern Alps, with this location offering a stunning panoramic perspective. We then return to the village for breakfast. After refreshing, we take a 4WD track 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 for a 2.5 hour hike up to a small glacial lake to photograph the last light on Aoraki/Mt Cook. This is an easy walk up the valley, however an alternate location will be arranged for those who do not wish to take the hike.

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, where we explore this rugged terrain and capture images where few other travellers ever venture. When then continue on south through the unusual Lindis Pass, as we travel down into the Central Otago region. We arrive at Queenstown in the late afternoon and after dinner make our way to the shores of Lake Wakatipu, with the aptly-named Remarkables mountain range in the background.

We leave the hotel pre-dawn and travel up towards Glenorchy for our sunrise shoot looking over Lake Wakatipu, which is surrounded by mountain ranges. After breakfast in Glenorchy we drive up to the Mt Aspiring National Park, where the landscape is reminiscent of scenes from the Lord of the Rings films. Dense beech forests, crystal-clear rivers and towering peaks dominate this sensational location. We then return to the township where there is time to relax before we meet again in the late afternoon for our last light shoot.

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 day trip, we stay overnight to take best advantage of the evening and morning light. The drive to Milford Sound passes through breath-taking glaciated valleys and we make stops to shoot the dramatic landscapes. We arrive at Milford Sound in the late afternoon in time for our evening shoot of Mitre Peak and the fiord.

After our sunrise photo session of the fiord and surrounding mountains we take a boat journey along the length of Milford Sound and out to the Tasman Sea. As well as shooting this incredible landscape of sheer mountains, cascading waterfalls and untouched coastline it is possible we will see seals and dolphins. Once back ashore we take a break over brunch before journeying back through the mountains to the lake town of Te Anau. If the weather permits we will take a short hike into the forest in Fiordland to photograph the moss-covered forest interior. Arriving at Te Anau in the late afternoon, we take an early dinner before photographing at the lake.

We are on the road early this morning as we have an hour’s drive to get up into a wilderness area in the mountains. Part of the Fiordland National Park, this expansive area is seldom-visited and we take a short hike to an area which offers breath-taking views of the mountains. We will spend most of the morning photographing here before travelling back up to Queenstown. Please note that as this is a mountain location, the road may be closed if weather conditions are not favourable. If this is the case we will photograph at a different location.

Day eight – QUEENSTOWN
Today is intended as an opportunity to take a break from the intense itinerary, rest up, explore at your own pace, shop, etc.. This morning we will go out for a sunrise shoot, before returning to the town. The remainder of the day, you have the option of taking a break at your leisure, or joining Justin for an organized outing. Enjoy a coffee on the lakefront, take the steamboat journey across the lake, the gondola ride up the mountain, catch up on your emails or maybe just stroll around the town. We'll meet for dinner that evening.


We turn west this morning as we head for West Coast. Our road takes us through a valley carved by glaciers, and we stop along the way to shoot waterfall, forest and river scenes. We arrive at Haast, on the West Coast, in the early afternoon, where we board a jet-boat for our exclusive trip deep into the South Westland wilderness. This unique journey is about 4 hours duration and we will make stops to photograph the forest and mountain scenery. The only way into this area is by boat, and there is only one outfit licensed to operate on the river.  It feels as though we truly are in the farthest corner of the world.

We continue north today and arrive at Fox Glacier in the late morning. After refreshing, we will photograph the glacier from a close perspective before returning to the township. A nearby forest offers wonderful macro opportunities of moss-covered trees and ferns. For the last light we will take the hike around Lake Matheson where, on a still day, New Zealand's two highest peaks, Mts Aoraki/Cook and Tasman, are reflected in the dark waters.

Day eleven – FOX GLACIER
An early breakfast this morning, before we take a short helicopter ride up on to the middle part of Fox Glacier . We have arranged for an exclusively-guided hike for our group and will spend the entire morning photographing blue ice-caves and formations. Please note that this is weather-dependent for the helicopters to operate. In the afternoon we will take a well-earned rest before re-grouping for our evening shoot of the mountains.

