Phil Kitt
Phil Kitt


It's been over a year since my New Zealand trip, and the urge to go travelling has struck me once again. With travel on the brain, I've decided to revisit my trip and share stories about five locations I shot, and five lessons I learned along the way.


Tasman Glacier - Showing Up Is Half The Work

It's a lesson I've learned time and time again, but actually getting out of bed and deciding to go shoot is half the work. You may think it'd be easy to get out of bed and shoot an incredible location like Tasman Glacier, but in the two days prior to taking this photo I'd driven from Queenstown to Milford Sound, on to Nugget Point and up to Aoraki/Mt. Cook - a journey of some 1000+ kilometers in about a day and a half. I was utterly exhausted but since my time in each location was limited and I already had plans for sunset, I made the effort. 

I was actually shooting a few places with another photographer I had met during my travels, and she opted to sleep in rather than trek out to the glacial lake for sunrise - something that really drives home the message of this post. You can never really plan for when a great sunrise or sunset might occur, you just have to get out there and shoot at every available opportunity. Oh, and if you do sleep in just don't look out the window and see what you're missing.

Church of the Good Shepherd - If At First You Don't Succeed

There's always going to be bad days. Sometimes no matter how much preparation you put in and how far you've travelled, the weather just isn't going to co-operate and you have to leave empty handed. This is what happened the first time I shot at this location. A heavy fog had rolled in overnight and refused to burn away as the sun rose. It wasn't even a cool eerie fog, it was just dull and uninteresting. 

I didn't want to leave New Zealand without a half-decent shot of the church, and returned toward the end of my two-week trip. I was rewarded with a semi-decent sunrise that I was able to bring to life in editing, and although I'd love to return and try some different compositions, I'm pleased I made the effort to return. It just goes to show that if there's a particular shot you really want for your porfolio, you should let one or two or ten failures dissuade you. 

Wanaka Tree - Stay a Little Longer

While you can ultimately be rewarded by returning time and again to the same location until you get the shot you want, there's also something to be gained from staying at a location longer than you think you should. Such was the case while shooting the Wanaka Tree. I stayed several nights in the town because it's basically my favourite place on earth now, and during this time I shot the famous three for two sunrises and two sunsets. Although conditions were pretty uninspiring for most of the shoots, there was experience that taught me a valuable lesson.

On the last morning I shot the tree, I wasn't in a hurry to leave as I didn't know when I'd be back. I was the first to arrive and ended up being the last to leave, as many other photographers came for the main sunrise show, and left as the sun had risen. Just as I was about to leave, a fine mist rolled over the lake in the background of the image, and resulted in one of the most serene personal experiences of the trip (and a nice photo too!). 

Roys Peak - Sometimes You've Got To Work For It

All the shots I've featured so far required a short walk from the carpark or a brisk stroll along a flat trail, but sometimes you've really got to work for your shot. Such was the case with Roy's Peak - the toughest shoot of my two week trip.

Ok I'm making it sound like an incredible trial, when really it was just a ~3 hour trek uphill. If you're thinking of shooting this location, don't let my grumbling dissuade you. Sure my legs were burning thirty seconds into the ascent. Sure I had to take multiple sweaty breaks during the climb. Sure I ran into a herd of cattle staring ominously at me from the dark as I made my descent. Despite all these things it was an amazing experience, and well within the average semi-fit adventurer's capacity to achieve.

Or you could charter a helicopter and fly directly to the top like a punk.

Nugget Point - Stick To The Plan

One of my greatest weaknesses as a photographer is second guessing myself, and not sticking to my own plans. As much as I hate to admit it, I regularly make grand plans to go on long road trips or climb mountains for sunrise and rarely follow through. That said, occasionally I do follow through with one of my harebrained schemes. My trip to Nugget Point was one such example.

My New Zealand trip only lasted two weeks, and I had a lot of locations to squeeze into that time. Nugget Point was a bit out of the way, and so