#730. Is this the best landscape photography location in the World?

By Dallas Thomas | Travel Photography

May 31

Well the title has I would think certainly grabbed your attention! Let the arguments begin.

New Zealand is a photographer’s dream, it has an abundance of craggy snow covered mountains, majestic lakes, streams, rainforest, glaciers, fjords and in the North Island there are the geothermals.

On this trip I was based in Queenstown which is located in the South Island on a photographic workshop with Brett Wood Photo Art. Brett mentioned that the Queenstown area, offers very similar scenery to Slovenia.

During the trip Brett took us to several well know areas, Wanaka where there’s a tree that has become a magnet for photographers and tourists alike. “The Wanaka Tree”

We had the tree to ourselves until just after dawn when a busload of tourists arrived, the serenity and silence quickly disappeared as they swarmed  all over the place taking selfies etc, luckily I got my shots before their arrival.


Milvus 135/2 @ 2.8


Milvus 135/2 @ 3.5


The Blue Pools is another popular spot and trying to get good images while on a swing bridge is a challenge to say the least!

Milvus 21/2.8 @f8


I enjoyed shooting the rainforest on the walk to and from this location and the stream more than the pools, personal preference.


Milvus 35/1.4 @f8


Milvus 35/1.4 @f8


I’ve dabbled a little in panoramic photography in the past and have just started to experiment with multi row, the files are huge, but that’s another story. The areas we visited really called out to be shot as panoramas, these are all single row.


Lake Dunstan Milvus 50/1.4, 16 shot hand held


Looking toward the Remarkable’s. Milvus 135/2 @f14 6 shots


Looking over Arrowtown at dawn, Milvus 50/1.4 @f8 3 shots


Queenstown is on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. The lake covers a large area, snow-covered mountains are in close proximity to the shore, making for interesting vistas. This morning we were blessed with excellent conditions, the light was spectacular with the clouds allowing streaks of light to break through and light the mountains.


Milvus 135/2 @f14


Long exposure photography is something I do a lot of with seascapes to get that milky water look, the effect on the clouds is also very pleasing to the eye. This old jetty is another must shoot image when in the area.


Milvus 21/2.8 @f14


This part of the South Island is dotted with many nature reserves that co-exist with working farms. This particular place Brett asked that we do not spread its existence far and wide so no name as its one of his secret spots.


Milvus 35/1.4@f8


Milvus 35/1.4@f8


Milvus 35/1.4@f8


The iconic Milford Sound was not on our  itinerary for this trip, I’ve yet to visit there, but the idea of sharing the location with numerous cruise ships, helicopters and busloads of tourists is not my idea of fun, previously my partner Anne and I visited Doubtful Sound which is just as photogenic and not as congested.

Wakatipu Arm on the way to Mount Cook is another place that just begged us to stop and shoot. Unfortunately no shots of Mount Cook as I’m not happy with what I captured.


Milvus 135/2@f8


Lake Dunstan offered many opportunities to capture the natural beauty of area.


Milvus 135/2@f14


Zeiss Milvus 35/1.4@f8


On our first day out, I had one of those oh #$@# moments, I had neglected to zip up my camera backpack fully. One of the other participants said you dropped a lens. On the ground was the Milvus 135/2, it has dents on the lens hood and on the zoom ring.

The first question would it still work and could I turn the focus ring, the 2nd would it still be sharp!. The focus ring has lost its soft buttery feel and is rather stiff at the close focal range. What was also concerning when I had a look at my backpack the Nikon D4s could have easily also fallen out. The takeaway from all this was make sure you zip your bag securely. On the plus side the Milvus 135 is still sharp as a tack. I think if it was a Nikon lens it would have been in pieces, just my thoughts.



This image was taken with the D850 and Nikon 24 – 70 1/8 @5.6, ISO 6400, minimal noise reduction was applied in LR. More on my thoughts on the Nikon D850 in a future article.

Overall the areas around Queenstown we explored in 7 days were exquisite and a landscape photographers dream IMHO,  well worth the time, money and the effort spent, yes I will return to the land of the Long White Cloud and explore the North and South Islands in more detail next time.  Thanks Brett Wood for a great time, I have attended a few workshops and would highly recommend Brett.

The burning question  “Is this the best landscape photography location in the World?” you tell me!

All images were taken using a Nikon D810 for the exception of the Milvus 135/2. I attended the workshop at my own cost. NISI filters were used on the large majority of shots. Processing complete to personal taste in LR & PS.


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  • philberphoto says:

    Wow!!! Outstanding pictures, Dallas!! Kudos!!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    The answer – I was told, back in 1958 – is “yes”. An American (a senior exec of GM autos) who had worked in 60 different countries and would normally try to convince you that America was the only civilised part of the planet, spent some little time telling me that New Zealand was the most beautiful place in the world. Coming out of that dude’s mouth, that was the highest possible of all the high praise imaginable.

    And I see you’ve noticed it too, Dallas – it’s now firmly embedded in your photos. They are stunning! You’ll also have to tell us all about your panoramas. You must be using a better panorama system than the rather inadequate one in my last purchase of PS – presumably you are on the CC version – I’ve pretty much dumped Adobe now, and switched to a combination which relies heavily on Capture One & DxO – with occasional excursions into specialised stuff.

    • Pete, thanks for your comments. Panos are something I’ve just started to play with seriously, the ones included where all shot hand held. I used LRCC to stick them, PS CC is a waste of space in this regard. I use a Panel in PS called TK Actions which uses luminosity to mask areas. Dallas

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        You’re 110% right about checking that the zips are done up – been caught like that, but fortunately no damage. I did drop a lens cap a while back (not quite – someone bumped me while I was reversing it, and it was off cam) and it has minor scratches on the outside, but nothing that affects the attachment of it, or the inside of the hood.

        Read a suggestion today on panos – use an ultrawide & crop – these lenses are getting so damn good that that idea actually makes sense now. And a lot easier than stitching.

        60 years back, when I bought my first w’angle, I hardly ever used the damn thing, because of the distortions inherent in such lenses back then. Now, I sometimes have to read the meta data to even see if it WAS a w’angle that I took the shot with.

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    Yeah, Dallas, what Philberphoto said. These are places I can never hope to visit and I really enjoy seeing your interpretation of them. 🙂

  • Brett Wood says:

    Well written mate , love that dunstan pic !
    Thanks for the mentions

  • Steffen says:

    Very nice images, and I like that you used a long lens for a lot of them. Well, the best place is the one you call it, isn’t it? There’s very little reason to argue, just different tastes.

    I always avoided New Zealand as I felt it’s too overrun, like Iceland.

    • I can’t comment on Iceland, but NZ can be very busy or quiet as we found out, luck does come into it. The 135 was the longest lens I had with me, a 200 would have been good, next time. I’m off to the Dolomites in February so the 200 will be in the bag, plus winter woollies.

  • Sarah Caldwell says:

    Lovely to see your beautiful photos of my country! Regarding Milford Sound, I was there a few years ago and I was the only one there in the morning till a couple turned up for a walk. I was also there a few weeks ago, far less tourists in the Winter.
    I spent three weeks last month touring the South Island, with my camera in a camper van , most places I visited I was the only one there. There are still plenty of wonderful places to go and photograph that aren’t on the tourist radar, particularly out of the Summer season.

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