Straight off a plane from four weeks wandering Italy & Greece, I arrived home to find a very special delivery at my doorstep: a carry-on suitcase, a brand new camera (details below!), an itinerary, and a plane ticket. I swiftly unpacked, washed some clothes, repacked, swapped over cameras, and headed back to the airport just 24 hours later – to board another plane. This time bound for Queenstown, New Zealand!
I had been invited to spend a weekend with Olympus, in the company of a group of other wonderful photographers + bloggers – and some of the beautiful Olympus family – and jet lag was never going to get in the way of such an opportunity. I had never been to the South Island before, and flying in between the snow-capped mountains as our plane descended into Queenstown was something impossibly magical. Better still, the trip was to celebrate something pretty exciting – the launch of the new OM-D E-M10 Mark III. It was a wonderful opportunity to take this brand new camera away so soon, and to learn about it on the go, while exploring an incredible part of the world.
Meeting the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
As the second Olympus camera to join my quickly growing camera family, this particular one is the latest addition to the award-winning OM-D range (it’s the third edition of the E-M10 lineup of cameras).
If you read my recent Italy post, you’ll have seen I travelled around Europe with a different camera – the Olympus PEN E-PL8 – and having now experienced both cameras on different trips, I can’t wait to compare and contrast both cameras, and wrap up some more detailed thoughts into a blog post (to come soon).
As a brief review, for now (because I’m so keen to write all about the New Zealand trip, and the magical weekend I was lucky to experience there), I LOVED this camera. For similar, and different reasons to why I love the PEN. The OM-D is a perfect camera to capture 4K video (higher quality than the PEN E-PL8). It’s also the perfect camera to travel with (it’s lightweight, and I love the flip screen, allowing you to shoot from very low to the ground, or above your reach, while knowing exactly what you’re capturing!) and the camera body itself is delightful. Its aesthetic is retro but sophisticated, and the camera feels approachable and so easy to capture moments and memories while on the go.
Let me start with this: Queenstown WILL make you feel awed, and utterly eclipsed by beauty. You’ll see scenery that looks like a painting, and tiny towns that instantly take you back to another time and place. There are jaw-dropping landscapes, and adventures available for every level of adventurer. You can be sure that you’ll want to spend most of your time in this country outside, under vast sweeping skylines, framed by rugged mountains. It feels like you’re dreaming, except you’re very much wide awake.
Over our two days in Queenstown, we were treated to helicopter rides, boat rides, magical scenery, photography classes, food + wine, and all of the photo opportunities ever. It went a little something like this…
Evening sunset cruise on Lake Wakatipu
Nestled between two rivers. The Dart River and The Kawarau River, Lake Wakatipu may be New Zealand’s third largest lake, but it is definitely the most intriguing. Shaped like a lightning bolt, and with its very own heartbeat, the lake has a tide that sees its water level rise and falls up to 20 cm every 20 minutes. Scientifically, this is caused by a lake seiche, or ‘standing wave’ – which is the result of surrounding mountains, the wind, and atmospheric pressure.
However, ask locals around the towns that sit on the edge of the lake, and you’ll soon hear a very different story. Many years ago, the daughter of a local Maori chief fell in love with a man she was forbidden to marry, Matakauri. One night she was kidnapped by a giant from the nearby mountains, named Matau. The chief was so distraught about the kidnapping of his daughter, that he promised Manata’s hand in marriage to any man from the tribe that could rescue her. Matakauri saw this as his chance to marry the woman he loved. He rescued her, by sneaking into the giant’s lair under the cover of darkness. The two were married, but Matakauri was terrified the giant would return and threaten his wife and tribe. Again, he stole into the mountains, and as the giant slept, he set his home alight. The fire burned deep into the earth, melting the snow and mountains, forming Lake Wakatipu. It is said that whilst the Manata was killed, his heart remains, beating at the bottom of the lake, causing the water to rise and fall.
(Ever in love with a beautiful story, this one completely fascinated me!)
Helicopter to The Remarkables + Lunching at Gibbston Valley Wines
Clearly visible from Queenstown and the smaller towns dotted around Lake Wakatipu, The Remarkable Ranges frame the South-Eastern shore of the lake, rising up into the sky in jagged and craggy peaks. The most common way to see the mountain range is to grab your skis or hiking boots, but if you really want to take in the enormity of the expanse of this alpine scenery, you must see it from the air.
Up close and personal with the mountains, we were all lucky enough to fly to the peak of The Remarkables in a convoy of helicopters. We landed very precisely on a tiny plateau, to plant our feet on fresh snow that had never before seen footprints, and we took in the three hundred and sixty degree panoramic views before us.
After taking our photos (so many photos, how could we not!), we boarded the helicopters and flew down the other side of the peak, into Gibbston Valley Wines for lunch. Helicoptering into lunch? Yes, I know. Pinch me!
Wanaka and ‘that’ Wanaka tree
In this modern day – we are all very aware of the term ‘Instagram Famous’. And cliché or not, anything travel related with such a title always piques my curiosity. Lake Wanaka, and its spectacular lone tree definitely holds this infamous title – in fact, it’s so well known by Instagrammers alike, that it even has its own eternally popular hashtag #ThatWanakaTree.
Lake Wanaka covers 192 square kilometres of alpine beauty, with far-off glaciers feeding the expanse of water. Begin the 50-minute drive from Queenstown, and somewhere along the way you’ll realise that something in the air has shifted, the energy has changed, setting Wanaka apart. Off the beaten track, with no signs directing towards it, you’ll need a little inside scoop to find what is said to be the most photographed tree in all of New Zealand. Rising up out of the lake, in the shallows of Roy’s Bay, the snarled and twisting Wanaka Tree is at its most photogenic at both dawn and dusk, against shimmering water and pastel fairyfloss skies.
Whilst the golden days of the gold rush are long over, arrive in Arrowtown in Autumn or Spring and the changing of the leaves will cause the town to become settled under the aura of a different kind of golden. Sitting alongside the still gold-bearing Arrow River, Arrowtown is the of the most gorgeously quaint towns in New Zealand. Established in 1863, the height of the gold rush saw settlement grow quickly. Over 60 of the original cottages, shops, hotels, and churches are still standing in town today. At its height, Arrowtown held a population of 7000. These days, its smaller population of 2200 treasure their little town and have maintained its heritage and historical buildings beautifully.
Hailed the most scenic drive on the South Island of New Zealand, the route from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one to take slowly, to ensure you don’t miss any of the dramatic sights (or get too carsick…) Following the Eastern side of Lake Wakatipu, you’ll glide past Pig and Pigeon Islands, floating in the middle of the lake.
Only a short drive from Queenstown, the vibe in Glenorchy has a paradoxically different feel – folksy and rustic. The already small town is dwarfed even more so by the surrounding mountains, making it a popular location for filming – most notably, The Lord of the Ring series.
So… do you see what I mean? Queenstown is something else. Have you added it to your bucket list? I hope you have enjoyed the photos I captured here – all were taken on the OM-D E-M10 Mark III.
Stay tuned for my next post – some photography tips I learned during my time in Queenstown!