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Photo Workshops and Tours in New Zealand

Last 12 months has been very busy for us. We’ve completed several photography workshops and tours, guiding our clients through some of the most remote and wild locations New Zealand has on offer.
Generally, we offer 4 pre-organized itineraries but often, we build individually One on One plans for our clients to suit their schedules. Our trips vary in duration but 15 days South Island Sojourn trip, where we visit 6 National Parks of New Zealand in its South Island, seems to be the most popular option. We travel comfortably in 4WD vehicles, aiming to photograph every sunrise and sunset if the weather permits us. The weather can play bit of a role here in New Zealand so be prepared for some dramatic lighting conditions which is exactly what a great photograph needs.
New Zealand is extremely scenic and has proven million times to be one of the best, with great photography locations packed corner of the planet. UNESCO World Heritage Status assigned to large and expansive parts of the South Island certainly confirms that…and we spend most of our times on our trips in exactly these places. So if your feet are getting a bit itchy and camera dusty, perhaps it’s a good time to pull out a map and start exploring. For more informations on our photography tours and workshops, don’t hesitate visiting our website – nzicescapes.com

Below, please enjoy few photographs and snaps of our clients on locations we visit.
Thank you and we look forward to welcoming some of you on one of our photography adventure.

Sunrise at Lake Matheson with reflections of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman, Westland National Park, West Coast, World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Sunrise at Lake Matheson with reflections of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman, Westland National Park, West Coast, UNESCO World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Icebergs and ice debris on Hooker Lake with reflections of Aoraki Mount Cook sunrise, Aoraki Mtount Cook National Park, Mackenzie Country, World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Sun falling behind horizon of the Tasman Sea. Watched from overnight Milford Sound boat cruise in Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Sun falling behind horizon of the Tasman Sea. Watched from overnight Milford Sound boat cruise in Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Native rainforest and tree ferns on the West Coast in Oparara Valley near Karamea, Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand

Native rainforest and tree ferns on the West Coast in Oparara Valley near Karamea, Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand

Looking towards Humboldt Mountains and Mount Aspiring National Park near Glenorchy, UNESCO World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Looking towards Humboldt Mountains and Mount Aspiring National Park near Glenorchy, UNESCO World Heritage Area, New Zealand

Deep green-blue colours of Hokitika River Gorge, South Westland, New Zealand

Deep green-blue colours of Hokitika River Gorge, South Westland, New Zealand

Kahikatea forest in fog at sunrise at Lake Wahapo, West Coast, Westland National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Area, South Westland, New Zealand

Kahikatea forest in fog at sunrise at Lake Wahapo, West Coast, Westland National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Area, South Westland, New Zealand

Thank you and Enjoy!


Photographing famous waterfalls.

Dorothy Falls near Hokitika with golden light of sunset reflecting in water, West Coast, South Westland, New Zealand

Dorothy Falls near Hokitika with golden light of sunset reflecting in water, West Coast, South Westland, New Zealand

When photographing a well known location or site, it’s always a challenge to come up with a new, fresh composition.
Dorothy Falls near Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand is a great example.

I have numerous frames of this waterfall with classic compositions but this time I wanted something a little different.
I decided to use a long lens to make a horizontal panorama of this waterfall.
Knowing that there will be some limitations with the depth of field I used focus stacking technique for each of the vertical frame to maintain maximum sharpness from the front to the background.

I’m very pleased with my new take on this notoriously photographed waterfall and hope that you’ll enjoy it, as well.

Dorothy Falls with golden light of sunset reflecting in the water, South Westland, South Island, New Zealand

Thank you for reading and Enjoy!


New Stock Photos from Routeburn Track in New Zealand

Sample Images from Routeburn Track in New Zealand

Sample Images from Routeburn Track in New Zealand

Long days of summer have gone now but I’m really excited (as every year) about approaching winter’s short days and its brilliant photography light. Next to this marvellous light, white peaks around us, late mornings (for sleep in) and early evenings (to catch a dinner without a rush) these are some of few things photographers like about making photographs in winter.

