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Reflections: My Top 10 List in New Zealand

Anyone who follows my photography, in particular my Instagram account, will know very well that mirror reflection photos of beautiful nature spots are at the top of my list of favourite photo opportunities. I seem to not be alone in loving reflections. There seems to be an instinctual human attraction to symmetry and evenness. With those things in mind, I thought I would share a list of places I love to catch some great reflections.

Number 10 – Wellington City

Wellington is my home town; a harbour city that also happens to be one of the windiest cities in the world. It’s not naturally thought of as a spot to capture reflections, so while the reflections there on a good day may not be the most mirror-like, there is something particularly satisfying about catching them when they occur. When the wind speeds are around the 2-4km in Wellington, I try my best to get out and capture some harbour reflections.

Pink clouds Chaffers Marina Wellington Harbour Sunrise
Chaffers Marina Wellington Sunrise
Wellington City Skyline at Night lights reflections
Wellington Nightscape Reflections
Wellington Lagoon Boatshed Whairepo Sunrise Reflections New Zealand
Wellington Whairepo Lagoon Sunrise
Wellington City Skyline Harbour Reflections New Zealand Sunset
Wellington City Reflections at Sunset

Number 9 - Lake Hayes, Queenstown

Lake Hayes has long been a thorn in my side! On one of my first ever holidays to Queenstown I saw some amazing reflections at Lake Hayes. However it’s been several long years of waiting to get another chance. Each year I have visited the lake but there has always been a bit of a ripple. Things paid off this year at the Olympus Queenstown Winter Festival, where we scored an epic sunset and a lake calm enough for reflections. I also happened to see amazing reflects this year at the end of our family holiday, but we were running late for our flight and couldn’t stop. Hoping I don’t have to wait too long to see them again!

Lake Hayes Queenstown Sunset girl on a jetty
Lake Hayes Queenstown at Sunset
Burning sunset Lake Hayes jetty in Queenstown
Stunning Queenstown Sunset Lake Hayes

Number 8 - Pouakai Tarn, Taranaki

Back in February 2016, when I was taking my fledgling steps along my photography journey, I decided I would visit Pouakai Tarn to catch mountain reflections. My goal was to get a lovely photo to give as a wedding present to two friends who were getting married. We rocked up in the evening, and watched the wind die as the stars came out. I got some shots I was happy with, though I would love to try again now that I know a bit more about what I am doing. Later I found out how notoriously difficult it is to get a cloudless, still day or evening to catch such shots. Luck was on my side that day, but several trips back to Taranaki and I have not been able to see this beauty again. Hoping the weather plays ball soon!

Stars and Milky Way over Mt Taranaki reflection Pouakai Tarn
Stars over Mt Taranaki and Pouakai Tarn
Mt Taranaki Sunset and Stars, Pouakai Tarn
Sunset and stars over Mt Taranaki
Pouakai Tarn Sunset Mt Taranaki Reflections
Mt Taranaki reflects in Pouakai Tarn at sunset

Number 7 - Lake Rotoiti, Nelson

Lake Rotoiti is a fairly large lake, but towering mountains all around it means you can get some stunning reflections on still mornings. Conveniently there are three jetties dotted at points of road access, which photographers always love. It’s high on my list to catch some star reflections at the lake soon. Beware the sand flies though, they will try to kill you.

Lake Rotoiti reflections with jetty at sunrise
Lake Rotoiti Jetty, Nelson Lakes
Lake Rotoiti reflections, Nelson, jetty, blue sky
Perfect reflections at Lake Rotoiti near Nelson

Number 6 - Moke Lake, Queenstown

A half hour drive out of Queenstown will take you to a world of hidden beauty. The smaller Lake Kirkpatrick greets you on the drive toward the much larger Moke Lake, which for some reason seems to yield reflections more often. Quite often the mist hangs low over the lake which can make it even more stunning. Conveniently the campground at the lake edge faces South, so some aurora reflection action could just be the icing on the cake!

