South Island In July
My wife and I will be in the SE parts of NZ for 10 days in July - Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, and a day on the Tranz-Alpine. Don't tell me to cancel and come back in February; I have no choice. I am interested in the opinions of locals and experienced travellers to these parts on what the light conditions are like at that time, and how they will influence my lens choice. The aim is to get the greatest functionality with the least bulk and weight. My bodies will be Nikon F3HP and FE2, and I will mostly be using Legacy Pro 400 (Neopan), and some Ektar 100. I have some choice on lenses and I have a slight dilemma about whether I need the largest aperture I have available or can afford to sacrifice aperture a bit for the sake of lower bulk/weight. In particular:
a) CV Ultron 40/2 vs Nikkor 35/1.4 - one stop advantage to the Nikkor but Ultron is much smaller.
b) Nikkor 50/1.4 vs CV Nokton 58/1.4 - no aperture difference, Nikkor is slightly smaller, Nokton is much newer. Or I could choose the Nikkor 55/1.2, which is a big piece of glass.
c) CV Color-Heliar 75/2.5 vs Nikkor AF 85/1.8 - slight aperture advantage to the Nikkor but significant size/weight advantage to the Color-Heliar. And Nikkor is an AF lens so manual focus is a bit loosey goosey.
d) Nikon Series E 100/2.8 vs Micro Nikkor AF 105/2.8. Better quality glass in 105, but big weight and bulk penalty. This focal length is likely to be least used, but 105 has close focus ability if needed.
If it were up to me I would just take an AF Nikon and a 50mm and lots of film. Always worked really well for me. Winter is good for snowy mountains and the light is easy to work with because the sun rises late and sets early so you wont have to get up early or stay up late. Even during the day the sun will never be high so the light is mostly good, provided it is not overcast, in which case it will be flat and you may need to do lots of N+ development. Flat light is good too. Bring a lens shade and some filters and get a few pairs of woolen Norsewear gloves and a beanie. Dont forget spare batteries as they could be hard to find outside of big towns and the cold is hard on them. CR123 easy, CR4 hard and expensive.
Hope you freeze your nuts off. Bloody Okker.
Im going to be in the SI for 10 days in July as well, snowboarding trip. Plan on taking 4x5 and lots of film too.
I went on a trip around in summer earlier this year, and shot everything with a 28mm f2.8 and a 50mm f1.4, except the odd shot of distant things (snapshots) with a 135mm.
Its a great place, I'm sure youll enjoy it, Im looking forward to some -6 nights! (although we got -5 here last night!).
That's my favourite destination too!
Winter in the South Island presents a kaleidoscope of ever changing weather and very often quite hazardous road conditions, each development presenting unique opportunities (but especially how to keep dry), but you must be prepared. Dunedin, with its Scottish influence (particularly the beautifully manicured gardens at the railway station) will keep lovers of architecture occupied for hours, while the wife goes wandering off latté sipping at the Octagon. Everywhere is a cold place. It was around minus 5 degrees in August in Queenstown last year, the paths iced over and cafés were overflowing. Christchurch is the opposite to Dunedin: quite English and undeniably attractive in Spring. There is a good photo store at Papanui that still stocks film (as of my last visit in August 2009). It was hard to find any film elsewhere, including Dunedin.
Invercargill, dangling off the end of the South Island, honestly didn't leave a particularly favourable impression with me on a day so dull, grey and dark that everybody was driving with their lights on high beam at 1pm. The Catlins, en route, however, are absolutely worth a day or two walking to explore several notable waterfalls (McLean, Matai, among), but you'll doubtless get very cold and wet.
You didn't say where you're flying into? Dunedin? Christchurch?? If flying into Dunedin, come down the (hilly) hinterland along the coast, stop in Christchurch down a bit to ogle at the Moeraki Boulders (best at sunset or sunrise), brekky at Fleurs Restaurant (a favourite haunt of Rick Stein), inland to Queenstown for a couple of nights; pull into the campa park in Robins Road for fast foot access into the town centre). The wharf area and the gardens are always photogenic, and night photography can be quite exciting — nightlife is big time in Q-Town. It's my pick for an extended stay, just that it can be expensive if not in a hired campa of backpacking.
Trans-Alpine has quite jaw-dropping (and gravity defying) scenery; take some reasonably fast film for shots 'on the fly'.
The Southern Alps, when they get sunlight, are a must-see. Head out to a little past Fox Glacier to Lake Mathieson and if in a campa, stay there overnight, then walk the few kilometres to the water's edge for truly, madly, deeply, bloody marvellous reflections of the Southern Alps in perfect symmetry in the water. Get there early: hundreds of others will have heard about it before you! :rolleyes:
Be prepared for some sunny days but also cold, wet and dull days. Remember it's not sun-drenched Tahiti where Velvia 50 can thrive with a Polariser on the front. Probably best to have a fast lens at the ready but if it's really piddling down, grey and dark, put the whole caboodle away and wait for a break.
If you're prepared for whatever comes along, including the hordes of camera-toting tin-can tourists found wandering rainforest tracks wearing crocodile-skin slippers or pin-striped suits, the South will deliver. Enjoy.
.::Gary Rowan Higgins
A comfort zone is a wonderful place. But nothing ever grows there.
I am also leaving for the South Island tomorrow morning for 15 days of backpacking.
If anyone would like to meet up in Christchurch for coffee/photography chat in the next 3 days then please send me a PM
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I was in Christchurch at the time, but no internet :-( Sorry.