I however do like getting around in summer too and this past summer hasn’t been different for me. After 11 years, I re-visited one of the best locations New Zealand has on offer – the Routeburn Track in Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park … and what a fantastic trip I had.

It was a photographic bonanza. The weather stayed on my side, giving me plenty of blue skies and suntan, as well as those magical low clouds around Lake Mackenzie . This was really great as it allowed me to photograph an amazing rainforest surrounding it. The only sad thing was that the bush was bone dry, thus lacking that extra juicy kick and the lake was at its lowest everyone I spoke to could have recalled.
Despite this, I’m very happy with few keepers and I got home with.

For those of you who haven’t made it to Routeburn yet, I hope that these sample photos will help you to make up your mind.

Thanks and Enjoy!


New photos from Catlins, Otago Peninsula, Moeraki Boulders

Images from Southland

Stock Images from Catlins, Dunedin, Otago Peninsula and Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve visited Southland of New Zealand.
After acquiring our new 36MPix camera, it wasn’t too hard to make a decision that now is a right time to go and re-visit this “on the southerly edge” part of South Island. And what a trip it was!

I spend one week in the area, catching up with places like Waipapa and Slope Points with its sea lions and lighthouse, Curio Bay and petrified forest, Nugget Point, through to Otago Peninsula and up to ever popular Moeraki Boulders. These were the main targets of my trip but there was a lot and lot of photography in between. Luckily, all main locations are not too far apart so I didn’t have to spend that much time on long distance transfers…but still, I clocked up a few kilometers.

This corner of New Zealand lies in a kinda shadow of other popular places but it certainly doesn’t deserve that. It’s absolutely beautiful and as always with New Zealand scenery – totally different…and how much I love that!!! Therefore, if you consider holidaying in South Island of New Zealand, make sure you pay visit to the southern most part of mainland, by the Antarctic weather lashed – The Southland. You won’t be disappointed.

You can see small samples right above but for more and larger previews, please visit coastal gallery on our site or use the following link –

Coastal photos from Catlins, Dunedin, Otago Peninsula, Moeraki Boulders and much more.

All photos: ©Petr Hlavacek – www.nzicescapes.com

Thank you and Enjoy!


Petrified Forest at Curio Bay

Fossilized tree trunk at Curio Bay, Southland, New Zealand

Fossilized tree trunk at Curio Bay after sunset, Southland, New Zealand

It is quite hard to imagine that this place once used to be a thriving forest.
Until about 180 million years ago when New Zealand was still part of a super continent Gondwana. Massive event of sheet flooding caused by, at that time nearby live volcanoes, flooded the area and almost instantly turned the forest into stone. Stone turning must have happened relatively quickly, in matter of months, as the trees didn’t have time to decay. Thanks to silica minerals not only trees but also ferns were preserved for us to wonder over.

This is a significant coastal location not only for New Zealand but also internationally, as these types of fossilized forests are very rare.

I had this location in my mind for quite some time, as I wanted to get some new photographs of this interesting place so it was for sure that Curio Bay gets included into my Southland trip. I spend a couple of nights her, exploring around and managed to make a few images.

I have quite few interesting frames from here actually, but it was the mood and gloominess of this night photograph which I like and decided to make a post of it.

I hope you’ll like it as well!

Taken with Nikon D800E and Nikkor 16-35 f4 lens.

Photo: ©Petr Hlavacek – www.nzicescapes.com

This image is not online yet, but you can find more of other coastal imagery in our gallery Coastal photos of New Zealand

Thank you and Enjoy!


Ice Lake, gem hidden in mountains.

