Photography tips for capturing New Zealand’s best reflections

As a keen amateur photographer, a clear shot featuring reflections is one of my favourite types of picture. There’s something wonderful about seeing a beautiful view twice, especially when the lower half of the image is so clear it looks like the real thing. New Zealand is the perfect place to try out some reflection shots. Here’s my pick of where to go and some tips for photographing New Zealand reflections to achieve a great end result.

Tips for Photographing New Zealand Reflections: Mount Cook, Mount Tasman and Fox Glacier reflected in Lake Matheson
Mount Cook, Mount Tasman and Fox Glacier reflected in Lake Matheson: Photo Andrew Turner / CC BY 2.0

Tips for Photographing New Zealand Reflections

Just add water

Well, of course. To be able to catch a fabulous landscape in reflection, you’re going to need something to mirror it. In town, you might use a shiny car or a glass window, but out in the countryside, there’s nothing better than a perfectly still lake. In fact, there are so many suitable lakes that it can be hard to pick one. Try heading for Lake Matheson, near Fox Glacier on New Zealand’s South Island. There, the lake is a dark brown colour as a consequence of the organic matter leaching from the surrounding forest. Even better, you’ll get a great view of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman to the east.

Tips for Photographing New Zealand Reflections: Lake Brunner
Lake Brunner by Julia Hammond

Make sure it’s a calm day

Even the best reflections are ruined by a breeze. You’ll need a sheltered spot and a day without wind, which can be a challenge. Be prepared to persevere – a patient photographer is always rewarded. Sometimes, however, it’s just a combination of decent weather, good light and liberal dose of luck. This shot was taken in Lake Brunner from a slow-moving TranzAlpine train on a frigid winter’s day, when patience would have been more likely to lead to frostbite than anything else.

Tips for Photographing New Zealand Reflections: Lake Mapourika
Lake Mapourika: Photo Richard Palmer / CC BY-SA 3.0

Find something to add interest

Having something in the foreground to add interest is a good tip for turning a good photo into a great photo. It might be a small shrub, perhaps a duck (so long as it’s not making too many ripples) or a boat dragged up onto the shoreline. Piers and jetties are also a fantastic prop. Position yourself so that the eye is drawn out into the middle or back of the shot and the image will have added depth. This one’s taken at Lake Mapourika north of Franz Josef Glacier on South Island, the largest of the West Coast lakes. Again tannins give the lake a dark colour and make reflections stronger.

Tips for Photographing New Zealand Reflections: Lake Matheson - The Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake: Photo Arran Bee / CC BY 2.0

Experiment with angles and remember the rule of thirds

In photography, the so called rule of thirds imagines a grid placed over a shot. Placing the focal point of your image a third of the way across or up makes for a better end result than if you position your subject slap bang in the middle. Using this with reflections can be tricky as it’s tempting to divide the image in half, so look at the landscape to see if it can work for you. You may need to get on your hands and knees to secure that perfect picture.

And finally, try to add something original

There are many copycat images out there. How can you improve on them? What’s going to make your image stand out? Try a colourful sunset reflected on a smooth wet rock, or a splash of seasonal colour. And remember – have fun!

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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