When it comes to New Zealand, it's best experienced in person, but the next best thing is through the lens of a master photographer. Enter Will Patino. With a particular expertise in capturing Mother Nature's best moments, Will's talent for photographing the rugged landscapes of the North Island are nothing short of amazing. We discussed his recent jaunt to the 'Land of the Long White Cloud', covering the travel and photography highlights as he made his way across the North Island.
Was this your first trip to New Zealand's North Island?
My only other trip to the North Island was for a brief photo mission that lasted less than 24 hours, so this definitely was my first real taste of the North Island.
As a photographer that appreciates the beauty in nature, did you have any ideas about what New Zealand would be like? Did it live up to any expectations?
Having travelled to the South Island several times, I thought I knew what New Zealand had to offer but I must say that the North Island is like an entirely different country altogether. The landscape was definitely a lot greener and way more diverse than what I expected. I am convinced that New Zealand is one of the greatest countries in the world for photographers and people who love the outdoors.
As a photographer, what were your favourite moments and why?
Being an ocean lover, the Coromandel Coast was amazing, particularly Cathedral Cove which reminded me of home. I also love mountains so it was a nice surprise to get up close to Mt Ngauruhoe for sunset.
Without a doubt though, the most memorable moment was at Kerosene Creek near Rotorua. The water here is geothermally heated and with the low ambient temperature, there was plenty of vapour in the air.
The early morning sun was beaming through the forest and created what would have to be the most incredible light display I have had the pleasure of witnessing. There were surreal beams of light flickering and moving behind these beautiful wayward trees and above the waterfall. Something I won’t forget.
As a traveller, what were your favourite moments and why?
What I love about travel is the unplanned situations that always seem to happen on the road. Whether it’s driving past some unexpected scenery, meeting great people or making a spontaneous detour that leads to a hidden gem, these moments between moments can’t be scripted and often make life long memories.
New Zealand is the perfect road trip country so when you are with great people, countless things have a way of popping up and making the trip memorable. New Zealand is incredible scenery, lovely people and great food without the crowds. You can’t go wrong.
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Did you experience any unexpected surprises while you were on the road?
Just before arriving at Kerosene Creek where the light was amazing, on the way we actually encountered a similar light show where a small patch of fog was in a field just off the side of the road. The mid morning sun was piercing through the fog and trees in direct shards of light, looking like something straight out of a movie. As a photographer and nature lover I was in heaven and even performed a really awkward happy dance out of sheer excitement.
New Zealand is known as being a bit of a hub for adventure, and I see that there were a few active/adventurous activities on your itinerary. Do you normally embrace the idea of adventure travel? Did any of it challenge you to get out of your comfort zone?
New Zealand is definitely known for its adventure activities but what’s good is that this certainly isn’t the only thing to do and there’s always plenty of options for all experience levels. I wouldn’t say I was out of my comfort zone at all but definitely got a good top up of my adrenaline fix.
You guys did a lot of driving throughout this journey. How did you break up some of the longer driving legs? Would you recommend it as a way to see the North Island?
I think driving is definitely the best way to experience the North Island as there is just so much to see, particularly in areas that are less advertised. Thankfully there are so many places to stop along the way to either stretch your legs or even spend the night. Pulling over for a spontaneous picnic or coffee is always a good idea.
What are some of the highlights of your journey? One or two things that you would highly recommend to first timers as an 'absolute must-do' and why?
If you were heading to the North Island for the first time I would definitely recommend checking out the Coromandel and kayaking to Cathedral Cove. This weathered coastline has been beautifully shaped over thousands of years and the water is a beautiful turquoise colour that is generally silky smooth and calm.
The geysers and thermal pools in Rotorua’s Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland are absolutely incredible and unlike anything I had ever seen before, such a mighty display of nature and certainly a must see, unique New Zealand experience.
And I have to mention the amazing Tongariro National Park just outside Taupo. I didn’t get to spend enough time here but the small taste I got is enough to make me want to come back for more. Volcanic peaks, glassy lakes, thermal pools and lush meadows ticks all the boxes for me!
Do you have any other tips for first timers (could be tips on eating, drinking, staying, or a few practical hints)?
Allow plenty of time for spontaneous adventure. If something interests you, just go for it. Chances are it will exceed your expectations.
Was there anything you really wanted to do on the North Island but you just didn't get a chance?
Definitely Tongariro National Park and Mount Taranaki are two places I really want to explore and photograph. The small time I had at Tongariro just revealed how much potential is there and Taranaki (which I could see far in the distance from Tongariro) looks amazing and no doubt would allow for some unforgettable photo and hiking opportunities.