Sunrise over Ice Lake in the Southern Alps with Shackleton and Whataroa Glaciers in the background, alpine herbs in foreground - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Sunrise over Ice Lake in the Southern Alps with Shackleton and Whataroa Glaciers in the background, alpine herbs in foreground - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand


I guess every photographer has a list of places he/she wants to photograph.
My list stretches over many pages but often I’m forced to postpone/re-plane some locations for variety or reasons.
With this place it wasn’t any different until last year, when I finally managed to visit this, one of my “on the top of a list” locations –
the Ice Lake at my backyard in Whataroa Valley on West Coast of South Island in New Zealand.

I’ve been planning this trip for many years but somehow didn’t manage to make it up there until last year…and what a place! I knew that it’s a quite a special location but reality exceeded my expectations.
Alpine garden of herbs and berries with fascinating rocks around a small lake tacked under massive, steep ranges of the Southern Alps with hanging glaciers truly reminds of Peter Jackson’s hobbit film location. It’s not easy to photograph there, however. All area the lake is in is very enclosed and the place doesn’t receive much sunlight, especially when days are shorter and sun lower.

I’m not HDR photographer I have to say, but in this instance I didn’t have many options (D800 wasn’t in my hands at that time). To be frank, I actually haven’t tried an HDR image before, so I was quite keen on trying it here.

For this image I merged 7 exposures to create this 1 frame using Photoshop CS5.

Taken on Nikon D300 with Nikkor 12-24 lens

Photo: ©Petr Hlavacek – www.nzicescapes.com

More images of Ice Lake in New Zealand are available from our gallery Alpine Lake Stock Images from West Coast of New Zealand

Thank you and Enjoy!


Wild West Coastline!

Sunset and limestone formation in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Sunset and limestone formation in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

During past several months I’ve been making regular-ish trips to one of the popular coastal locations on West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand, to famous Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, in Paparoa National Park.
These amazing, “pancake layered” limestone formations were created some 30 million years ago. Formed from dead marine creatures and plants about 2 km below the surface, immense water pressure transformed these marine fragments into hard and soft layers, which were then by tectonic activity lifted above sea level. The weather elements have been doing the rest – shaping these rocks into wonderful limestone formations.

Last week I got back from my last trip, for a while at least, and what a trip that was.
I was able to reach some secret but dangerous spots but I wouldn’t recommend to follow this, especially if you don’t know the area and potential hazards… and this goes to this image in particular.
The constant danger of unpredictable waves and falling rocks kept me alerted at all times and my senses were all over me. I waited away from this place for the right moment to come and gave myself only a couple of minutes for the shot before I backed off to the safe side.

I’ve had this photograph on my mind for a long time. I kept coming back to see variety of light on this spot during last 12 months and it was so tantalizing that I couldn’t resist this evening. My waiting was over as all the elements I was after came spectacularly together – amazing light hitting right place, out of this world limestone formations and shapes with drama of incoming tide.

I couldn’t have been happier!

This image is not online yet but for more and similar coastal images from New Zealand, please visit our photo stock gallery Coastal Stock Images from West Coast of New Zealand

Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Nikon D800E with Nikkor 16-35 lens


Rainforest on West Coast

Hiking track through juicy green, native rainforest towards Robert Point, Westland NP, West Coast, New Zealand

Hiking track through juicy green, native rainforest towards Robert Point, Westland NP, West Coast, New Zealand

It’s well know that there is some decent rainfall on the West Coast. Must be, otherwise we wouldn’t have any rainforests, glaciers, wild rivers etc here.
With an annual rainfall of up to 16m at places, the West Coast of New Zealand belongs among the wettest places on Earth.
That sounds quite frightening but it’s actually is not too bad, as everyone thinks. Due to the predominant weather patterns, the South Island faces the weather coming in from the Tasman Sea and it’s the West Coast which receives all the water load. As the front passes through, the clear weather usually follows and we all here on the West Coast, bath in the sunshine…which very few people know …and we’re very happy to keep it that way!

This image has been taken on a track near Franz Josef Glacier in area where the precipitation can reach up to 7-8m annually. Hence lush, juicy green mosses, lichens and overall temperate rainforest vegetation.

