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Author Topic: New Zealand Photography Tour  (Read 27893 times)
marty m
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« on: April 22, 2008, 02:23:07 PM »
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I recently spent two weeks touring the South Island of New Zealand.  It has to rank as one of the top locations for landscape photography in the world.

For American photographers, what can it be compared to?  Based on my own travels in the western U.S., I’d say that the South Island offers the best of the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington; the coastal formations of southern Oregon; the mountains of Glacier National Park; and the Sierra Nevada above Yosemite.  However, New Zealand delivers something we lack in the U.S., namely Milford Sound and the fjords.  All of that packed into one island and in a trip lasting only two weeks.

My trip was expertly guided by Phillip Bartlett of Capture New Zealand Photography Tours:

http://www.capturenewzealand.co.nz/

I decided to visit New Zealand with only about one month’s advance notice, as it coincided with business travel to Australia.  I first considered and rejected standard tour companies that could arrange for the accommodations.  I then searched online for photo tour companies, and discovered Phillip’s website.  When I spoke with him by phone, it was clear that he would arrange a trip around photography, from sunrise to sunset shots.  Only a local New Zealander could do that. The Capture New Zealand homepage includes a link to Phillip’s gallery, which is a separate website.  Even a cursory review of those images will reveal Phillip for what he is: an extraordinary professional landscape photographer in his own right.

I could never have managed to arrange for accommodations on my own at such short notice.  The advantage of a local guide like Phillip is that he knows all the options.  For example, one night we stayed in a youth hostel, because nothing else was available in that location on short notice.  If I had tried to arrange for the trip from thousands of miles away and by phone, I simply wouldn’t have known about that option.  Another significant advantage was that Phillip did all of the driving.  Frankly, I was a bit concerned about driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, and he conveniently solved that problem.  

To put my experience in context, over the last 30 years I have shot 35mm, medium format, and 4x5 large format films.  I now shoot with a Canon 1Ds Mk III, and thus consider myself to be a fairly advanced amateur.  It was therefore an added bonus that Phillip, a consummate professional, also taught me many new approaches to photography as I was capturing the stunning scenery of New Zealand.  Phillip never tried to impose his own views on me, and probably would have kept his advice to a minimum if that had been my preference.  But I encouraged the opposite, and it was an unexpected added bonus to the trip.

Phillip was scrupulously honest and professional.  To offer one illustration, I expressed an interest in photographing blue ice caves inside one of the glaciers.  He arranged for a helicopter flight and a guide for the day on Fox Glacier.  The cost was so reasonable that I contacted Phillip and expressed an interest in taking a second helicopter flight to photograph Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps.  He responded that the cost was low because he was paying for half the cost of the helicopter and guide as he planned on shooting as well and would professionally benefit from the trip.  If anything reassured me, prior to my arrival -- that I had selected an honest and reputable guide -- it was that explanation.  Virtually all tour guides anywhere in the world would likely charge the client the full cost of the helicopter and guide on the glacier, -- and -- take photos for their own professional benefit.    The extraordinary point is that Phillip was so honest that he neglected to even explain that he was paying for half of the cost of the glacier trip – until I asked about the cost of a second helicopter trip.  (I did pay for a second helicopter charter, and the experience of flying with the doors removed for photography at 12,500 feet is simply incredible.)

I have heard a few horror stories of expensive guided trips where the guides spend their time shooting their own photographs and ignoring their clients.  Phillip, by contrast, rarely was shooting, and was instead offering helpful, intuitive guidance to me.  (When I chartered the second helicopter flight, he wasn’t even planning on joining me, since he had not contributed to the cost of the flight, even though the back seat would have been empty.  I insisted that Phillip join me and shoot his own photos).

For Americans, one other aspect of his professional service might even sound old fashioned, but it tells you something about this gentleman.  He insisted on opening the door of his SUV each and every time I got in or out of the vehicle.  I protested that I hardly needed such service (I felt like a little old lady, for in the US no one except a grandmother gets such treatment).  Nonetheless, Phillip insisted, and did it throughout the trip.

For anyone considering a professionally guided trip to New Zealand, I would give Phillip a superlative recommendation.  On the Michelin standard of 10 stars, Phillip would earn 15.  

I am very pleased to highly and enthusiastically recommend Phillip Bartlett. I wish to make it clear that such high praise is only offered when it is entirely justified.  By way of contrast, you may wish to peruse my assessments of Heathrow in this forum, or of Hewlett Packard in the printing forum.  

