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 | $16,495* Closed
Expedition October 10 - 25, 2016 | View other workshops

New Zealand with Michael Melford and Phillip Bartlett

Map via Google



An intimate first-class photo adventure through the magnificent landscape of the South Island

"The NZ trip was really spectacular... and you're to be congratulated for ensuring that it was such a great experience for us from beginning to end." –Kathy R., 2014 participant

"The expedition greatly exceeded my expectations. It was no doubt an amazing and awesome experience of a lifetime!" – Susan S., 2015 participant

Towering mountain ranges, hanging alpine glaciers, wind-swept coastlines, crystal blue lakes, pristine turquoise river valleys, and primordial tree fern rainforests are just some of the scenes we will photograph as we explore the South Island on this intimate 16-day journey led by two top pros: National Geographic photographer Michael Melford (who recently covered the South Island on assignment for Nat Geo), and Phillip Bartlett, a renowned Kiwi landscape photographer and guide who is acclaimed for his professionalism and intimate knowledge of New Zealand's stunning landscape. It was with good reason that motion picture director Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as his location for the fantasy world of Tolkien's "Middle Earth": the variety of incredible landscapes found in such a compact area is simply astounding.

We sought to design a trip that would take your breath away, visiting locations off the regular tourist path that offer superb photography. To access these areas we will be travelling by 4WD Toyota Landcruisers, with two guests per vehicle. In addition, private charter excursions by helicopter and boat – at Fox Glacier, Milford Sound, and Kaikoura – provide us access to some truly phenomenal opportunities. All the while, your trip leaders offer generous guidance and instruction to ensure that you make the most of the photographic possibilities.

Our 2014 and 2015 trips were exceedingly well received by our guests (see testimonials at the bottom of this page), but nevertheless we have adjusted the itinerary slightly to maximize the quality of the overall experience.

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

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.

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.

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 that has to be seen to be believed: Alpine peaks and glaciers, tree fern rainforests, moody fjords, pristine lakes and blue glacial rivers, dramatic coastlines
  • Wildlife: acrobatic Dusky dolphins, albatross, and other pelagic birds
  • Helicopter aerials: private hour-long, doors-off photography session over Fox Glacier and the peaks of the Southern Alps
  • Boat excursions: private charter tour of Milford Sound, and dolphin watching at Kaikoura
  • Luxurious group transport in three Toyota Landcruisers.
  • Small group – ideal for superior field photography experience, ample one-on-one instruction, and enhanced camaraderie.
  • Professional instruction by Michael Melford and Phillip Bartlett, with first-rate local support
  • 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 (pro-rated double-occupancy available at $15,495 per person).

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Airline flights are not included. Participants will be met at the Christchurch airport for executive cab transfer to the hotel in town that will serve as the site of our introductory meeting and first night's lodging. Helicopter flight for aerial photography at Fox Glacier is included. 4WD ground transportation is provided in luxurious Toyota Landcruisers throughout the itinerary, with two guests per vehicle. We will make two private-charter excursions by boat: photo cruise on Milford Sound, and a dolphin watching cruise at Kaikoura. The itinerary includes short hikes on terrain ranging from level trails to rugged hillsides. Participants should be comfortable carrying their photo gear on easy to moderate hikes. We will be visiting a diverse range of climate zones and elevations in New Zealand's spring season. 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.


Testimonials from our New Zealand Expedition clients:

"Thanks for a first-class photo adventure!" –Tom H.

"The NZ trip was really spectacular, we thought, and you're to be congratulated for ensuring that it was such a great experience for us from beginning to end.  Logistics could not have been better, small group size was perfect, and all three instructors were extremely helpful and approachable. I really appreciated all the advice and assistance that was available.  I made plenty of mistakes for sure, but feel I really learned a lot (about the initial capture as well as the subsequent processing) over the 2 weeks and hope I'll be able to put some of the lessons I learned into practice with even nicer photos in future.  Since we were last there 20 years ago, I had quite forgotten just how beautiful the South Island is.  But it takes planning and knowledge to take full advantage of that, and you, Phillip and Michael always got us to the right spots at the right times.  Lastly, all the "extras" you included, such as the helicopter ride, the dolphin excursion, the comfortable and roomy vehicles, the excellent food and drink, and even the luxury of having 3 professionals for only 6 clients, made the trip truly special.  Thank you so very much.  It was a pleasure travelling with you and Visionary Wild and we are very much looking forward to our next adventure with you."  –Kathy and David R.

"Thanks again for another fabulous trip. New Zealand was everything I hoped for and more." –Barry A.

"Thanks again for the great New Zealand Trip - we had a great time and learned so much." –Nancy R. and Greg C.