More images from native forests of New Zealand are available in our photo stock galleryNATIVE FOREST of New Zealand

Enjoy!


Nikon D800E vs Gradual ND filters?

Punakaiki Coastline

Weathered limestone formations in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Neutral density gradual filters have been an essential accessory tool for every landscape photographer since photography beginnings.
There has been a simple, well known reason for that – it’s been far to impossible for the film to record some particular scenes landscape photographer can often face – scenes with extremely wide dynamic range. What that is?

Simply put; its the span from the brightest to the darkest points in the scene. And this span can be in nature extremely wide even for the human eye.
Both human eyes working together for example can perceive range of approx up to 24 f-stops. I’m saying working together because should we look only with one eye, the ability of our single eye would drop to between 12-14 f-stops. There is more to this topic but its not a purpose of this post.

Now I’m getting to the core of this article.
With approx 5-8 f-stops, the ability of the film (negative or positive) to record those extreme ends of the light range is quite limited. Some may argue that this goes beyond 8 f-stops but to me, the resulting image quality after adjustments doesn’t support this. Therefore we need to use ND gradual filters to balance out these extreme ends of light closer together so we can capture as much detail of the scene as we can.

With an astonishing development of new cameras, photography techniques are developing and changing, as well.

Since my Nikon D800E arrived, I’m amazed again and again with capabilities of this technical marvel. It’s been said a lot about its DR capabilities, resolution etc but it is only when when you capture your own image and see the result you wouldn’t expect.

On my latest trip I encounter a scene which I decided to bracket exposure on. I took 5 images each with 1 f-stop difference and which I was going to process as HDR (although I’m not an HDR photography guy, I have to admit). I opened those files in LR4 and then processed them as HDR image. Well, like I said, I’m not an HDR kinda guy…image was ok but I didn’t like all that fuzziness in clouds and other artifacts which occur with HDR. Don’t get me wrong please, I’m not against HDR, but you got to have right image for it to work.
Anyway, then I though why not to try to process a single file from a stack with best suitable exposure using new LR4 and to compare results.
Well, when I did that, I immediately deleted the HDR version without even a blink of an eye. The result out of D800 are just amazing.

I used only 2 sliders – highlights and shadows. I didn’t even need to go all the way with either of them. With highlights slider I landed on 70 and with shadows on 70 also to be happy with adjustment.
One may object, ok but what about image quality, noise, sharpness, artifacts etc…well, judge for yourself below.

In my photography, I’m producing imagery which has to be suitable for printing. Suitable for printing large and I mean LARGE. Our images have been reproduced in sizes of up to 15m so it is my foremost objective to produce images in the highest quality possible.
With this in mind, I’d be more then happy to let this file to be blown up big.

Below, there are 2 images – first compares look on the entire image before and after adjustments.
The second comparison shows a crop out of the same images at 100%.

Punakaiki Photo

Untouched, out of camera file on left and highlights/shadows adjusted on right.

At small sizes many images look fine but the problems creep in when enlarged for printing. But that’s not the case with D800 files.
If exposed ideally with view in mind of further adjustments on file, note I’m not saying exposed correctly, and processed with care, the file looks amazing.
You would be hard pressed to actually find an issue with it. To my huge surprise, I can’t find any sign of any noise in the lifted up shadows. Image remains sharp with enough contrast and without any artifacts.

Please note that this file was taken as a single RAW file with no filter used.
It has 0 sharpening applied, no contrast, no noise reduction, chromatic aberration correction or any other adjustments apart of for this purpose lifted shadows and corrected highlights.

The lens for this shot used – Nikkor 16-35 with camera mounted on tripod.
Exposure 1/10s at f16, ISO100, -1EV for exposure compensation.

This second comparison shows a crop out of the same images at 100%.
Adjusted file for highlights and shadows on left – untouched out of camera on right.

Artifacts can often creep in after sharpening is applied. To show how this file holds up after a medium sharpening was applied, see the same crop below.

