Michael Breitung Photography


Blog - Travelling New Zealand – Catlins and Moeraki

After visiting Milford Sound the next stop during may way around New Zealand’s South Island were the Catlins.

It was a long drive and the minute I reached the coast and could read the sign “Welcome to the Catlins” I found myself in a heavy rainstorm. Winds from the sea blew spray agains my campervan as I drove towards my destination for the next two days, Porpoise Bay.

Porpoise Bay

After the wet welcome, the weather stayed unsettled the next days. The first evening I used a short gap in the storm for photos down at the wide beach. In Summer one can spot dolphins playing in the waves here. Unfortunately I wasn’t that lucky. But I was able to capture some dramatic cloud formations and part of a rainbow in the distance.

A stormy sky over a wide beach

Porpoise Storm
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 | Lee 0.6 Hard GND + Hoya HD Polarizer
Exif: f/11 | 16mm | ISO 200 | 0,5s

The following day I went hiking and scouting. With all the rain I explored some of the nearby woods, which contain some beautiful hiking trails. But my main objective was to find a good view for the next sunrise, either at nearby Curio Bay or again at Porpoise Bay. In the evening after watching some Penguins at Curio Bay I found a rocky outcrop on the south-western end of Porpoise Bay. The tide in the evening was still too high to get down onto the rocks, but checking my tide-tables told me that the next morning I could safely venture down.

And I got some great light that morning. After a moody twilight the incoming tide threw large waves against the rocks in front of me and as the sun peeked through the clouds it was pure magic.

Rocks at Porpoise Bay in pre dawn darkness

Porpoise Twilight
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 | Lee 0.6 Hard GND + Lee 0.6 Soft GND
Exif: f/11 | 17mm | ISO 100 | multiple exposures between 10s – 20s

Waves hit the rocks at Porpoise Bay

Porpoise Surf
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 | Lee 0.6 Hard GND + Singh-Ray 0.6 reverse
Exif: f/11 | 23mm | ISO 100 | multiple exposures between 1/8s – 6s

McLean Falls

The Catlins are well known for their waterfalls. I didn’t have enough time to visit them all, but I had to go and see McLean Falls. I had seen many beautiful photos of this waterfall and I wanted to add it to my portfolio. As I arrived I was surprised by the amount of water. The rain of the previous days had clearly left its mark. It was a real challenge to get out into the water and then balance on one of the larger rocks while trying to take a photo.

Just as I had setup in the middle of the river I recognized that I had left my lense cloth at the shore and with all the spray in the air this was the most important piece of equipment that day. So I had to climb accross the rocks to the shore and back into the river again before I could finally settle on a composition. It was really intense, the roaring water, the damp air and the pouring rain, which started just as I began taking photos.

A waterfall within the lush Catlins forest

McLean Falls : Prints Available
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 | Hoya HD Polarizer
Exif: f/11 | 32mm | ISO 100 | multiple exposures between 1/8s – 3s

Moeraki Boulders

I left the Catlins then and drove up to Otago, to a small coastal town called Hampden. On my way there I made a stop at Nugget Point Lighthouse but it was hard to get a good photo of it in the rainy weather. Up in Hampden though the weather began to change and I had a beautiful sunny day and also the next morning proved to be almost clear.

I had timed my visit with the receeding tide occurring in the morning. This was crucial because I wanted to photograph the Moeraki Boulders and with the water retreating I had a footprint free beach for my photos. I was also very surprised to be the only person at this nowadays quite popular location.

Tightly packed Moeraki Boulders under a colorful sky

Moeraki Boulders : Prints Available
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 | Lee 0.6 Hard GND
Exif: f/11 | 30mm | ISO 100 | 2s

Moeraki Boulders in Twilight

Moeraki Twilight : Prints Available
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 | Lee 0.6 hard GND + Singh-Ray 0.6 Reverse
Exif: f/9,5 | 20mm | ISO 100 | multiple exposures between 30s – 297s

After a relaxed walk back to the campsite in Hampden and a breakfast in the sun it was time for the last part of my New Zealand adventure. I still hadn’t seen Mount Cook and I had only two days left. I didn’t even care about the forecast this time. I had to give it a try.

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