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

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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* Register
Expedition October 12 - 27, 2018 | 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

"I feel my experience in New Zealand has made me a much better photographer. I had several 'a-ha' moments that I will carry with me everytime I pick up the camera." –Marla R., 2016 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 and Milford Sound – 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.

All of our past three annual excursions were exceedingly well received by our guests (see testimonials at the top and 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 south into the heart of the Southern Alps, where we photograph the east side of New Zealand’s glacier-covered mountains, punctuated by Mount Cook reflected in vast lakes. We then continue to Otago's Moeraki Boulders on the south-east coast. At Invercargill on the southern tip of the South Island, we will photograph intimate waterfall and forest scenes, en route to the glacier-carved valleys of Fiordland and Milford Sound. There, we take advantage of the extraordinarily dramatic landscape opportunities, including a private charter boat cruise through Milford Sound. Nearby, the lakeside town of Te Anau, offers incredible mountain vistas, and a bit of a rest. Then, it's on to the charming Lakes District town of Wanaka, where we will explore the surrounding hill country and photograph an iconic tree isolated in the waters of Lake Wanaka.  From there, we travel over to the rugged West Coast via Haast River Valley, enjoying the opportunities offered by the rainforest, 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. Farther north along the west coast, we visit the Pancake Rock formations of the Punakaiki Area, and the tree fern forests of Paparoa National Park, based out of Greymouth. Finally, we traverse Arthur's Pass as we return to 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.


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.


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 return to Twizel for a late breakfast. After lunch we are out in the field again and spend the rest of the day photographing the Southern Alps from a new perspective.

Oct 15  Day four TWIZEL  NORTH OTAGO

Another chance to photograph sunrise on the Southern Alps before we depart and travel east out to the coast. We arrive in the afternoon in time to photograph the late light at the Moeraki Boulders. These unusual spherical concretions, which look as though they simply dropped out of the sky, are embedded in the sandy beach and can reach nearly 10 feet in diameter.


This morning we are on the beach well before sunrise for our first-light session at the Moeraki Boulders. We then travel south through the Catlins area on the south-east corner of the South Island, where we photograph intimate waterfall and forest scenery. We arrive at Invercargill in the early evening.


We leave Invercargill 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 set up on the water’s edge to photograph the iconic Mitre Peak and surrounding mountains.

Oct 18  Day seven 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. After breakfast, we explore tree fern-filled rainforest and pristine rivers. After lunch we take a break before joining our 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. At last light we are back on the Milford Sound shore hoping for a colorful end to the day.

Oct 19  Day eight 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, arriving in the afternoon. The rest of the day is at your leisure to allow the instructors to prepare for the following morning.

 Oct 20  Day nine TE ANAU - WANAKA

A very early start for us this morning as we are packed and gone well before dawn. Our first-light shoot is at a high-country lake location hidden in the mountains. The golden tussock grasses growing here give the scene a distinctly New Zealand-wilderness flavor. We then drive back out to the main highway and make a stop for breakfast before we continue on to Wanaka, arriving in the afternoon. We take a break and meet up again to shoot the last light on Lake Wanaka.

 Oct 21  Day ten WANAKA 

Pre-dawn we are down at the famous lone tree, which has now become a local institution. After breakfast we explore the mountainous backcountry, photographing spectacular wilderness scenery. In the afternoon we travel into the hill country where we shoot expansive views of the surrounding mountains.

Oct 22  Day eleven HAAST 

One more chance to perfect our lone tree image before we leave the lakes district behind us and travel over to the wild and isolated West Coast to the village of Haast. In the late afternoon we set up at a stunningly beautiful and ancient rainforest wetland. Last light finds us out on a nearby beach, which is covered with twisted and knotted driftwood.

Oct 23  Day twelve 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 aerial shoot of Fox Glacier 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 25 – Day fourteen FOX GLACIER - GREYMOUTH

We leave our accommodation pre-dawn to capture 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 take a short break to refresh before continuing along the coast to the Punakaiki area for our last-light shoot of the unique limestone formations of the Pancake Rocks.

Oct 26 – Day fifteen GREYMOUTH

We spend the day exploring the rugged Paparoa National Park coastline north of Greymouth, including a foray into the backcountry. This area is one of the best remaining examples of New Zealand coastal forest and is dominated by towering tree ferns and the endemic Nikau palm, giving a tropical feel to the landscape. Our sunset shoot finds us out of the coast again, capturing the last drops of light on this dramatic seascape. 


After breakfast we depart Greymouth and travel from coast to coast. The journey takes us directly east through the Arthur's Pass, which is at the northern end of the Southern Alps. We will make brief stops along the way to photograph the imposing mountain scenery. 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 field support. Private-charter boat excursions: Milford Sound photo cruise. Private-charter helicopter doors-off photography at Fox Glacier aerials. 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.



  • Landscapes that have to be seen to be believed: Alpine peaks and glaciers, tree fern rainforests, moody fjords, pristine lakes and blue glacial rivers, dramatic coastlines
  • Wildlife: Photograph the rare Yellow-eyed Penguins and Hooker's Sealions
  • Helicopter aerials: private, doors-off photography session over Fox Glacier
  • Boat excursion: private charter tour of Milford Sound
  • 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. The itinerary includes one private-charter excursion by boat: photo cruise on Milford Sound. There will be 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.... 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.