Punakaiki Photo

Nice and crisp detail without any sign of noise.

So what remains to be said;
Firstly, this post is only my personal opinion based on findings I’m getting with this fantastic camera.
Secondly, the purpose of this writing is to ponder over the use of Gradual ND filters or use HDR techniques while shooting with latest wave of digital cameras, especially with Nikon D800 with its DR of 14.4 f-stops. More on this you can read on DxO website.

Yes, there definitely will be a need for ND Gradual filters for some time yet. However, what I’m now certain of is that I’ll be thinking twice or tree times when I’ll be reaching for my filter, as I’ll be avoiding putting an extra layer of glass or plastic in front of my lenses every time I can.

I’d be happy if this quick comparison would help to those photographers still on a fence…upgrade or not…?

Thanks and Enjoy!


12 Months – 12 Favourite Images

This seems to be a very nice way to share those past twelve months of photographic adventures with all our friends, followers and supporters. Therefore I also decided to point out 12 images, one for each month, which I feel very good about. Most of them are already online and you may have come them across on our stock website but even if so, I reckon these frames deserve to be showcased again.

In January I had some great times with my models on Franz Josef Glacier.
It is not common to be able to walk through this deep ice crevasses but on this occasion, we were very lucky to be here. Actually, this has been the deepest crevasse I’ve ever walked through. It might have been 15-20m deep at places and possibly 100m long. It was absolutely amazing and my massive and grateful THANK YOU goes to the Glacier Guides from Franz Josef, who made this possible!
It wasn’t easy to pick my favourite shot as the ice colours and patterns were changing along the way but this image has a great combination of being lost amidst the ice and “Alice in the Wonderland” feeling. Totally surreal place to be in!

Man walking through deep and beautiful ice crevasse on Franz Josef Glacier - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Man walking through deep and beautiful ice crevasse on Franz Josef Glacier - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

In February, on one late afternoon I drove from Wanaka toward the West Coast. It was very dull and the sky was heavily clouded with no light at all and it started to rain slowly, intensifying into downpour. It felt like you were under some dark blanket. Except for one moment when a sudden burst of light broke through the black clouds. Luckily I was able to grab this image before it started to bucket down again.

Sunrays piercing throught thundery skies above Lake Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand

Sunrays piercing throught thundery skies above Lake Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand

In March I had my friend, a fellow photographer over to visit and we decided to take a heli ride over the glaciers in Westland NP. With doors off, we spent nearly an hour of the golden hour of the day flying over the Southern Alps and making images. For this image in the upper parts of the Fox Glacier I asked pilot if he could get as low and as close to these crevasses as he could, so I could emphasize them. They remind me of fingers pointing to the second highest mountain in NZ – Mt. Tasman 3497m which dominates the background. The orangy colours are partially from setting sun but they’re also enhanced by the dust which by the end of summer reaches NZ from Australian outback.

Mt. Tasman 3497m decorates skyline and massive seracs of Explorer Glacier in foreground. Orange color on the ice is actually dust polution all the way from Australia, emphasized by setting sun - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Mt. Tasman 3497m decorates skyline and massive seracs of Explorer Glacier in foreground. Orange color on the ice is actually dust polution all the way from Australia, emphasized by setting sun - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

April was an exciting month, as I was able to visit one of the locations I’ve been having on my list for many years – the Ice Lake.
This lake is hidden behind ranges only a few km away from my home and is an absolute gem. It is also very difficult to photograph since the lake sits in between high ranges so not much light gets there and one faces a massive exposure differences. In this image I didn’t have many options but HDR.
Frankly, I’m just starting to learn a little about HDR as I’m not a huge fan but do understand its benefits, which I appreciated in creating this image.

