New Zealand 2017

New Zealand. 

It's a country that is synonymous with wide-open and majestic landscapes, snow-capped mountains and (thanks to Peter Jackson) the Lord of the Rings. 

I had first been to New Zealand in the Summer of 2015, where, as a sort of gift to myself, I traveled following the completion of my Masters degree in Engineering following 5 years at University. I traveled around both the North and South Islands for almost one whole month doing things like bungee jumping and multi-day hikes through the amazing national parks that they had there. However this time I wanted to return to New Zealand in the Winter, primarily to go snowboarding and to properly experience the spectacular mountain ranges in their true glory. 

I picked up a cheap flight from Melbourne to Queenstown that left Melbourne at 6am and eventually touched down in Queenstown at around 11am. The last half an hour or so of the flight was amazing as we were flying over the untouched snow capped mountain ranges of the South Island. Unfortunately I didn't have a window seat, so I could only see it in glimpses but by the way everyone was glued to the windows you could see that it was amazing. 

Whilst I based myself in Queenstown I spent each day catching a bus up to a different mountain to ensure that I went to as many as I could in the short time that I had there. I hit the four big mountains when I was over there, and my preferences (starting with the best) are: Treble Cone, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Cardrona. In addition to these ski resorts I also spend one day heliboarding on the untouched mountains beyond Coronet Peak, which was one of the most amazing experiences. Coming down the mountain and carving through pure powder is just the greatest feeling. 

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After spending 6 days up at the snow, I hired a car and drove from Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook. I had inadvertently skipped this landmark location on my previous trip and wanted to make sure that I went there this time. The drive to Aoraki/Mt Cook off the main highway is one of the greatest drives that I've ever done, and upon arrival to Mt Cook Village you are surrounded by snow capped mountains in every single direction. I spend the next day and a half walking various trails within the National Park and have to say that it is one of the most beautiful places that I have been to, despite being bitterly cold in the early morning and late evening (the thermometer in my car got down to -6°C at one stage). For those who are wishing to head there one day I definitely recommend the Hooker Valley Track and Tasman Lake trail, both of which are mind blowingly beautiful. 

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From there I also drove down into the deep south of New Zealand, making the 4 hour drive overnight from Aorkai/Mt Cook to Nugget Point to be there at sunrise. The coastline within this area is really stunning, and from someone who has lived in Australia their whole life and goes to the beach a fair bit, that's saying something. After photographing Nugget Point at sunrise I went chasing waterfalls and spent the rest of the day visiting Purakanui Falls, Matai Falls and McLean Falls. Easily the largest and best in my opinion was McLean Falls, a huge tiered waterfall that was flowing very strongly when I arrived there due to recent rains. 

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From there I made the 3 hour drive back to Queenstown, with the last hour of the drive being through heavy rain. Upon arriving at the airport and checking in and onto the plane, after sitting for about half an hour, the plane was unable to take off due to there being high winds and too much people on the flight. So I ended up staying an extra night (put up in a hotel by the airline) before leaving the next afternoon. 

All in all it was an absolutely amazing experience and one that I might consider doing annually given the close proximity and amazing conditions up in the mountains. 

A weekend in Tasmania

During the first three weeks of March, 2017 I was lucky enough to head down to Tasmania. Whilst I was primarily there on behalf of my workplace, I had the weekends to myself and dedicated one of the those weekends to solely exploring certain parts of Tasmania and photograph my travels in the process. I was lucky enough that the weekend that I chose was a long weekend (due to Monday being Labour Day) and as such spent 3 days exploring as set out below:

Friday - After finishing work in Launceston at 5pm I packed my photography equipment in the car and made the relatively short drive (~1.5h) down to Cradle Mountain. I got there just at the start of golden hour, and despite the sunset being a bit of a fizzer I hung around and took photos throughout twilight and into the night. I hadn't really gone out and tried the low light capabilities my camera bundle before this time (which consists of a Nikon D800 and a Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens) and was in awe at how well it performed in low light.

Saturday - As with the sunset the evening prior, the sunrise really wasn't anything amazing on the Saturday morning, and add to the fact that as soon as I got to the boathouse to set up my camera a group of 6 other photographers all showed up clamoring to get the best position made it very difficult to get any good shots. Following this however I completed the trek to the summit of Cradle Mountain. It was an epic 6.5 hour trek via Lake Lilla and Marion's Lookout, with the last hour involving literally rock climbing in sections in order to reach the summit. Whilst being one of the hardest hikes that I have ever completed, the 360 degree views at the top of the summit are unparalleled and showcase amazing natural scenery as far as the eye can see. Coming down was much easier in comparison, and despite being exhausted by the time I reached the carpark, it was well worth it and something that I would definitely again and would recommend to others (provided that they are fit and are not afraid of heights).

