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Walking up the Mount is a pretty popular activity for locals and visitors to Mt Maunganui. I really had no idea how popular it is though! I got to this location around half an hour before sunrise and even in the dark there were loads of people on the track walking or running up to the summit.
This is the only photo of dozens that had nobody on the track. I must be overdue to hike right up to the top for sunrise again. It’s well worth setting your alarm and getting up there for sunrise if you haven’t done it before. Great way to start the day!
Beautiful Waiheke Island
Having spent most of my childhood in Auckland, I clearly remember the excitement of getting on the ferry to Waiheke Island. Although it’s only a short trip, I seem to remember it being an epic journey across oceans to the faraway island that was always so full of adventure and mystique. In my mind the ferry was a monstrous ship that I could never seem to completely explore, despite the seemingly endless hours it took to get there.
In reality Waiheke Island is only a 30 minute journey and the ferry only a very modest two-level boat that you could easily walk around in a few minutes. My imagination isn’t what it used to be. Everything is more fun when you’re a kid.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Waiheke Island with some friends and the one thing that hasn’t changed from my childhood experience was the excitement of getting on that ferry. Maybe it was the nostalgia, or the gorgeous Auckland day, or going on an adventure with new friends, or maybe because we were going to drink wine and beer in the sun. Probably all of the above.
Visiting Waiheke Island is a very popular activity for both Auckland locals and visitors. The amount of people packed onto the ferry that day was testament to what a fantastic place it is to see. There isn’t a lot on the island, but if you’re up for adventure and stunning scenery, you won’t be disappointed. One of the most popular activities to do on Waiheke, and my excuse for setting my alarm for 5.30am and driving from Mt Maunganui, is wine-tasting!
Getting around the island is pretty simple. Buses are regular and will take you to almost anywhere you need to go. Many of the wineries and vineyards are within walking distance of the main bus routes, so you can easily create your own wine-tasting itinerary and enjoy walking and exploring. Of course, there are also a number of companies offering wine tours if that’s more your style. If you prefer to be chauffeured around in an air-conditioned van you will be able to visit more vineyards in a day, and this option is great for those who aren’t up to the (often strenuous) walking, or just prefer not to arrive at a beautiful hilltop winery sweating like they’ve just run a marathon. There is also the option of renting bikes for the day, which seems like a great idea, but could make for an interested ride at the end of a day of drinking in the sun. Sun and wine are a great/dangerous combination. Don’t say you weren’t warned!
One of Waiheke’s many walking tracks
We only made it to three wineries due to opting for the walking tour. We started at the beautiful Onetangi Beach for lunch, then walked to Obsidian, then on to Stony Ridge, and finally Wild On Waiheke. Obsidian’s wine was by far my favourite, although I don’t consider myself much of a wine connoisseur, so don’t judge me. For the overall experience, though, Wild On Waiheke would be very hard to beat.
Wild is a brewery as well as a winery, in fact the only brewery on the island. Being a much bigger fan of beer than wine, I was sold immediately. Their beer was phenomenal! They offer beer and wine tasting, a restaurant, and they also have really fun activities like archery and clay-bird shooting, amongst other things, although I’m still trying to get my head around the health and safety considerations of mixing booze and firearms! Unfortunately we were running short of time so couldn’t try the food or activities, but I will definitely be heading back there very soon! We did, however, manage to fit in a round of Cards Against Humanity, which was suitably offensive and helped to clear the bar of all the other visitors! Lucky they were closing anyway 😉
We just made it onto the very full bus and spent the last few hours of sunlight drinking the day’s purchases and swimming at Oneroa Beach. I was glad to see the sun go down after a long hot day, and I managed to grab this shot of the sunset despite all the wine and beer in my system, not to mention very cleverly leaving my tripod in my car in Auckland.
Sunset over Waiheke Island
All in all it was a fantastic experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I was reminded recently while out capturing this Mt Maunganui landscape of the importance of not getting so focused on one scene that you miss something potentially beautiful elsewhere. This is especially important when photographing sunrises and sunsets, which obviously draw our attention towards the dramatic light. It is often during these times that the sky directly behind you can be gorgeous, although usually not so dramatic. Sometimes these scenes can make for some stunning images as the colours in the sky are often a beautiful mix of oranges, blues, and pinks, not to mention that the foreground and scenery will be lit with a lovely soft light from the sunset or sunrise behind you.
This was my thinking while out photographing The Mount last week. I was sitting watching the light in the sky and realised quickly that the sunset wasn’t going to turn it on like I had hoped, so I sat and waited for the light to fade and the street and building lights to come up. As I was waiting, I turned around and looked behind me to see this:
Moturiki Island, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. Click on the image to buy.
Shooting with your back to the light can create some unique challenges though. There is less light to work with, which requires longer shutter speeds, and often your own shadow ends up in the frame if the sun is still above the horizon. These challenges can almost always be overcome, however, and you will likely find that the effort pays off with some great landscapes. So, next time you’re out photographing that dramatic sunset, don’t forget to turn around!
Mt Maunganui (Mauao)
In keeping with my resolution to have a second look around my home town after this little experience, I grabbed my gear the other evening and went out to photograph a scene I’ve wanted to for some time, but haven’t yet got around to. Of course it didn’t take much hunting to find this location, but it is still in my home town, so it counts. Mount Maunganui, or Mauao (the indigenous Maori name) is affectionately known here in New Zealand simply as ‘The Mount’. Admittedly, it’s not a particularly original or imaginative name, but it is what it is. The extinct volcano sits at the inlet to Tauranga Harbour and can be seen right throughout the Western Bay Of Plenty. The Mount is considered to be one of New Zealand’s top holiday locations due to its close proximity to Auckland, the climate and the white-sand surf beach that stretches for miles past Papamoa and down the east coast of the North Island. It is also often high on the list of the many tourists who come to NZ as a travel vacation destination.
View from Leisure Island of Mauao, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. Click on the image to buy a print, canvas, or license.
This particular night I had been watching the sky and it looked like it was going to turn on a gorgeous sunset behind the mountain, but a big cloud front pushed over and shattered my hopes. Such is the way with landscape photography. I had some fun with long exposures anyway and came up with something I’m happy with. This is a 60-second exposure, which as you can see has made the ocean nice and milky and peaceful when the surf was actually pumping.
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As you can see from my recent posts, I have been unusually inactive here on the blog over the last few months. This is mainly due to some big moves and changes for my wife and I. After returning to New Zealand in November 2011 after 6 months traveling and photographing Africa and South America, we weren’t feeling the love for Wellington that we once had, so decided it might be a good time to consider other places to base ourselves. Having grown up in West Auckland, I had very little desire to head back there, even though we still have family there. After spending a few months traveling from the top of NZ to the bottom, and taking whatever work was available (including six weeks on the set of The Hobbit as an extra!), we finally decided on Mt Maunganui, Tauranga. The Mount, as it’s affectionately known, is Gillian’s hometown, and a place we have long considered making our home. There is so much going for it, the weather being high on that list, and it’s been one of the smoothest transitions into a new city that I’ve ever made. Gillian even restarted her midwifery practice.
Getting to the point of this post, I have finally found some time to pick up my camera again and make the most of the stunning beach that we now call home. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m sure there will be much more to come. This shot was taken following a huge storm that lasted a couple days here in the Bay Of Plenty. They don’t come here often, but when they do, they come with a vengeance. You don’t see The Mount Beach like this very often, but I hope you like it.
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