Sunrise over Ice Lake in the Southern Alps with Shackleton and Whataroa Glaciers in the background, alpine herbs in foreground - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Sunrise over Ice Lake in the Southern Alps with Shackleton and Whataroa Glaciers in the background, alpine herbs in foreground - Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

May, that’s when the winter starts kicking in. And winter on the West Coast is just magnificent. Brilliant skies and best light. I love going on the glacier in winter because you get all sorts of frozen patterns in puddles made by melting water from the sunny days.
One of great example is here – frozen air bubbles in a small crack in the ice filled with water. Unfortunately, the limited colour space of your screen doesn’t show you the real colours of this image but just imagine intense blue-turquoise hues. Love it!

Frozen air bubbles within ice on Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Frozen air bubbles within ice on Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

In June I visited another of my favourite locations – The Castle Rock Hut.
This hut is perched on the ridge overlooking Franz Josef Glacier with some spectacular views. Can’t wait to go back!

Castle Rock Hut perched on Defiance Ridge above Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Castle Rock Hut perched on Defiance Ridge above Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

July was again – the glacier time. With fresh blanket of snow, everything looks so pristine and pure. Then all it takes is to walk and walk and walk around very carefully, looking for some nice frame to make an image. And if the sun and caves works together, some great images are to be had.
Using a small aperture gives you this nice starburst effect, which ultimately makes the image shine.

 Views from ice cave on Franz Josef Glacier with sunburst, Westland NP, West Coast, New Zealand

Views from ice cave on Franz Josef Glacier with sunburst, Westland NP, West Coast, New Zealand

There is still plenty of snow on the mountains in August and it’s a great time to get some fantastic imagery done. This image was made on the Gillespies Beach with reflections of highest NZ mountains – Mt. Cook (3754m) right and Mt. Tasman (3497m) left.
The Tasman Sea is just a few meters behind my back so one has to watch ones back if the tide is high.

Twilight at Gillespies Lagoon with reflections of highest NZ mountains - Mt. Cook (3754m right) and Mt. Tasman (3497m left), Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Twilight at Gillespies Lagoon with reflections of highest NZ mountains - Mt. Cook (3754m right) and Mt. Tasman (3497m left), Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

In September I was working on assignment to get the panorama of the Southern Alps with as little shadows as possible – sometime you have to listen to your client. Despite that brief, the image turned out quite nicely. We waited several days for some fresh snow to dust up the already warming mountains and that’s why I picked this image for this month, as it shows gently snow covered mountains with a lot of detail and all the beauty of Fox Glacier sliding down through the middle of the frame.

Southern Alps with highest NZ mountains - Mt. Cook (3754m right) and Mt. Tasman (3497m left). Fox Glacier in middle, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Southern Alps with highest NZ mountains - Mt. Cook (3754m right) and Mt. Tasman (3497m left). Fox Glacier in middle, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

October was month of sunsets. One of these has been taken from Okarito lookout. Image overlooks the Three Mile Lagoon and leads your eye further along the coast south. Great skies made the frame.

Sunset from Okarito lookout with views south and over Three Mile Lagoon, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Sunset from Okarito lookout with views south and over Three Mile Lagoon, Westland National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

In November I travelled a little north along the West Coast, to Punakaiki. This great location is famous for its “Pancake Rocks” and fabulous coastline. This image has quite common and popular framing of the location but despite that I pick this image because I like the light and sky in it. It’s been very windy evening and clouds were chasing each other and when the sun sinked below the horizon, it threw its last rays onto those clouds and gave us one more opportunity to make an image.

Blowhole at Pancake Rocks - limestone formations in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Blowhole at Pancake Rocks - limestone formations in Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand

Lastly, in December I went with my friend for several days into the wilderness. We hiked toward the Copland Pass in the Southern Alps and needless to say, the trip was just brilliant. Not only we had a great swim in freezing cold waters of Copland River on scorchingly hot day but we came home with some great imagery, as well.
One of my favourite frames from the trip is this panorama of the Copland River.

Copland River in Copland Valley, West Coast, New Zealand

Copland River in Copland Valley, West Coast, New Zealand