We leave our accommodation pre-dawn to be down at Lake Matheson in time for the sunrise, where we hope to capture the famed mountain reflections. After breakfast we depart Fox Glacier and travel north towards the coastal town of Greymouth. Along the way we will take diversions to photograph coastal and forest scenery.

An early start today as we will be travelling from coast to coast, with 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 seabirds found offshore. As we travel through the mountains we will take a hike up above the bushline to shoot the mountain scenes, as this will be the last time we will be up in a forested mountain region. We arrive in Kaikoura in the late afternoon and photograph the coastline as the sun sets.

Day fourteen – KAIKOURA
We are on the water pre-dawn this morning on 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 in the early morning to socialize and play, so we will be out at sea at the perfect time to capture all the activity. As a special bonus, we will most likely be able to photograph resident albatross and other pelagic bird species that typically approach boats in the area. 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 New Zealand fur seal colony along the coast. After lunch we take a break, and there is an option to join the whale-watch trip to photograph the resident sperm whales for those who are interested. We meet again in the late afternoon for our farewell dinner together to celebrate our journey.

We enjoy our last shoot together this morning along the coast, 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 tonight can be arranged for guests who are leaving the following day (accommodations this night are not included).

INCLUDED: Accommodation for fifteen nights, based on single occupancy (double-occupancy available at prorated fee). All meals and beverages (with the exception of the lunch on your own in Queenstown on day eight). All in-tour photographic instruction, land transportation, and guide services. Boat excursions: Dolphin watch private charter, Haast Wilderness Safari private charter, Milford Sound photo cruise. Fox Glacier heli-hike private charter. Department of Conservation concession fees. Porterage of one item of luggage per person.

EXCLUDED: All international air travel and domestic transportation within your home country, any other travel services required to arrive at the tour commencement location and 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, travel insurance, etc. Optional activities not explicitly listed as included in the itinerary e.g. bungy jumping, jetboating, helicopter flights.

Michael Melford

National Geographic Photographer Michael Melford has worked with the Society for over 30 years. He has produced 19 feature stories for National Geographic magazine, and over 30 stories for National Geographic Traveler magazine.Born in New York, Michael received a bachelor’s in photography from Syracuse University and returned to New York City in 1977 to start his career.

He has been on assignment the past eleven years mostly for the National Geographic magazine, celebrating the marvels of our National Parks: Acadia, Glen Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Waterton/Glacier, and Death Valley, and a cover story on Our National Parks in Peril (2006). Michael recently shot for National Geographic's "The 50th Anniversary for the Wilderness Act" (2014), which was ranked #2 story of the year by the readers of National Geographic. Other National Geographic stories include: “Saving Civil War Battlefields,” “King Herod: Architect of the Holy Land,” and “Russian Kronotsky Preserve: Let it Be.” and “Solar Energy”.

Michael has produced photography for eight books for National Geographic, including three in Alaska, his favorite being Treasures of Alaska. He has received many awards for his photographs, but prefers to remain humble and share his knowledge, his love of nature, and his sense of humor with students of photography.

Michael has built an excellent reputation as an instructor and photo trip leader, teaching photography through the National Geographic, giving one-day seminars around the country, and onboard the various ships that NG has stationed around the world. His first photo expedition with Visionary Wild is to New Zealand’s south island, focus of a March 2014 feature article for National Geographic magazine.


VIDEO INTERVIEW: Michael Melford, Photographer, by National Geographic Live!


Born in New York 1950

Studied Photography at Syracuse University, Graduated 1973

Moved to New York City to pursue Career in Photography 1977

Contributing Photographer to LIFE Magazine, 1981

Worked for many publications including cover articles for :

Newsweek,  Time,  Life,  Fortune,  Smithsonian,  Geo,  Travel & Leisure, 

Travel Holiday, National Geographic Traveler,  Coastal Living,  Adventure Magazine.

