Somewhere in New Zealand: Chapter 2

By Aaron Grimes

I started my New Zealand trip in the North Island (see Chapter 1), but I quickly drove my camper van to the South Island. It’s pretty incredible, so there were plenty of things to photograph. In this chapter’s travel journal video, I’ll give you tips on how to make photos that are super-sharp and high resolution. I’ll also demo one of my favorite phoneography apps.


The South Island was where New Zealand’s beauty really shone, and although I spent most of my trip in the south, it felt like I barely scratched the surface. My first stop was one of the highlights of the entire journey: Franz Josef Glacier.

You can’t drive to the glacier itself, so I hiked in with my gear, including a drone, a GoPro camera, a DSL-R camera, an iPhone, and tripods. The stream that wound its way through the valley hinted at something ahead, but I didn’t see the glacier for a while. As I got closer, red rocks covered in green moss filled the landscape. They almost didn’t look real, like they were painted. 

The red rocks gave way to bare and dusty ones. I kept walking through the rock field until there it was—the glacier. For safety reasons, you’re not allowed to climb on the ice, but looking up at it was fine by me. To be honest, the glacier was a lot smaller than I expected, and I learned that in the last ten years it’s shrunk by almost 50%. Even given that, the valley with the mountain backdrop made for an incredible view. 

From there I drove to Wanaka, which is a small town beside a lake of the same name. You’ll see in Chapter 3 that there was a constant downpour of rain for a good portion of my trip. It started in Wanaka. I hiked to a place called The Blue Pools, but because of the rain, the pools were more brown than blue. At least the hike had some cool suspension bridges.

One of New Zealand’s Instagram-famous spots is a tree in Lake Wanaka (#thatwanakatree, if you’re curious). There’s a reason it’s been photographed extensively—it’s beautiful. Luckily, when I got to the tree, the rain let up for about an hour and clouds streaked through the sky. I used the Average Camera Pro iPhone app to capture photos with super-soft clouds and water but the tree in focus. I shot the scene with and without Average Camera and definitely prefer the versions with the app.

This stretch of my travels also gave me a chance to practice stitching a bunch of images into a panorama. The most obvious benefits of stitching panoramas are the extra sharpness and high resolution, but for me the biggest draw is a more subtle one. A wide-angle lens has a greater depth of field than a telephoto lens, so even when you’re focused on an object in the foreground, the background is almost as in focus. That’s not a bad thing if it’s the look you’re going for, but I love shallow depth of field with a blurry background or foreground. This is where stitching comes in. You can use a 90mm telephoto lens, shoot enough photos to cover what a 24mm would capture, stitch them together, and get the best of both worlds. With the features in Adobe Camera Raw 9.4 and later, stitching doesn’t even take many more steps than regular photography. In the video, I show you the results of a stitched panorama and how to use the one piece of gear I depend on to capture panoramas without parallax. 

Stay tuned for Chapter 3, where I head to Queenstown, Milford Sound, and rain—lots of rain.

Images: Aaron Grimes

Video: Aaron Grimes