 

 

Sunday - During the night, clouds had rolled in across Tasmania, leading to a fairly drab and overcast day. These conditions are perfect for photographing waterfalls, and after doing some quick searches I found that there were a couple of great waterfalls in Meander Valley, about an hour from Launceston. After getting lost amongst the maze of potholed dirt roads in Meander I eventually found my way to the carpark and set off hunting down these waterfalls. The first one, Chasm Falls, took just over an hour to reach through fairly dense rainforest. Due to the rain the night before the waterfall was flowing well, but the damp conditions had also brought out other creatures, and upon reaching the falls I realised I had three leeches sucking away at my left leg, one of them through the sock that I was wearing! Chasm Falls itself was absolutely beautiful and I spent around an hour exploring the immediate area and photographing it from various angles. From there I hiked up to Smoko Falls, which was around 2 hours through dense rainforest along a slippery and often poorly marked out track. Smoko Falls itself was a bit of let down, however there were numerous other waterfalls that I stopped over both going to and coming back from Smoko Falls which made the hike worth it.

Monday - Once again woke up at dawn to capture, the sunrise, this time over the Tamar River in downtown Launceston. Unlike the day before, this sunrise was really nice and whilst the sky was cloud-free, the golden hues reflected by the moving water was really beautiful to see. I made the 2 hour drive from Launceston to Freycinet National Park where I completed the hike to the summit of Mt Amos. This is a harder version of the walk to the lookout over Wineglass Bay, however gives even more stunning views of the surrounding coastline, including Wineglass Bay. Unfortunately for me, the day was fairly overcast, and whilst the views were still stunning, the intense contrast between the deep blue of the ocean and the white sands during a clear day would've made for a better photo.  Whilst not on the same day I also ended up heading down to Liffey Falls after work one day and was lucky to capture a few shots of it before the sun set and darkness set it.

All in all it was a very productive weekend and I was able to see and explore new places and get some pretty good photos in the process, which I was really happy with. Tasmania is really a stunning place in terms of natural scenery and I will definitely return here in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later).

Roadtrip 2016/17

In order to start the new year with a bang, I spent the first 10 days on a roadtrip, travelling from Melbourne to the Blue Mountains in NSW.

Traveling for me is primarily about exploring and discovering new places, and as such I generally rough it, sleep in my car or in the tent for a few hours each night before getting up in the early hours of the morning to capture the sunrise. I had done a similar trip as a child with my family, but wanted to try it again as an adult to see the comparison. I really enjoyed doing this trip and would love to do it again sometime in the future.

Highlights included:

Thurra River Sand Dunes - These huge sand dunes are some of the largest in Victoria and are less than an hour's walk for the Thurra River campground.

Mallacoota - Absolutely beautiful part of Victoria with pristine bright blue water and an amazing coastline with amazing short walks to places like Secret Beach and Shipwreck Creek. The nearby Genoa Peak is an absolute must-do for stunning 360 degree views of the surrounding land.

Wentworth Falls - Nestled within the Blue Mountains National Park lies Wentworth Falls. A plethora of walks ranging in difficult from easy half an hour walks to the arduous 5 hour trek through the Valley of the Waters, this area reflects the beautiful nature scenery that the Blue Mountains is known for. The National Pass trail is listed as one of the best walks in the entire park, and I was lucky enough to see a a group of people canyoning whilst I was doing it.

Kanangra Walls - About an hour's drive outside of the much more popular Jenolan Caves lie the Kanangra Walls. This huge natural stone structure runs for kilometres and with waterfalls, deep valleys and mountainous terrain it is an amazing sight to see. I flew my drone off here (in a video that I will upload soon) and the views were nothing short of spectacular.

 

Day 1: Traralgon, Tarra Bulga National Park, Loch Sport

Day 2: Sale, Lakes Entrance, Lake Tyers State Park, Croajingolong National Park

Day 3: Point Hicks Lighthouse, Thurra River, Mallacoota, Genoa Peak

Day 4: Secret Beach, Mallacoota, Mogo, Ulladulla, Kiama

Day 5: Kiama, Old Helensburgh Tunnel, Wentworth Falls, Katoomba

Day 6: Katoomba, Jenolan Caves, Kanangra Walls

Day 7: Wentworth Falls, Canberra

Day 8: Canberra, Carrum Beach

Drone Showreel

For those of you who may or may not know I purchased a DJI Phantom 3 Standard near the end of 2015. I bought this drone almost off a whim as I just wanted to see what the landscape and places that I traveled to looked like from a new and different perspective.

Since I bought this drone I have attempted to take it with me whenever I travel or go hiking. It is more difficult to bring than my DSLR. Whilst its lighter it is just very bulky to carry around, and whilst I have a backpack for it, it has taken some getting used to. But that being said the shots that I have been able to get with this machine have been unparalleled.

The following video above is a compilation of some of the best footage that I have been able to obtain in the last 6 months since I bought this drone and I am hoping that in the near future that I'll be able to continue using this drone and get amazing new shots.

I upload a lot of my shots to Dronestagram (Instagram for drone shots) and was lucky enough to have some of my shots found by the editor of RC Flight Camera Action, a new drone enthusiast magazine based out of the UK. I was lucky enough to be published in the September/October version of this magazine (Issue 7) and wrote a 4 page article about the photos that I was lucky enough to get published.

I'm hoping that my run of good luck will continue on and look forward to flying the drone as much as I can.