|Overlooking the small town of Akaroa, New Zealand|
I stood staring at a scene I was convinced couldn’t possibly be real. This felt unspoilt. The only hint of the hand of man were some dilapidated old fences, the dirt road I’d driven in on and the tiny lights of Akaroa in the distance. You’d have to know the small town was there beforehand to know what those lights were though. To me they looked like tiny stars in the mountains. I could have stood there watching until the sun began to set again but I was there for a purpose.
Months in the planning, my next big photography trip gave me more excitement than I could remember. “A photographer’s dream”, I’d been told. New Zealand was meant to be something out of the movies, indeed many of the movies I love were set in the very place I was heading. Lord of the Rings, Avatar, The Last Samurai, The Chronicles of Narnia, Once Were Warriors, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Hobbit and my particular favourite, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (obvious joke just in case!)
I arrived in Christchurch just a few days ago with more enthusiasm than I’ve had in months. The last time I’d had a trip this big I was riding camels through the Thar desert, meeting amazing Indian locals and feeling like a celebrity as I worked my way across Rajasthan. This has a totally different feel in a way but I was just as excited.
Christchurch feels like a bit of an anomaly from the other places I’ve been to so far in New Zealand. It’s likely because of the results of the earthquake in February, 2011 that they are still trying to clean up from but it had a completely different feel from anywhere else I went to. The people were still friendly and easy going but there was an air of impatience and frustration that was fairly evident amongst some. I think they wanted their city back and rightly so. There were buildings still lying on the ground, smashed by the magnitude 6.3 quake years ago. It seems shocking that it would still be like this nearly 4 years on. I don’t know what it was like before that terrible day, but the place was still recovering both it’s city centre and it’s vibe.
There are though, amongst the rubble, some beautiful spots amongst it all that anyone going to NZ should explore before moving on. One such spot is the New Brighton Pier that really isn’t far from all the damage. I found it 24 hours in to my trip and was thrilled I stumbled on it. It’s glorious in the morning as you watch the sun rise above the horizon and I was greeted by one of the most spectacular sights you could imagine. It was a perfect sunrise and I felt like this was my official welcome to NZ. I took it as a sign of things to come and I couldn’t have been more right.
|New Brighton Pier, Christchurch, New Zealand|
When I stepped off the plane 24 hours prior I got my rental car sorted and decided to go location scouting. It was only a few hours until sunset so I knew I had to hurry. I’d done my research on where I wanted to start and as I was staying the night in Christchurch I needed to be close so I ventured towards the small town of Akaroa. I didn’t know it but I would fall in love with that place too! I didn’t quite make it all the way to the town on the first day though. As I was heading there I found spot after spot that I knew would make amazing photos. Luckily the traffic was sparse because I kept having to make stops to get out and take my test shots. I was never disappointed. I kept going and as the sun started to set I knew I’d found a perfect place. I had to park about a kilometre away though to be safe on the small winding roads and made the hike along the side of the road. Once I got there I got set up and shot some awesome images. Not a bad start to the trip! I also knew I’d found another great place for the next morning’s sunrise too so I headed back to my hotel and got an early-ish night (after delighting in some local Indian food of course. Just to bring back memories of 12 months prior). Location scouting and a rocking image to start. Not too shabby!
|Lake Forsyth, New Zealand|
I tend to disregard the distance between where I stay the night and the spot I think will be an ideal sunrise setting and today was no difference. It was well over an hour away this time so I was up before 3am and headed off as quickly as I could. I drove slowly, cautious on roads I knew little about, and made my way there in plenty of time. I’m usually really careful until I can get a feel of what it’s like to drive at dawn and dusk. I found out the hard way in Tasmania when I didn’t do enough research and discovered I could drive a maximum of about 40km/h with the abundance of wildlife in some areas there! There were penguins, tassie devils, possums, kangaroos and a heap more that would dash out in front of you without warning. It’s not quite like that in New Zealand but I was cautious all the same.
I arrived near the spot I’d found location scouting the day before and stopped the car. Looking out at the scene in front of me I couldn’t help but think that this was the most perfect thing I’d ever seen. I’ve seen a lot of vistas like this but never this serene. It was as close to absolute perfection as I think I was ever going to see. I shot my butt off in the golden hour of sunrise and walked like a madman around the area getting all sorts of different angles. I was in heaven. Maybe literally. I did pinch myself at one point to make sure I was awake. I still have a bit of a bruise. I started to realise why someone like Peter Jackson could have such success. Surely looking at this growing up had to be inspiration to make beautiful things.
|The hills surrounding Christchurch, New Zealand|
It was my first 24 hours in a country I already know I'll visit again. It’s everything a photographer could dream of and so much more. There aren’t too many times in my life I haven’t wished for some small changes when I look out at a scene. Maybe power lines gone, rubbish cleaned up, clearer water or just people out of the shot. It wasn’t until I looked at the shots on my computer and realised this was the first time I didn’t want something changed. This was perfection.