Contributing Photographer to National Geographic Traveler, 1998

Began work for National Geographic Magazine (yellow magazine) 2003.  First assignment:  Acadia National Park. 

Just completed 19th assignment for National Geographic Magazine.


Awards include:  

POYi-1st Place Features Nature/Science

World Press Images Photos of the Year    

International Center of Photography

New York Art Director’s Club

Communication Arts Photo Annual

Graphis Photo Annual

The Missouri School of Journalism

Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Photography

Caribbean Tourism Award for Best Magazine Photographer


Books Published:

New England: Land of Scenic Splendor (National Geographic)      

The Emerald Realm (National Geographic) 

Canada’s Incredible Coasts (National Geographic)        

National Geographic Guide to New England

National Geographic Guide to Alaska

National Geographic Guide to San Diego

The Smithsonian Guide to Historic America   

Classic Photographs (Life)

Big Sky Country (Rizzoli)        

Treasures of Alaska (National Geographic)

Hidden Alaska-Bistol Bay and Beyond (National Geographic)

A Day in the Life of Japan ( Collins )

A Day in the Life of America ( Collins )

Expertise is in shooting the wonders of travel and nature and the people who occupy that landscape. An enthusiastic teacher of photography, with a great sense of humor.

Justin Black

JUSTIN BLACK is a photographer, writer, editor, expedition leader, photo workshops instructor, a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers (ILCW), and a former executive director of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). Since 2011 with Visionary Wild and for ten years at Galen Rowell's Mountain Light Photography, he has created inspiring and effective educational photographic experiences for thousands of passionate photographers. He is widely recognized as one of the world's leading photo workshops organizers.

A professional photographer since 1995 when he signed his first picture agency contract, before founding Visionary Wild he served the ILCP as Executive Director, and for seven years was General Manager and Curator of Mountain Light Gallery.

Justin's photographs have been published by magazines such as National Geographic Adventure, Sierra, Sunset, American Photo, Outdoor Photographer, Rock & Ice, and Nature Conservancy among others. His work has also been published by major news outlets in print and online, and has been used in advertising for brands such as MasterCard, Patagonia, Nikon, and Fujifilm.

Among conservation NGOs that have used his photographs in their campaigns are World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, The Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Panthera, Land Trust Alliance, Earth Justice, The Wilderness Society, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, ILCP, and the Wild Foundation.

In 2017, he entered the world of motion pictures as an Executive Producer on the award-winning documentary film, Headhunt Revisited: With Brush, Canvas, and Camera, produced and directed by Michele Westmorland. Justin was invited to serve as a judge for the 2015 and 2017 Nature's Best Photography Africa competitions. He has also been an editor and contributor to numerous award-winning photo book projects, including Galen Rowell: A Retrospective; Freshwater: The Essence of Life; The Wealth of Nature: Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity, and Human Well-Being; Our National Parks: America's Natural Heritage; as well as Flying South: A Pilot's Inner Journey by Barbara Rowell. His limited edition fine prints are available through his portfolio website at

An early career as a travel photographer and image licensing specialist led him to Mountain Light Photography in the San Francisco Bay Area, founded by Galen Rowell – a world-renowned National Geographic photographer, author, and mountaineer – and his wife and business partner, Barbara Cushman Rowell. Beginning in May of 1999, Justin managed marketing of the Rowell image collection, assisted Galen on assignments and in his workshop program, and taught seminars on nature photography. In April 2002, the Rowells invited Justin to relocate with them to California's scenic Owens Valley as Mountain Light's General Manager. Justin eagerly embraced his new responsibility, along with the sublime Eastern Sierra Nevada landscape as his new home.