Moke Lake reflections at sunrise near Queenstown
Moke Lake Sunrise
Moke Lake Queenstown Sunset reflections
Pastel sunset reflections at Moke Lake
Beautiful Aurora Australis at Moke Lake Queenstown
Aurora Australis at Moke Lake

Number 5 - Wanaka

My family have holidayed for a few years in Wanaka, and I am sure it has the best sunrises and sunsets in the country! Winter in Wanaka often means crisp, perfectly still mornings and evenings, which means that even though the lake is huge, there are some stunning reflection opportunities. The Wanaka Tree is a favourite of mine, but there are also lovely opportunities on the lake front as well around at Brenmer Bay and Diamond Lake.

Golden autumn colours in the trees at Lake Wanaka New Zealand
Beautiful autumn reflections Lake Wanaka
Autumn colours in trees at Lake Wanaka New Zealand
Perfect reflections of autumn poplars Wanaka
Wanaka tree reflections in the lake pink sunrise
That Wanaka Tree at sunrise

Number 4 - Milford Sound

Milford Sound is very tidal, but if you strike it lucky with a full high tide, the reflections in close to shore can be almost perfect. Even when it's not completely still, the reflections just add something very special to a really epic location. Another spot that the sandflies will eat you alive though!

Milford Sound Fiordland on a sunny afternoon
Milford Sound reflections
Milford Sound sunrise reflections sand patterns
Morning sunrise in Milford Sound
Beautiful sunset and clouds Milford Sound Mitre Peak Fiordland
Gorgeous sunset Milford Sound

Number 3 - Lake Matheson, West Coast

Possibly the most iconic reflection spot in New Zealand, and one that both kiwis and people overseas will almost instantly recognise. Lake Matheson is tiny, which means that it is often perfectly still, although the ducks always will do their best to mess things up. The lake reflects the mountains, so often your biggest problem is having a view unobstructed by clouds. The downside of Lake Matheson is that there is not much ability to vary your composition due to thick vegetation and flax growing right to the lake edge. Department of Conservation have built some great viewpoints and the track to these is easy. This makes Matheson exceptionally popular for tourists and photographers alike.

Perfect reflections Lake Matheson sunrise
Lake Matheson Sunrise
Reflection Island Lake Matheson Fox Glacier girl
Lake Matheson Reflection Island
Lake Matheson perfect reflections on a sunny day
Lake Matheson perfect reflections

Number 2 - Lakes and Tarns at Aoraki/Mt Cook

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park has got countless reflection opportunities. Way too many for me to list here, and many I have yet to experience. Lots of these are easy to experience. Hooker Lake is one of NZ’s best day walks and on a still day the lake will reflect, but if not the small mountain tarn nearby is also a good option. Lake Tasman is often reflecting at morning and night and is a very easy short walk from the carpark. If you’re fit and don’t mind working hard for your reflection shots, Red Tarns and Sealy Tarns walks will reward you both with small, reflecting tarns, but also some of the best views over Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

Hooker Lake reflections with icebergs Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Hooker Lake, Mt Cook
Mt Cook mountain tarn reflections on beautiful day New Zealand
Mountain Tarn, Mt Cook
Girl standing by Sealy Tarns reflections of Mt Cook
Sealy Tarns Reflections

Number 1 - Lake Ruataniwha and nearby lakes, Twizel

My most favourite reflections spot so far would have to be in the Twizel area. Lots of amazing reflection opportunities close to the highway. Lake Ruataniwha and Kellands Pond are the easiest of several opportunities in Twizel (the Pukaki-Tekapo canals, Lake Merino and Loch Cameron also being pretty great). I have had lots of chances to photograph these beauties and the reflections on a still day are wonderful.

Pink sunrise at Lake Poaka in Twizel, Mackenzie
Lake Poaka Sunrise
Loch Cameron autumn reflections on beautiful day
Loch Cameron in Autumn
Ohau Range snow reflections Twizel New Zealand
Twizel Reflections
Lake Ruataniwha reflections snow blue sky trees Twizel
Lake Ruataniwha Reflections

Hope you enjoyed the list! Feel free to share your favourites or any places you think I might have missed!

Laurie :)


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