Picture perfect: How to take great photos of New Zealand landscapes

NZ Herald
By Rach Stewart
Not for sale

Holidays in New Zealand are worth remembering forever. Kiwi landscape photographer Rach Stewart has some tips on how to capture those memories on camera.

1. Research ahead

Seeing a beautiful landscape shot on Instagram can inspire us to want to go to that place, and New Zealand offers a plethora of possibilities. I think it is important to try to go with the intention of composing something "new" but it pays to do some research beforehand via Google Earth and searching images online so you can see what compositions are available.

2. Scale

Sometimes when creating a dramatic image it all comes down to scale. If you are looking to create a scene with big impact it's time to get out that zoom lens and get a friend (or yourself) into your scene. There is nothing better for showing just how incredible nature is than by placing a human into the picture. It's incredible how tiny we are compared to the amazing surroundings that are presented to us. A zoom lens will create a compression effect for example, making those snowy mountains look huge, or bring the scene in closer than it appears to the naked eye.

3. Golden and blue hours

Although it can be difficult getting up for the blue hour and sunrise, the effort is rewarded when you see the results afterwards. Blue hour, both the early morning and at night, can have a dreamy effect on any scene, whether it be at the beach, the mountains, or lakes. Golden hour can create some truly beautiful light, changing colours from pink to peach to that gorgeous soft golden colour within a matter of minutes.

4. Using reflections and setting the scene

If you have a lake, a puddle, any body of water that is giving a reflection of some sort, then use it. Sometimes a reflection in a lake can really balance out an image and it gives the viewer something additional to look at.

Kiwi landscape photographer Rach Stewart recommends using reflections to create great shots, as she's done here with this photo of Canterbury. Photo / Rach Stewart
Kiwi landscape photographer Rach Stewart recommends using reflections to create great shots, as she's done here with this photo of Canterbury. Photo / Rach Stewart

Think about your focal point — it could be a mountain, road, tree or person — as this is what will hold the eye of the viewer. Snowy mountains make for a great focal point, so when shooting a winter scene make sure that this is the star of the show.

5. Gear

It is critical to make sure you have all the gear you need.

Spare batteries: There is nothing worse than being at a location and your battery runs out.

Filters: A Circular Polarizer/Linear (CPL) filter is always handy when dealing with glare on a water or snow surface. A graduated Natural Density (ND) filter works wonders with the exposure of the sky.

Tripod: If you're shooting on a camera in the early or late hours, bring a tripod to keep your camera still.

Memory card: Try not to forget these!

Warm clothes: No one likes to be freezing cold in the early hours of the morning or late at night, so dress up warm.

To see more of Rach Stewart’s work go to rachstewartphotography.com or follow her on Instagram @rachstewartnz.

Enter a photography competition

Now you've got the tips, the tools and the freedom to take incredible photos of New Zealand's stunning vistas, it's time to get out there and show what you're made of.

Eye health charity Macular Degeneration NZ has launched a competition searching for pictures of the country's most beautiful views and, no matter whether it was taken on a mobile phone or a long lens, everyone is invited to take part.

The competition forms part of a campaign by the charity to highlight what New Zealanders risk losing if they don't take their eye health seriously. A simple test, available via the MDNZ website and your optometrist, can lead to early diagnosis and treatment of Macular Degeneration, the most common cause of blindness. Those aged over 50 are most at risk, with 1 in 7 affected, rising to a quarter of people over the age of 80.

Rach Stewart, who has 291,000 followers on Instagram, is one of the judges. She has joined forces with actress and TV presenter Shavaughn Ruakere and nutritionist Claire Turnbull, who have close family members suffering from Macular Degeneration.

To find out more about the competition and to enter visit mdnz.org.nz/competition before 5pm on Sunday August 9.

The winners will be announced in November, and we'll showcase some of the finalist's photos in Travel.

For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com/dosomethingnew