Four months later, Galen and Barbara perished in the crash of a chartered plane, leaving behind a tremendous creative and visionary vacuum. Justin went to work, building on the impressive Rowell legacy to reinvigorate Mountain Light by establishing a seasonal series of guest photographer exhibitions, expanding the image collection, and relaunching the highly acclaimed photo workshop program through collaboration with Galen's leading professional peers, including Frans Lanting, Pat O'Hara, Jack Dykinga, John Shaw, David Muench, and Jeff Foott. In May 2008, Justin's successful efforts were recognized by both Sunset and American Photo magazines, as each magazine featured editorial recommendations of his workshop program at Mountain Light.

After ten years with Mountain Light, Justin was recruited to take over the position of Executive Director of ILCP, a non-profit association of the best photographers worldwide working in the field of environmental and cultural conservation. At ILCP, Justin oversaw an explosion of productivity in expeditions, publishing, multimedia production, and the achievement of successful conservation outcomes. He contributed photographic coverage to ILCP's Rapid Assessment Visual Expeditions (RAVE) program, including Flathead Valley (Canada, 2009), Yucatán (Mexico, 2009), and Chesapeake (USA, 2010), as well as a solo project for The Nature Conservancy, documenting the Dragon Run wetland on Virginia's Middle Peninsula. One of Justin's photographs from the Flathead River project appeared as a section opener in the Vancouver Sun newspaper – the first time the threatened watershed received significant coverage in that nationally important media outlet.  The photograph was later selected by the United States Senate for display in the U.S. Capitol Building, as Canada and the USA reached an agreement to protect the Flathead.

Justin left his position at ILCP in late 2010 to establish Visionary Wild, building on his successful leadership of the Mountain Light workshop program and applying expertise gained at ILCP to provide superlative workshops and expeditions for passionate photographers seeking to advance to the next level of creativity, quality, purpose, and meaning in their work. His own work continues to evolve in new directions, driven by the ongoing search for extraordinary qualities in our world's dynamic landscapes.

Justin lives in Washington, DC, with his brilliant wife, Lena, and their children Philippe and Alexandra.

Justin Black's limited editions portfolio

Justin's Outdoor Photographer Profile

Bringing focus and meaning to your photography

The Top 40 Nature Photos Project

Justin's Conservation Photography Projects


Justin’s Camera Bag

After using an array of 4x5, medium format, and 35mm film cameras in the first two decades of his career, Justin fully embraced digital cameras in 2010. His current gear includes Nikon DSLRs and Fujifilm mirrorless systems.


Fujifilm Medium Format Mirrorless:

GFX 50S camera

23mm f/4 GF Fujinon

32-64 f/4 GF Fujinon

120mm f/4 GF Fujinon


Nikon DSLR:

Nikon D810 cameras (x2)

24mm f/3.5 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

45mm f/2.8 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

85mm f/2.8 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

24mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

35mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

50mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

85mm f/1.8 G AF-S ED Nikkor

200mm f/4 AF-D Micro-Nikkor

500mm f/4 AF-S Nikkor

18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G AF-S ED Nikkor

24-70mm f/2.8 G AF-S ED Nikkor

70-200mm f/4.0 G AF-S ED VR Nikkor

200-400mm f/4.0 G AF-S ED VR Nikkor

Nikon TC-14EII teleconverter

Nikon TC-20EIII teleconverter

Nikon SB-900 flash

Nikon SB-700 flash

Assorted Nikon TTL flash cables


Fujifilm APS-C Mirrorless:

X-Pro2 Cameras (x2)

14mm f/2.8 XF Fujinon

23mm f/2 XF Fujinon

35mm f/1.4 XF Fujinon

50mm f/2 XF Fujinon

18-55mm f/2.8-4 XF Fujinon

55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 XF Fujinon


Filters and Light Modifiers

Nikon Circular Polarizer II

Singh-Ray Vari-ND

Tiffen WW IRND neutral density filters

Photoflex reflectors and diffusers

Lumiquest soft boxes

Rogue Flashbender

Rosco gels



Really Right Stuff TVC-24L with leveling base and Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead or Arca-Swiss D4 geared head

Gitzo 1028 with RRS BH-25 ballhead


Photo Packs

MindShift Backlight 36L

MindShift Backlight 26L

Mindshift FirstLight 30L

MindShift Rotation 180 Pro

Mindshift Rotation 180 Horizon

Mindshift Rotation 180 Panorama

ThinkTank Airport Addicted V2.0

ThinkTank Urban Disguise 50 V2.0


Phillip Bartlett

The great thing about photographing in the digital age is instant feedback. Having the ability to assess each capture, while teaching out in the field, makes it so much easier to assist guests develop individual creativity and master new techniques.

