• Rach Stewart

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.

Reflections at Lake Poaka in Twizel New Zealand
Reflections in Twizel

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


Lake Camp, Hakatere Conservation Reserve
Lake Camp, Hakatere Conservation Reserve

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 go:


 

AUCKLAND


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.

Westhaven Marina Auckland
Westhaven Marina Sunrise, Auckland

These shots were taken at night and at sunrise when there tends to be less people around and the water is a little calmer.

Westhaven Marina Auckland Skytower Chinese New Year
Westhaven Marina Boats
 

WAIKATO


LAKE KARAPIRO


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 Waikato New Zealand
Lake Karapiro, Waikato

Lake Karapiro has many different locations to shoot from, this shot was taken at the Horahora Domain.


 

BAY OF PLENTY


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.

Mount Maunganui Sunset New Zealand
Reflections on the sand at Mount Maunganui Beach

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.

Papamoa Beach Tauranga
Papamoa Beach Sunset

PILOT BAY


Pilot Bay Mount Maunganui
Pilot Bay sunset, Mount Maunganui

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 Tauranga
McLarens Falls Park Reflection

McLarens Falls Park in Tauranga can provide for some amazing reflection photography especially during autumn when the trees are changing colour.


 

ROTORUA


LAKE TARAWERA


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.

Lake Tarawera Rotorua
Foggy morning at Lake Tarawera

The two locations I frequent and where these shots were taken are Rangiuru Bay and The Landing .

Lake Tarawera Rotorua
Lake Tarawera sunrise

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


LAKE MANGAMAHOE


Lake Mangamahoe Taranaki
Lake Mangamahoe Sunrise

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.

Lake Mangamahoe Taranaki Sunset
Lake Mangamahoe Sunset

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.


POUAKAI TARNS


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.

Pouakai Tarns Taranaki
Pouakai Tarns Sunset

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


LAKE ROTOITI ST ARNAUD


Lake Rotoiti is nestled amongst the mountains of Nelson Lakes National Park in the small alpine village of St Arnaud.

Lake Rotoiti St Arnaud
Lake Rotoiti Sunset, 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.


MOTUEKA


Time the tide right and there is a beautiful New Zealand reflection image to be had at the Janie Sneddon shipwreck in Motueka.

Janie Sneddon Shipwreck Motueka
Janie Sneddon Shipwreck Sunrise

This shot was taken at sunrise on the high tide.


 

CANTERBURY


CANTERBURY LAKES

Lake Heron New Zealand
Lake Heron Reflections

The Canterbury Lakes, or Hakatere Conservation Reserve, are a lesser known set of lakes about 2 hours from Christchurch.

Lake Camp Hakatere Conservation Reserve
Lake Camp

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.

Mount Dárchiac Lake Camp
Mount Dárchiac, Lake Camp

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.

New Brighton Pier Christchurch
New Brighton Pier Sunrise

This shot was taken during a moody sunrise in winter.


 

WEST COAST


LAKE MATHESON


Hidden away just outside of the Fox Glacier township is one of the prettiest lakes New Zealand has to offer.

Lake Matheson Reflection
Lake Matheson Sunset

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 Sunrise New Zealand
Lake Matheson Sunrise

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


LAKE PUKAKI


Lake Pukaki is the beautiful glacially fed lake that the Road to Mount Cook follows and guides you to the incredible Aoraki Mount Cook.

Lake Pukaki Mount Cook
Lake Pukaki Reflections

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.

Lake Pukaki Sunrise Reflection
Lake Pukaki Sunrise Reflection

These shots were taken near the Visitor Centre.


HOOKER LAKE


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.

Hooker Lake Sunset Reflection
Hooker Lake Sunset Reflection

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.

Hooker Lake Mount Cook
Hooker Lake Stars Reflection

TASMAN LAKE


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.

Tasman Lake Sunrise New Zealand
Tasman Lake Sunrise Reflection

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!

Tasman Lake New Zealand
Tasman Lake Winter Sunrise

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!

Lake Poaka Twizel
Winter Reflections in Twizel

These shots were taken near the roadside pull over near the Salmon Farm, and Lake Poaka just past the Twizel township.


 

WANAKA


LAKE WANAKA


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!

Wanaka Tree New Zealand
The Wanaka Tree in Autumn

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


MILFORD SOUND FORESHORE

Milford Sound New Zealand
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.

Milford Sound New Zealand
Reflections at Milford Sound

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


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.

Lake Marian Fiordland
Lake Marian Reflections

The hike is around 3 hours return and begins from the Lake Marian carpark.

Lake Marian Hike New Zealand
Lake Marian Winter Reflection

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

Lake Mackenzie Routeburn Track
Lake Mackenzie Twilight

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.

Lake Mackenzie New Zealand
Lake Mackenzie Sunset

The hike is around 12km one way taking around 5-6 hours. The images I have shared here are from sunset and I would highly suggest completing the whole Routeburn Great Walk as there are some incredible photo locations to be had elsewhere along the track also.


For more info check out my Hiking the Routeburn blog.


 

QUEENSTOWN


LAKE HAYES


Lake Hayes Queenstown
Lake Hayes Sunrise

Lake Hayes is a beautiful lake about 10 minutes out of Queenstown on the way to Arrowtown. It has quite a few access points, but if you take the Bendemeer Bay access way, and stroll approximately 100m you will find the old jetty featured in these shots.

Lake Hayes Sunset Queenstown
Lake Hayes Sunset

It will be a matter of luck regarding a reflection as I have seen this lake many times with a lot of wind and even waves, but at sunrise or sunset when the chances are slightly better for still waters, this is one of the best New Zealand reflections you can get.


MOKE LAKE

Moke Lake Queenstown
Moke Lake Winter Reflection

On the outskirts of Queenstown tucked away down a gravel road is one of the South Island’s best kept little photography secrets, Moke Lake. Access is by gravel road approximately 6 km west of Queenstown on the Glenorchy Road. It can be very hard to access during winter and a 4wd is a must do but a bonus is that there is a camp ground down by the lake meaning you can stay and photograph it at sunset, for astro, and at sunrise.

Moke Lake Sunrise Reflection
Moke Lake Sunrise

These shots were taken at sunrise during Autumn and Winter. The many times I have visited here it has been calm and serene, and only on one occasion have I not been able to see a reflection.


Definitely a must do if you are in the Queenstown area.


GLENORCHY LAGOON


Just 45 minutes from Queenstown the town of Glenorchy has one of the most scenic roads New Zealand has to offer. Surrounded by towering mountains and beech forest, the trip out to the Glenorchy is a must do.

Glenorchy Lagoon Queenstown
Glenorchy Lagoon Sunset

The Glenorchy Lagoon has a beautiful walking track that meanders around the water and there is a stunning platform spot to take a rest and grab a New Zealand reflection shot. Mt Earnslaw can been seen reflecting in the calm waters as well as other surrounding mountains.


This shot was taken at sunset.


 

And there you have my Best New Zealand Reflections Guide for Landscape Photography!



Thanks for taking to time to read this blog and I hope it inspires you to visit some of these beautiful New Zealand reflection locations sometime soon



If you are interested in prints of any of the New Zealand Landscape Photography seen in this blog, please feel free to head on over to my New Zealand Photography Print Store and have a little look around.