Archive for March, 2016

Exploring New Zealand: Queenstown Photo Tour with Paradise Pictures

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Trees in Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy New Zealand

If one of your travel goals it to take better pictures, I highly recommend taking a photo tour with a local photographer whatever your destination. I booked a photo tour of Queenstown on my recent trip to New Zealand’s South Island with local photographer, Laurence Belcher, of Paradise Pictures.

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Sculpture by a local artist in Glenorcy, New Zealand

Laurence lives in Glenorchy and is a really cool Kiwi who knows New Zealand’s South Island exceptionally well. He enjoys showing visitors the local area and the people. Laurence has even published a gorgeous photo book of the area called Views From the Head of the Lake.

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A moss covered fence post in Glenorchy

Laurence worked for years in the hospitality business and is a great local source for wisdom and insight. He’s also got a traveler’s wanderlust and spirit– he often explores the country in a camper van with his wife. Travelers always make the best tour guides. They aren’t as focused on landmarks as they are on sharing the spirit of a place.

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A view of the Dart river in Glenorchy

Photographers are generally a cool lot, and Laurence is happy to give you as much or as little help as you need with your camera. Shooting with other photographers, especially those who are really strong in an area where you could use some help, is a really good way to up your photo game. I have been trying to up my landscape game and Laurence is a master of landscapes.

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Clouds and the Dart river

Laurence gave me some great tips for composing better landscapes. He also pushed me to try new things, like balancing my DSLR on my hand a low angles for more dynamic shots. It’s a technique I have not yet perfected but have continued to experiment with since my photo tour was over.

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Lake Wakatipu does not have a bad angle

My Canon DSLR got damaged during my trip and Laurence went out of his way to try and help me fix the issue. That was beyond the call of duty of a guide and very much appreciated. It was a good reminder to always have a backup camera (I had a Fuji and my iPhone 6s).

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Colors and clouds on Lake Wakatipu

Local photographers know the best spots for pictures and also can give you wisdom and insight you might not get from a historical or more traditional travel guide. Laurence showed me Mrs. Woolly’s General Store, which was a gem of a find. Mrs. Woolly’s has interesting local products as well as delicious coffee. Laurence is a foodie and also had great restaurant tips. He was the one that suggested we take a scenic flight to Milford Sound with Heli Glenorchy.

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I photographed this smoked garlic using the Foodie app

If you’re headed to New Zealand’s South Island and want to up your photography game, I highly recommend giving Laurence a call and arranging a photo tour. My husband, who has never taken a photography class, enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Laurence Belcher

Paradise Pictures

Phone: +64 3 409 0998 Mobile: +64 21 685 552
Freephone: 0800 2 FOCUS
Email: hello@paradisepictures.co.nz

Address: PO BOX 1980, Queenstown, NZ

Paradise Pictures Instagram

Paradise Pictures Facebook

 

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Exploring New Zealand: Scenic Helicopter Tour of Milford Sound

The view of Glenorchy from lift off

The view of Glenorchy from lift off  

If you’re looking for things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand and bungy jumping isn’t your style, I highly recommend taking a scenic helicopter flight to Milford Sound with Heli Glenorchy. This was the highlight of my recent trip to New Zeland’s South Island.

The Dart and Reese rivers meet Lake Wakatipu

The Dart and Reese rivers meet Lake Wakatipu

The weather has to be on your side. Too much wind can make for a choppy and unpleasant flight. After two days of delays and time push backs, I was finally able to take the scenic flight to Milford Sound with pilot Mark Hollows.

Taking off from the Glenorchy helipad video

Despite his chill Kiwi attitude, Hollows is a seasoned pilot who knows Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park like the back of his hand. With decades of also piloting experience, Hollows also sometimes flies helicopters from the Seattle area into Alaska. He provided a smooth and safe journey and convinced me I want to be a helicopter pilot in my next life.

The Real Middle Earth, as seen from a helicopter

The Real Middle Earth, as seen from a helicopter

I’m a bit of an aviation geek and now helicopters are my new favorite form of transportation. Why? Check out these stunning views!