Born in Nelson, New Zealand, Phillip Bartlett is a professional wilderness and nature photographer who, since pioneering multi-day photo expeditions in his home country, has been at the forefront of the best and most exclusive photography workshops in New Zealand over the past decade. In his constant search for new perspectives and vistas, Phillip has explored the island nation from top to bottom, from mountains to rainforest to fiords to coastlines and has been responsible for opening up some of New Zealand’s most magical locations for photographers. Phillip is intimately familiar with the range of seasonal opportunities and very special hidden locations off the beaten track. He is the most highly regarded landscape photography instructor in New Zealand, well-known for generously sharing his knowledge, expertise, and love of the place with photographers from around the world. His passion for photography and his desire to help others capture outstanding images and take their photography to the next level is remarkable, and Visionary Wild is very pleased that he has joined our instructor team.

Phillip began photographing the expansive landscapes of New Zealand using medium-format panoramic cameras, to capture a view comparable to the human eye. Both Phillip's father and grandfather were respected landscape artists, and he inherited their eye for composition and detail, which is evident in his work. As a result, his images are licensed for both commercial and editorial use around the world and his fine art prints are held in international private collections.

The amount of breath-taking landscapes which God has packed into this little country constantly amazes me and I can't imagine a better place to be a wilderness photographer. As I grew up close to the sea, the New Zealand coastline remains a favorite location which continues to intrigue and inspire me. The quality of light, along with the sublime blend of earth, sea and sky keeps drawing me back in search of the perfect image.



  • Landscape so amazing that has to be seen to be believed: Alpine peaks, glaciers, ice caves, tree fern forest, fiords, pristine lakes and rivers, dramatic coastline
  • Wildlife: acrobatic Dusky dolphins, albatross, and other pelagic birds
  • Small group
  • An unprecedented level of professional instruction and support by Michael Melford, Justin Black, and Phillip Bartlett
  • Local support by Phillip Bartlett, the most highly regarded photo guide in New Zealand
  • Creativity and visualization: learn to find new and unexpected compositions
  • Advanced field techniques for landscape and wildlife photography
  • Breaking through creative block and making great photographs in challenging situations
  • Constructive critiques of participant photographs
  • All-inclusive from Christchurch

Accommodations & Travel


15-nights 4-star single-occupancy accommodation

airplane iconcar iconboat iconfoot iconweather icon
Airline flights are not included. Participants will be met at the Christchurch airport to transfer to the hotel in town that will serve as the site of our introductory meeting and first night's lodging. One private round-trip helicopter flight is included for our heli-hike to the ice caves on the Fox Glacier. 4WD ground transportation is provided throughout the itinerary, with no more than three passengers per vehicle. We will make three excursions by boat: photo cruise on Milford Sound, a private jet-boat excursion to a remote location in the Haast River Valley, and a private dolphin watching cruise at Kaikoura. The itinerary includes an easy 2.5-hour on-trail hike up a mountain valley, a guided glacier walk (crampons provided), and other walks on rugged terrain. Participants wishing to undertake these activities should be comfortable carrying their photo gear on easy to moderate hikes. Alternative photo locations can be arranged for those who wish to opt out of a given excursion. We will be visiting toward the end of New Zealand's spring season, and visiting a diverse range of climate zones and elevations. Temperatures will generally range from the 40s to 60s (fahrenheit), but be prepared for a temperature range from around freezing early morning in the mountains, to about 70ºF during the day at lower elevations.