After a 2 week trip to New Zealand in 2018 I knew I had to return this year. I fell in love with the country very quickly with it’s glacial rivers, large snow-capped mountains, tussock-filled grass plains and friendly locals. The last trip was packed full of hiking and exploring wilderness areas but it went by so quickly, so this time round I had a bit more of an idea of where I wanted to spend more time. Being a photographer, I am always looking to spend as little time in the cities and towns as possible, and get straight into nature.
After leaving Launceston and a quick stop over in Melbourne we arrived in Christchurch late in the evening and were greeted with constant rain. We expected the weather to be a little hit and miss due to it being spring but we hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come. I had been planning this trip for a few months with my good friends and fellow Tasmanian based photographers @oscarsloane and @nickhansonvisuals. The rough idea was to start on the West Coast of New Zealand and work our way down to Fiordland and then back up to Mt Cook. Driving up through Arthur’s Pass was a new experience for me and it really exceeded all expectations. Driving on highways carved into steep mountain passes is something I am not used to, being from Tasmania. We arrived late at the Franz Josef Glacier and were able to hike up the valley floor to see the glacier up close. A truly special place that photos can’t really do justice. After reading the information signs of how quickly the glacier is receding it reminded us all how fragile the environment is in New Zealand despite it being so rugged and wild.
The next few days consisted of quite a bit of driving before arriving in Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park. This is one of the places where, as mentioned earlier, I hoped to spend more time so we planned an overnight stay in our van at Milford Sound rather than just the classic day trip. The trip into the park was a challenge with a snow storm dropping a large dump of fresh snow and our planned stops along the way to hike at Lake Marion and Key Summit had to be cancelled due to the road being closed behind us. We were lucky enough to make it into Milford Sound for the night where we could get some rest. The boys and I woke up for sunrise despite the freezing temperatures and were rewarded for our efforts with some beautiful light over the sound. It is always such a special feeling seeing first light on the mountains.
The next place on our list was Mt. Cook but before we headed there we decided to take a chance with the weather and head up for a sunrise flight with a pilot, based out of Wanaka, in his Cessna 172 plane. This had to be one of my favourite experiences from the trip and definitely the most memorable. There really is no other way to truly grasp the scale of the Southern Alps except from a plane so if there is one thing I can recommend to someone visiting New Zealand, it would be to try and get an aerial perspective. The high winds made for an interesting flight especially when trying to shoot photos out of a side window but thanks to our skilled pilot we were able to capture some really incredible images of the mountain peaks.
Being back at Mt. Cook National Park was such a pleasure and brought back fond memories from the year before where we hiked similar trails and experienced it for the first time. I can highly recommend Hooker Valley Track and Tasman Glacier for a good easy walk with amazing views and Sealy Tarns for something more challenging. After a few days of great weather and lots of hiking, the weather turned resulting in high winds and rain so we decided that was our signal to start making our way back to Christchurch.
To see more of Graham's work, head to @grahamnking.