The Punakaiki Pancake Rocks location has elevated walkways above these limestone rocks where you can shoot the explosions of water created when the surf comes in. Above is a relatively small surge of water. Below is a huge surge with the corresponding trickle down streams on the last photo. It was fascinating each time the tide came in and water exploded up through the rocks to capture the drama.
I would highly recommend adding this stop to your sunrise shoot. You could also shoot it at night for sunset. The night I was there, we didn’t get much in the way of sunset color, but it would still be worth a try.
Where to Stay
I’d recommend Punakaiki Tavern — not because the rooms are 5 star, because they are actually really small and primarily comfortable; however, it’s super convenient to have a place for dinner just a short walk from your room.
At the very north end of the South Island, Kahuangi National Park was my favorite stop of the first 3 days in New Zealand. I stood under a tree with the guide for about 20 minutes waiting for the rain to stop so I could capture this shot.
For this shot, I used the mighty Panasonic Leica 25mm 1.4 at f8 with a 1 second exposure to blur the water. It’s just a superb micro-four-thirds lens.
My portfolio shot is a two image panorama. You can check it out along with my other New Zealand landscapes in my portfolio.
If you’d like to visit Kahuangi National Park, I highly recommend it. You can easily spend a few days at the park and in the surrounding area hiking and taking photos. KNP is the second largest of the thirteen New Zealand national parks.
The photo below gives you another view into how dense and lush the forest is in this part of New Zealand.
Hotels Near Kahuangi National Park
I stayed at the Last Resort in Karamea, which is a clean and comfortable stay about 20 miles from the park. While it’s a little rustic, it was very comfortable and totally convenient. Plus, the people running it were super friendly, as were the other guests. The cafe on site had tasty meals for breakfast and dinner, even including some gluten free options. I was really impressed at having options to stay gluten free.
Crossing the swingbridge over the Kohaihai River was one of the first challenges I faced on the trip. I’m not a fan of heights or bridges, especially not bridges that sway and move around when you walk on them. But if I wanted to photograph the Nikau Palm grove, it was necessary.
I managed to cross the bridge by taking several calming breaths before starting across and then walking very slowly so as to minimize movement. I was really nervous at first, but then it got easier once I really understood first hand that I wasn’t going to plunge into the river below.
For that effort, I was able to capture this wonderful photo (if I do say so myself) of the Nikau Palms. Totally worth it to me!
I’m curious…how do you get past challenges like this one? Is it through deep breathing like me, or would you want to hold hands with a partner while you crossed? Or, would you just say, nope, not for me!
This photo is one of the first I took after meeting my photography guide in Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s of the tarn at Lewis Pass., which is the northernmost pass over the Southern Alps in New Zealand. Looking at this shot now, it really appeals to me.
However, remembering back to that moment–I was standing in a bog while it was raining thinking at the time: what have I gotten myself into?! Am I going to have to endure ten days of cold, rain and wet feet on this photo tour? Having left Phoenix only a couple days before where it was 100+ deg Fahrenheit, this weather was a big of a shock.
On top of that, I’m a girl who likes taking pictures of bright colors and flowers. So I was also thinking, the mountains in the background are all clouded over…everything is all brown and dark green. He can’t be serious. Really?
And yet, there is a natural beauty to the environment even given the less than ideal weather that day. The trees do make a nice reflection on the surface of the tarn.
My advice to you — if you sign up for a photography tour, be prepared for all types of weather. Jump at the chance to walk through a bog, stand in the rain and snap photo after photo anyway. It will make for great memories, and you’ll be back behind your desk at work before you know it.