P.S. Three additional tips when flying from Auckland to Christchurch:  
(1) When you arrive in Auckland you must transfer to a domestic flight to get to Christchurch.  You have to haul your luggage from the international to the domestic terminal.  The buses run infrequently, and it takes 10 to 15 minutes to walk the distance, so allow plenty of time between your flights.  
(2)  The domestic flights will weigh your carry-on and if it exceeds 15 lbs you will have to check it.  Even if your carry-on can fit under a seat, it must be checked if over 15 lbs.  Either have your camera equipment in a bag that weighs less than 15 lbs or use a hard case such as Pelican that can be locked and checked.  Air New Zealand in particular is completely inflexible and zealously enforces the rules.  
(3)  When leaving New Zealand you must pay a departure tax of $25 and that is another very long line, in addition to security, so allow plenty of time when departing.
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peterhandley
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2008, 08:05:21 AM »
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Thanks for that great info! I'm planning on heading to NZ in the next year or so.... and that will be most useful.
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Kenneth Sky
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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2008, 08:29:52 AM »
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Don't forget to declare hiking boots on entry to NZ. There are hefty fines for not doing so but they will wash them on declaration. It's just to prevent contamination of foreign pests. And yes, you will need a decent pair of hiking boots if you plan to take any of the famous and photogenic treks.
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Alistair
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« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2008, 09:32:26 AM »
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Some good advice and excellent resources there Marty.

As an expat New Zealander can I also recommend Gilbert Van Reenen. http://www.cleangreen.co.nz/photo_tours.htm

I have no connection to him other than to admire his work and his publications. He knows the Central South Island intimately as a successful professional landscape and commercial photographer and can advsise visiting photographers accordingly.

Have a look at his galleries.
http://www.cleangreen.co.nz/clean_green_images.htm
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Joan
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« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2008, 08:07:06 AM »
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I'll second that opinion of Capture New Zealand.  I toured the South Island last November/December with Phillip Bartlett and had an absolutely fabulous 2 weeks. There were 6 tourists on the trip and we all enjoyed the trip and were able to get some fabulous photos and see places that we just wouldn't have found without an expert guide.  Phillip gave us lots of information about the places we visited too.
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DesW
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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2008, 09:13:47 AM »
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Some good advice and excellent resources there Marty.

As an expat New Zealander can I also recommend Gilbert Van Reenen. http://www.cleangreen.co.nz/photo_tours.htm

I have no connection to him other than to admire his work and his publications. He knows the Central South Island intimately as a successful professional landscape and commercial photographer and can advsise visiting photographers accordingly.

Have a look at his galleries.
http://www.cleangreen.co.nz/clean_green_images.htm
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Good Morning all,

As an Expat K one W one myself!--let's not forget the Doyen of New Zealand Landscape
Photography

Andris Apse.

[a href=\"http://www.andrisapse.com/index.php]http://www.andrisapse.com/index.php[/url]

Des W
http://www.deswilliams.com/

Desmond Williams
http://www.peterlik.com/home.html
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Chris_T
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« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2008, 12:07:53 PM »
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Whether a tour or tour guide satisfies a photog can be highly subjective. For  example, one photog only shoots wildlife, while another loves cultural street scenes, etc. One photog only wants to be guided to the right places at the right times for the right subjects and moments, and be left alone to shoot on his/her own. Another photog may want to learn about techniques in addition to locations. One photog wants to stick around one location or repeatedly returning to one for *the* shot, while another wants to cover as much ground as possible. Even the best guide or tour with the best intents cannot be expected to be good at all these, even if they are only catering to a single photog. If there is a group of photogs, some will be unsatisfied. And I'm leaving out how the photogs like/dislike to be pampered.

Does that mean there shouldn't be any recommendations for guides/tours? Quite the opposite, we need more of them. But they are only helpful if contexts and comparisons with other named guides/tours are provided.
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Joan
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« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2008, 05:56:08 PM »
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Does that mean there shouldn't be any recommendations for guides/tours? Quite the opposite, we need more of them. But they are only helpful if contexts and comparisons with other named guides/tours are provided.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Chris, comparisons might not always be possible.  How many guided tours do photographers do?  Surely the best that can be offered is a description of one's experience leaving others to give their experience.

