BEST NEW ZEALAND REFLECTIONS GUIDE FOR LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY
From the very beginning, my landscape photography has always incorporated water in some way, and some of my most recognizable works are my New Zealand reflection pieces. There is something special about looking into a reflection that has a peaceful and calm feeling about it. Getting lost just for a moment, taking in every detail both above and in the reflection below, marveling at the masterpiece nature has created before you.
I would love to tell you it is always easy to get a reflection photograph, but sometimes the wind and weather have other ideas. However, there are definitely some locations in New Zealand that are a little more sheltered, or positioned just perfectly, that allow for the most beautiful New Zealand reflections and landscape photography.
I have put together my favourite locations for New Zealand reflection photography and would love to take you for a journey through the country and show you the amazing reflection images you can capture along the way.
CAMERA TIPS WHEN SHOOTING A REFLECTION
ND Filter and Long Exposure: When capturing a reflection you can use an ND filter to create a long exposure which allows for the reflection to appear even stronger and more defined. This all depends on the amount of ripple and movement of the water, but even when the reflection is not perfect, an ND filter can help capture the water and make it appear as though the reflection is crisper than it actually was to the eye.
Tripod: In my opinion and experience, you have more of a chance capturing a reflection in the sunrise and sunset hours when the wind seems to be less of an issue especially when the sun is below the horizon. A tripod is always a good idea in early morning light and at sunset as you will need to keep the camera steady to allow for a slower shutter speed in the lower light hours.
FROM THE NORTH TO THE SOUTH, LETS DISCOVER THE BEST NEW ZEALAND REFLECTION SPOTS FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
AUCKLAND REFLECTION LOCATIONS
WEST HAVEN MARINA
Auckland's West Haven Marina is a great spot to spend sunrise or sunset and capture the still water that forms in the area by the walkway and picnic area.
These shots were taken at night and at sunrise when there tends to be less people around and the water is a little calmer.
WAIKATO REFLECTION LOCATIONS
Although I have yet to photograph this beautiful lake for sunrise, I did stop one night on my way home and was able to capture the milkyway reflecting perfectly on the lake.
Lake Karapiro has many different locations to shoot from, this shot was taken at the Horahora Domain.
BAY OF PLENTY REFLECTION LOCATIONS
MOUNT MAUNGANUI BEACH AND PAPAMOA BEACH
If you time the tide right, usually between mid and low tide, there can be some stunning reflections on the sand to be had.
Papamoa Beach stretches for at least 16km and there are many beach access to find a spot take a reflection image. The further you head down the beach the smaller Mauao (Mount Maunganui) will appear but you can take in more of that beach scene.
At the South end of Pilot Bay if you are very lucky a reflection shot can be taken off the pier by the Mount Maunganui Yacht Club. This shot was taken just after sunset.
MCLARENS FALLS PARK
McLarens Falls Park in Tauranga can provide for some amazing reflection photography especially during autumn when the trees are changing colour.
ROTORUA REFLECTION LOCATIONS
My favourite of all the lakes in Rotorua for a New Zealand reflection, Lake Tarawera's array of jetty's and bays provides for many different compositions and reflection possibilities. This location is best shot at sunrise for the chance of still waters.
The two locations I frequent and where these shots were taken are Rangiuru Bay and The Landing .
LAKE TIKITAPU (BLUE LAKE)
Approximately 10 minutes before you reach Lake Tarawera by car, Lake Tikitapu sits quietly off the road across from the Top 10 Blue Lake Campground. Surrounded by a mix of native forest, grass land and pine plantation, this small but beautiful lake is the ideal place to capture reflections.
Check out my New Zealand North Island Lakes You Must Photograph blog for more info on Lake Tarawera and Lake Tikitapu.
TARANAKI REFLECTION LOCATIONS
Lake Mangamahoe Taranaki is one of the best spots in the region for reflections, and is very easy to get to. The effort to reward ratio is incredible! Surrounded by stunning New Zealand bush and reflecting the magnificent Mount Taranaki so perfectly down the centre, you can't ask for more boxes to be ticked when it comes to landscape photography and New Zealand reflections.
The best time to visit for photography is sunrise and sunset. For the location used in these photos, drive to the end of the lake and then take the short walk to the Dam and the Upper Look out (sign posted).
Check out my New Zealand North Island Lakes You Must Photograph blog for more info on Lake Mangamahoe.
A little harder to get to than Lake Mangamahoe, but well worth the 2.5 hour steady incline, the Pouakai Tarn's are a must do for perfect reflections of Mount Taranaki.
The fastest route to the Pouakai Tarns is by taking the Mangorei Track from the carpark at the end of Mangorei Road.
This shot was taken at sunset.
NELSON TASMAN REFLECTION LOCATIONS
LAKE ROTOITI ST ARNAUD
Lake Rotoiti is nestled amongst the mountains of Nelson Lakes National Park in the small alpine village of St Arnaud.
The jetty featured in most of my shots from the lake is located at the Kerr Bay carpark. Adjacent to the jetty is the Kerr Bay campground, a perfect place to stay if you're wanting to shoot the lake in the early hours at sunrise and at sunset.
Check out my 7 New Zealand South Island Lakes You Must Photograph blog for more info on Lake Rotoiti.
