Philip Duncan, head weather analyst at WeatherWatch.co.nz, reveals his favourite spots for cloud photography in New Zealand
1) Gisborne is the first major centre in NZ to see the dawn of a new day. It lies further east than any other city in the country. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean it's a unique place to capture some cool sunrise photos as the sun lifts up over the Pacific and lights up the clouds above. Another twist on this (harder to get a photo from this place though) would be the Chatham Islands — it's that much closer to the International Dateline that actually has a time zone that is 45 minutes ahead of the rest of NZ.
2) Rotorua and Taupo offer Geothermal clouds in the mix with other clouds. You can see incredible steam clouds rising up from geysers, mud or even the crater lake on Mt Ruapehu. The volcanos and unique landscape of the Volcanic Plateau can make for some more dramatic weather/cloud photos.
3) Rural NZ in spring! It's lamb central out there for the next two months and if there's one way to capture a cool cloud photo but make it distinctively NZ it's to head out into some of our beautiful big green rolling country and get lambs in the photo too.
4) Northland vapour trails — Northland is under a fairly active flight space for flights coming in and out of our country, or some just pass overhead on their way to Australia. It can make for some great cloud lines and tied in with the spectacular scenery/landscape you can get some great photos. As we head towards summer we'll have the addition of more flowers in the so called 'winterless North' too.
5) Moody Cook Strait. If you're around Wellington or the Kapiti Coast during a wild wind you can get some incredible menacing clouds on top of the big wild waves. Especially dramatic with nor'westers for Kapiti Coast and southerlies for Wellington city, the brooding skies and seas are a reminder that NZ also sits in the Roaring Forties and our weather can be heavily influenced by the dramatic Southern Ocean.
6) Southerly Buster. If you're in the South Island, the coming months ahead can lead to what is known as the "Southerly Buster". It's a dramatic cold front that moves up the South Island and can drop temperatures by over 10 degrees in just a matter of seconds. It often has a very dramatic dark wall of cloud moving ahead of it, and towards November there's an increased chance of these fronts turning thundery too.
7) Blenheim/Marlborough — The narrow wind tunnel of Cook Strait can interact with the hills around Marlborough to create some really interesting small high clouds on an otherwise sunny day — it can make photos of Vineyards really pop! These same small high clouds can also appear in North Canterbury and occasionally get a UFO shape as the airflows interact with the rolling hilly terrain below.
8) The Southern Alps — Quite possibly the most picturesque mountain range in the world, numerous movies are set here. Big wide glacial valleys, sweeping wide rocking rivers and dramatic steep snow-capped mountains make for a unique photo and with the mountains creating all sorts of cloud types you can have amazing photos at any time of the day. Windy weather can create some of the best clouds too, as winds spill over the tops of the mountains and 'bounce' down on the other side, this 'bouncing' action creates quirky cloud patterns in the sky.
9) Auckland — The City of Sails, the turquoise water, the volcanoes (like Mt Eden and Rangitoto), the Harbour Bridge — all of it makes for a great foreground to some of NZ's more dramatic clouds. Auckland has a sub-tropical climate at times, allowing for towering cumulus clouds but the coastal boundaries (Auckland is just 1km wide at its narrowest point!) means we can have all sorts of quirky localised clouds, or thin lines of fog. We can also get some incredible marine fog while the land is clear and sunny. Another cool feature: Those on the Waitakere Ranges can capture amazing photos of fog blanketing the city with the Sky Tower piercing out of the fog, volcano cones poking out and a stunning sunrise above it all. Likewise, the hilltops around Auckland mean you can capture dramatic big clouds but also the beauty of our largest city — and the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere.
Enter your photo in Jetstar's 'Year in the Clouds' giveaway, to win a year's worth of free travel. For details, see jetstar.com/nz/en/inspiration/jetstar-clouds.