What I found missing from many tour web sites when I was looking, was a complete description of what to expect.  I found that www.capturenewzealand.co.nz gave all the details.  It may be that other tour operators are just as good, but their web sites gave too little information.

Here's Phillip's write up on Marty's tour: [a href=\"http://www.capturenewzealand.co.nz/news.html]http://www.capturenewzealand.co.nz/news.html[/url] scroll down to 31st March 2008.
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marty m
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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2008, 10:38:49 PM »
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Whether a tour or tour guide satisfies a photog can be highly subjective. For  example, one photog only shoots wildlife, while another loves cultural street scenes, etc. One photog only wants to be guided to the right places at the right times for the right subjects and moments, and be left alone to shoot on his/her own. Another photog may want to learn about techniques in addition to locations. One photog wants to stick around one location or repeatedly returning to one for *the* shot, while another wants to cover as much ground as possible. Even the best guide or tour with the best intents cannot be expected to be good at all these, even if they are only catering to a single photog. If there is a group of photogs, some will be unsatisfied. And I'm leaving out how the photogs like/dislike to be pampered.

Does that mean there shouldn't be any recommendations for guides/tours? Quite the opposite, we need more of them. But they are only helpful if contexts and comparisons with other named guides/tours are provided.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=194644\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

My experience with Phillip is that he is happy to do any of the above.  He is happy to leave you alone; or offer lots of help and advice.  I know he takes photographers to shoot wildlife such as penguins and dolphins.  Just check out the recent postings on his web site.  

Since I have visited NZ only once, I can't offer any comparisons to any other guides.

But I was quite impressed when I discovered that Bartlett was paying half the cost of a helicopter flight to Fox Glacier, and hadn't even told me that until I commented on the low price and asked about another such flight over Mt Cook.  The rest of you can comment, but I suspect that many if not most guides would have charged the client the full amount AND been off shooting and ignoring the client at least part of the time.

I'll agree with another posting that the gallery posted by the guide at least provides an indication of whether he or she really is a first rate photographer.  However, other factors are at least as important -- such as whether the guide is courteous, professional, and honest.  A great photographer who is dishonest, impatient or condescending will be a very bad guide.    I've attended a number of seminars with famous photographers and/or experts in Photoshop -- and some of them were pompous, condescending, insecure, and generally insufferable.  I wouldn't want to spend five minutes alone with some of these guys, let alone two weeks on a tour.

My advice is to never select a guide only based on his or her gallery.  I initially selected Phillip based on his web site (as Joan noted, it provides a detailed summary of his services) and after talking with him on the phone for over an hour.  I didn't have the benefit of any independent reviews, which is why I posted mine in this forum.

The finest recommendation I can provide is this -- I am putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak.  I am returning in August to shoot at the height of winter.  

I have again retained the services of Phillip Bartlett.  That is the highest recommendation I can provide.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2008, 11:03:02 PM by marty m » Logged
Martin Archer-Shee
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2008, 04:48:38 AM »
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I can and do recommend a trip to New Zealand. The use of a good professional photo guide is well worthwhile if on a time limit as there is too much to see.
My wife and I spend Dec07 to end of February 08 in NZ. That was three months of traveling in a small camper over both the North and South islands. I feel we got a good look but really need to go back and concentrate on specific areas. Way to much to see and do for a short trip of three months. There are fingernail marks in the runway from where they dragged us onto the return flight....

can't wait to go back.


Martin
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David Sutton
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2008, 05:51:47 AM »
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I can and do recommend a trip to New Zealand. The use of a good professional photo guide is well worthwhile if on a time limit as there is too much to see.
My wife and I spend Dec07 to end of February 08 in NZ. That was three months of traveling in a small camper over both the North and South islands. I feel we got a good look but really need to go back and concentrate on specific areas. Way to much to see and do for a short trip of three months. There are fingernail marks in the runway from where they dragged us onto the return flight....

can't wait to go back.
Martin
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=204302\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Glad you had a good time. Every country has much to offer, but even though I've been living here  quite a while, and try to get away every holiday, I still feel like I haven't scratched the surface. Next week off to Rotorua in the North Island to try photographing thermal activity in winter.
David
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Martin Archer-Shee
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« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2008, 08:30:42 AM »
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Rotorua in the North Island to try photographing thermal activity in winter.
David


David

That should be really neat around the pools etc in the town park. It was neat to see in the summer (yours) with the mist shrouding everything.
And of course other sites.


Let us all know how it goes.