A lake in the Fiordland with the Rees River in the background

A lake in the Fiordland with the Rees River in the background

 If you are planning a trip to Queenstown and looking for a luxury tour, I cannot recommend a scenic helicopter tour highly enough. It’s an adrenaline rush without bungee cords. If you are photographer, the aerial views are incredible.

Here I am exiting the helicopter to explore the Fiordland

Here I am exiting the helicopter to explore the Fiordland

Weather permitting, you can add on things like a glacier and snow landing to your scenic tour. These extras are all weather dependent– much of the snow had melted so our snow landing was a bit rockier than it would have been during cooler weather. I’m not complaining!

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Exploring the Fiordland

Exploring the Fiordland

It’s incredible to have such an intimate experience among the clouds in such a dramatic and gorgeous setting.

Helicopters can land just about anywhere

Helicopters can land just about anywhere

The blue skies, the glaciers, the lakes… it’s nature at it’s most pristine. I can’t think of anything else more deserving of the tourism board’s “Pure New Zealand” description and #purenewzealand hashtag.

Whirlybird goodness GIF

 Whirlybird goodness GIF

I was blown away by the landscape. Glaciers melting into small pools, clouds and bright blue skies were everywhere.

Where a glacier becomes a lake near Milford Sound

Where a glacier becomes a lake near Milford Sound

The rocks were covered with patches of moss when they weren’t capped with snow.

Moss, rocks, and glacier

Moss, rocks, and glacier

This is part of the planet you can’t easily reach by hiking.

I love the graphic nature of the landscape

I love the graphic nature of the landscape

While I had some photographic issues with reflections in the windows, I have since learned from fellow photographers you ideally want a “doors off” flight for the best images.

Glacier melt turns into rapids near Milford Sound

Glacier melt turns into rapids near Milford Sound

I’m not sure if Heli Glenorchy offers a doors off option, but I’m still thrilled with the photos I got during this flight.

Another amazing aerial view with  in the distance

Another amazing aerial view with Lake Wakatipu  in the distance

The scenery can truly be described using every cliche. Epic? For sure. Breathtaking? Yep.

It's amazing to be able to fly into the clouds... and then just land

 It’s amazing to be able to fly into the clouds… and then just land

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Glaciers peaking above the clouds

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The view from my window seat looking down at Fiordland National Park

A portrait of helicopter pilot Mark Hollows

A portrait of helicopter pilot Mark Hollows

 As if you need any more scenery, the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is also quite beautiful.

Glaciers winding through craggy rocks

Glaciers winding through craggy rocks

Looking down at a glacier

Looking down at a glacier

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Just below the clouds

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Glaciers create some of the world’s most glorious scenery

It’s kind of mind blowing being able to look down at a glacier from a helicopter. You really get a sense of their movement and flow.

A stunning aerial view of lake in Fiordland National Park

A stunning aerial view of lake in Fiordland National Park

Helicopter tours do not come cheap. Scenic flights to Milford Sound start at NZ$245 (US$165) per person. But the Heli Glenorchy experience is worth every penny.

Heli Glenorchy
Address: Mull St, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand
Phone:+64 800 435 449

Heli Glenorchy Facebook Page 

Follow Heli Glenorchy on Instagram

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Auckland Harbour Sunrise Time Lapse Video Featuring The Arcadia Cruise Ship

The Arcadia pulling into Auckland Harbour, New Zealand

 

The Arcadia pulling into Auckland Harbour, New Zealand

On my recent trip to New Zealand, I spent a night in Auckland before flying to Queenstown. My room at the Auckland Hilton had a nice view of Auckland Harbour and I was up before sunrise. When I noticed a cruise ship heading into the Harbour, I quickly set up my iPhone 6s to make this time lapse video.

The P&O Cruise ship Arcadia pulling into Auckland Harbour at sunrise (video) 

For previous time lapse videos, I’ve used apps like TimeLapse and Hyperlapse from Instagram. I’m really happy with the results I got using the native camera’s time-lapse feature on the iPhone 6s. I set up this time lapse shot by clamping my iPhone 6s to my room’s balcony using my In Your Face Viewbase.

