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Last Man Standing | Queenstown, NZ

Queenstown in winter

The premium tourist town of New Zealand, Queenstown is arguably the most picturesque place for landscape photographers. But great shots don't usually come without effort and a bit of prior planning. To gain this premium viewpoint above the city, most folks pay for the gondola, but not me. I trudged for 45 minutes up a very steep 4WD road to the Skyline Restaurant, and secured my spot on the balcony before I was surrounded by phone-toting tourists.

When you have a hefty tripod, most people seem to respect what you're doing; that you are 'more professional', or at least, more serious about photography. Nevertheless, it pays to be first to a location. And early, so you can scout for the best possible composition, and pre-focus your camera - before night falls, making this difficult.

Eventually, the winter cold froze my companions, who retreated to the comfort of the restaurant, and caught the final gondola ride back to their hotels. I was literally, the last man standing.

Alone, I experimented with different shutter speeds to get the perfect long exposure of light trails from moving vehicles, far, far below. I was about to give up, when the clouds lifted, allowing the moon to light the snow on The Remarkables, effectively brightening the background. I was delighted, and began my descent on foot, by moonlight, as my headlamp had bat flatteries.

Settings: Aperture: f/11 | Shutter Speed: 30 seconds | ISO: 100 | Focal length: 23mm Canon 5D Mark III / Manfrotto 190X PRO B tripod


But wait... there's more! In late July of 2017, my mate Tom and I took the gondola and re-shot the same scene. By this time I had mastered the art of Exposure Blending in Photoshop. So, I shot one image at the start of the Blue Hour, which comprises most of the final image below ... the sky, mountains and lake. Then I shot a second image of the city lights when it was dark. This loooong exposure was 84 seconds.

In post processing, I fused the two exposures together using Luminosity Masks. To learn these advanced techniques to make YOUR photos pop, check out my landscape photography course, LOCATIONZ.

Keyword: landscape photography south island nz

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