Martin
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David Sutton
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« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2008, 05:23:18 AM »
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Rotorua in the North Island to try photographing thermal activity in winter.
David
David

That should be really neat around the pools etc in the town park. It was neat to see in the summer (yours) with the mist shrouding everything.
And of course other sites.
Let us all know how it goes.

Martin
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=204994\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
I was sort of aiming for billowing clouds of steam and landscape. This type of thing:
[attachment=7688:attachment] and [attachment=7689:attachment]
Certainly no shortage of places to visit in our eight days. I picked winter as dawn was about 7.30 and it was a good 3 or 4 hours before the sun dispersed the heavier mist, though you take your chances with the weather.
My favourites were: Kuirau Park opposite the hospital in Rotorua, Waimangu Valley, Wai-o-Tapu, Orakei Korako and Craters of the Moon and the thermal power station just north of Taupo (for miles of steel piping).
However the absolute pick and just the coolest adventure was White Island, NZ's most active volcano, offshore from Whakatane:
[attachment=7690:attachment]
About one and a half hours out by boat, and about NZ$175 for the trip incl. guided tour and lunch. A long tour with the guides happy to wait while tripods are set up etc. etc. You must wear hard hats and carry gas masks (which many people used) and be able to transfer to shore by inflatable. The place is quite hard on gear: the guides' clothing last about 2 months for example. But worth it in every respect. Here are a few more shots from the day. Not works of art but just to give you an idea.
[attachment=7691:attachment]
[attachment=7692:attachment]
[attachment=7693:attachment]
[attachment=7694:attachment]
[attachment=7695:attachment]
Cheers, David
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tsjanik
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« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2008, 05:25:01 PM »
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I have to join the chorus of praise for New Zealand's beauty.  My short description: it's as if you took most of the National Parks in US and combined them in one location.
I know this is not strictly accurate but is does express the spectacular nature of the islands.  Wish I were going too. In any event, attached is one of my favorite shots: "Ewe Lead, We'll Follow".
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Richard Arran
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« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2008, 10:05:05 AM »
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Quote from: Martin Archer-Shee
I can and do recommend a trip to New Zealand. The use of a good professional photo guide is well worthwhile if on a time limit as there is too much to see.
My wife and I spend Dec07 to end of February 08 in NZ. That was three months of traveling in a small camper over both the North and South islands. I feel we got a good look but really need to go back and concentrate on specific areas. Way to much to see and do for a short trip of three months. There are fingernail marks in the runway from where they dragged us onto the return flight....

can't wait to go back.


Martin

I've just spent 9 weeks over there and agree totally. My best advice to anyone photographing NZ without the aid of a guide is to get good maps and get an idea of potential locations beforehand.

Richard Arran - Panoramic Landscape Photography.
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Joan
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« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2008, 01:16:42 AM »
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I see the Mary M has been back over to NZ.
http://www.capturenewzealand.co.nz/news.html

I'd love to read a report from him, if he's thawed out yet.
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Josh-H
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« Reply #16 on: March 22, 2009, 10:26:13 PM »
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Quote from: Joan
I see the Mary M has been back over to NZ.
http://www.capturenewzealand.co.nz/news.html

I'd love to read a report from him, if he's thawed out yet.


I have a 12 day personal tour with Philip at Capture New Zealand booked for July with one other pro landscape photographer - South Island - including Fox Glacier Heli-hike, dolphins, the whole shooting match - pardon the pun  

Should be excellent and very much looking forward to it.
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« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2009, 08:11:03 PM »
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Josh, have a great time, don't forget to look out for penguins also on the east coast of the south island.

Scott
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« Reply #18 on: July 02, 2009, 09:19:42 PM »
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Quote from: Josh-H
I have a 12 day personal tour with Philip at Capture New Zealand booked for July with one other pro landscape photographer - South Island - including Fox Glacier Heli-hike, dolphins, the whole shooting match - pardon the pun  

Should be excellent and very much looking forward to it.


I just joined up here & this is my 1st post. I happen to be the other guy on the July 11th Capture New Zealand Trip with Phillip Bartlett. So far he has done a great job of setting things up & keeping me up to date on what he has been doing. I cannot wait to go and have a blast with Josh!
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John S. Mead
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« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2009, 03:58:56 PM »
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Yes, and don't forget to take your rain coat as it is #$>! down over here in penguin land at the moment.

Cheers
Dave
Dunedin NZ
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