My layover in Auckland was so short, I thought about staying near the airport. But stumbling upon this pretty sunrise scene, I’m glad I didn’t.

Do you have a favorite app or way to make time lapse videos? Let me know in the comments thread.

Hilton Auckland

Address: 147 Quay St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
auckland@hilton.com

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Exploring Kauai: Beaches, Bays, and Bookstores

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 Tree on Moloa’a Beach

If you are looking for things to do on Kauai and want to dive deeper than the tourist centers of Poipu Beach and the resorts at Princeville, here are a few of my favorite spots on the Hawaiian island.

Moloa’a Beach is located near Kapaa on Kauai’s east shore. It’s a bit off the highway, but once you get there it you might recognize it. Moloa’a Beach was a filming location in the pilot and first episode of the 60’s television show Gilligan’s Island. This is the beach where the Minnow was aground on an “unchartered desert isle.”

Pro Tip: If you want to stay on Kauai and avoid the crowds, consider renting a house or cottage from HomeAway or AirBnb near Moloa’a and having this amazing beach within walking distance.

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An aerial view of the coast of Kauai

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The gorgeous scenery of Anahola Beach on Kauai includes the Kalalea Mountains

Of all the beaches I saw on Hawaii’s garden island, Anahola Beach was the one I thought was most beautiful. Located on Kauai’s east shore, this crescent-shaped stretch of sand is .42 of a mile long and has the Kalalea Mountains and lush greenery as a backdrop. Anahola Beach also has campground, and the Anahola river nearby. I loved the large black volcanic rocks that were scattered about.

Pro Tip: Be warned– the campground can get packed during high season. 

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A view of Hanalei Bay

There are several hiking trails near Princeville and Hanalei, including one that gave me the view of Hanalei Bay above.

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The view of Hanalei Bay from a scenic overlook in Princeville

The image above is another gem from a scenic overlook just off Kuhio Highway.

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Garden Island goodness from an overlook in Princeville

Some of the Garden Island’s best views can be seen from simply pulling over onto the scenic overlooks just off Kuhio Highway. The weather and light change the mood and viewing conditions, but it’s well worth pulling over for the views.

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Hanalei Valley Overlook

This gorgeous view of Hanalei Valley was shot from a scenic overlook just off Kuhio Highway.

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Blue water and black rock at Lumahai Beach

Lumahai Beach is best known as a filming location for the film South Pacific. It’s volcanic rocks and strong currents make it a nice place to watch the waves crash on the rocks. The currents were too strong for swimming or snorkeling during my visit to Kauai. But it is still worth the hike.

Pro tip: Wear good shoes or sneakers for the steep path to Lumahai Beach. It can get slippery.

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Ferns framing the Kapaa Stream

The Hoopii Falls hike is a great 2.2 mile hike that offers some great scenery of Kauai, including two waterfalls. It’s easy and well marked and good for kids, too.

 Hoopii Falls video (shot on my iPhone 6s)

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Palm Tree Power along Kauai’s North Shore

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A Hike to Hanalei Bay from Princeville

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A View of Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is known as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” This colorful gorge is located on the western side of Kauai and well worth the drive if you’re staying on the North Shore or in the Poipu Beach area.

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Talk Story Bookstore in Hanapepe

Hanapepe is a small and historic town on Kauai’s western side. It has the western-most independent bookstore in the United States, Talk Story.

 

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 Rooster crossing the Road in Waimea, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon Dr, Waimea, HI 96796, United States

Nurses Beach (Lumaha’i Beach)

Hwy. 560, west of Hanalei, Hanalei, HI 96714, United States

Moloaa Beach

Moloaa Rd, Kilauea, HI 96754, United States

Anahola Beach

Anahola, HI 96703, United States

Hoopii Falls

The short, moderately difficult 2.2 mile hike on unmarked trails along the Kapaa Stream will take you up close to two waterfalls.

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