Time the tide right and there is a beautiful New Zealand reflection image to be had at the Janie Sneddon shipwreck in Motueka.
This shot was taken at sunrise on the high tide.
CANTERBURY REFLECTION LOCATIONS
The Canterbury Lakes, or Hakatere Conservation Reserve, are a lesser known set of lakes about 2 hours from Christchurch.
Both Lake Clearwater and Lake Camp are incredible spots for reflection photography especially during the winter months when the mountains have some snow and there tends to be less wind. Lake Heron is also another stunning lake in the area.
These shots were taken during sunrise and mid morning during the winter period.
NEW BRIGHTON PIER
Time the tide right and you can capture some beautiful reflections in the sand at the New Brighton Pier Christchurch.
This shot was taken during a moody sunrise in winter.
WEST COAST REFLECTION LOCATIONS
Hidden away just outside of the Fox Glacier township is one of the prettiest lakes New Zealand has to offer.
Lake Matheson's dark tannin stained water means the reflections on a still day are absolutely breathtaking, and next level for landscape photography.
The walking track around the lake takes approximately 40 minutes and there are three viewing platforms to shoot from along the way. These shots were taken at the Reflection Point viewing platform.
Lake Matheson works at both sunrise and sunset, and also has some of darkest skies in the South Island so is perfect for astro photography. An incredible New Zealand Reflection you wont want to miss.
Check out my 7 New Zealand South Island Lakes You Must Photograph blog for more info on Lake Matheson.
AORAKI MOUNT COOK REFLECTION LOCATIONS
Lake Pukaki is the beautiful glacially fed lake that the Road to Mount Cook follows and guides you to the incredible Aoraki Mount Cook.
The largest lake in the Mackenzie Basin, the turquoise blue waters of Lake Pukaki are absolutely stunning and there are many vantage points along the lake to capture its beauty with Aoraki Mount Cook as the main focal point.
These shots were taken near the Visitor Centre.
The Hooker Valley track is one of the best day hikes you can do in New Zealand with full views of Aoraki Mount Cook and the Southern Alps the entire way. The best part is at the end of the track you reach towering Aoraki Mount Cook (hopefully) reflecting in Hooker Lake, a glacially fed lake full of ice bergs most of the time, and an absolute dream for any landscape photographer.
Although I have experienced varied weather at the lake, if you are lucky you will get a break from the wind and get that perfect New Zealand reflection shot.
These shots were taken at sunset when there is a better chance for less wind.
In the heart of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park the terminal lake of Tasman Glacier really is one of the most unique lakes in New Zealand.
Situated at the end of New Zealand's longest glacier, Tasman lake can often be found filled with towering icebergs and incredible ice sheets during winter .. my favourite time of the year to shoot this location.
Sunrise is my preferred time to shoot, but it works well at sunset also, and astro is a dream with those dark skies!
These images were taken from the track that leads to the Tasman River .. about an hour return walk from the carpark.
LAKE RUATANIWHA & TWIZEL
The turquoise blue waters of Lake Ruataniwha and surrounding lakes are a jawdropping sight and being so accessible it's a must do stop whether you're passing through or staying for a few days.
If you are extremely lucky during winter you might encounter the Hoar Frost which is a spectacular sight with frozen white trees and usually snowy mountains!
These shots were taken near the roadside pull over near the Salmon Farm, and Lake Poaka just past the Twizel township.
WANAKA REFLECTION LOCATIONS
I cant make a list of the best reflections in New Zealand without mentioning one of the most famous lakes to photograph and a certain famous tree!
The Wanaka tree is a show stopper during any season of the year, but my favourite seasons are probably Autumn and Winter. In Autumn the leaves turn a golden yellow along with the surrounding trees along the foreshore, and during the winter the mountain backdrop is covered in snow.
The tree can be easily found along the foreshore of Lake Wanaka, and in my opinion is best photographed at sunrise.
FIORDLAND REFLECTION LOCATIONS
MILFORD SOUND FORESHORE
The Milford Sound foreshore is one of the most incredible New Zealand reflection locations and is a place where the effort/reward ratio is absolutely one of the best.
The road to Milford Sound is jaw-dropping and once you reach the end you can literally park the car and photograph stunning reflection images of Mitre Peak and the surrounding mountainscapes (if you time the tide right - mid to high tide) within a few steps from where you parked.
Sunset is my favourite time to photograph the foreshore. If you visit during the Autumn months of April and May, you might be lucky and see the beam of light that is created as the sun goes down behind Mitre Peak (as pictured above).
Lake Marian requires a little more effort to get to, but the short hike is well worth it for this New Zealand reflection location! Nestled away high up in the mountains Lake Marian is a stunning hanging alpine lake that will absolutely take your breath away.
The hike is around 3 hours return and begins from the Lake Marian carpark.
These images were taken during winter and spring and during the mid day light. If you are planning to photograph during golden hour times, be aware that the surrounding mountains block out the sun a lot earlier than expected so please just keep that in mind if you don't want to shoot in the shadows.
Lake Mackenzie is another location that requires some effort to get to, but again well worth it for the reward at the end. Lake Mackenzie forms part of the multi day Great Walk The Routeburn Track, but can be completed as a day walk also.