Dawn Chapman on Discovering the Scenic Topography of South Island


The immaculate areas of Te Waipounamu or more familiarly known as South Island of New Zealand has become one of the popular travel destinations among nature lovers. Its shapely mountains, crystal lakes and cool glaciers accompanied by evergreen-hued terra, lapis lazuli aqua and refreshing temperate air immediately makes the place the perfect natural haven for those who want to escape the grit and ever-changing surface of the metropolitan.

New Zealand-based photographer Dawn Chapman shares her trip to the island to the Lomographic community through this interview.

Images of Fiordland by Dawn Chapman

Hi Dawn! Firstly, what made you go to South Island? Was it for a trip or vacation? Did you go alone or did you have someone/people with you?

Hi! I visited the South Island in February this year, as part of a two week long solo road trip. I live in the North Island of New Zealand, so I was motivated by a desire to see more of my own country. I love traveling alone because it gives you total freedom, but I always meet interesting people along the way.

Mt. Kepler track by Dawn Chapman

South Island is known for its amazing natural scenery. Apart from it, what else had prompted you to visit the island?

A few months before organizing this trip I had passed my final driver’s test, so I was able to rent a car for the first time. A road trip felt like the perfect way to celebrate! But apart from that, the South Island is also home to six of New Zealand’s nine ‘Great Walks’ – These are particularly well-maintained multi-day hiking tracks through some of our best scenery. During this trip I hiked the Kepler, and even though I didn’t have perfect weather, it was an incredible experience. Doing one of these walks should be on everyone’s New Zealand bucket list. You can read more about them at Great Walks.

Images of the Mt. Kepler track by Dawn Chapman

What was your first impression upon reaching the place? What did you think/feel when you arrived there?

I flew from Auckland to Queenstown and started my trip from there. As you approach Queenstown you start to see snow-capped peaks appearing below you and you can’t help but feel awestruck.

Can you share us the most interesting part of your trip when going there?

I’ve been to the South Island a few times now, but until this trip I had never seen a Kea. The New Zealand Kea is an endemic parrot found in the South Island’s high country. They are knowing for being very social and inquisitive birds that will come right up to humans without fear. While I was hiking the Kepler track at one point I had lunch with six of them perched around me for company!

Milford Road, Lindis Pass, Tasman Glacier, Sealy Tarns and Mt. Cook to the right by Dawn Chapman

South Island is blessed with scenic mountains and other natural places there, some places untainted by roadwork or man-made routes. What was the hardest/most challenging part in going around the island?

If you’ve ever been to New Zealand you’ll know that access to many of our best locations is via remote gravel roads. This made for a lot of nervous driving, and questioning whether I was going to end up stranded and alone in the middle of nowhere! The road to the Rob Roy Glacier just outside of Wanaka is a better known example of this type of road.

Tasman Lake and Tasman River by Dawn Chapman

You also shot your photographs in 35 mm film. Did you have any trouble in photographing the place?

If you decide to shoot film it’s a good rule when you’re traveling to remember to buy a few extra rolls before you leave the larger cities. I forgot to stock up before I left home so I ended up searching every pharmacy I came across in a desperate hunt to find more film!

The master landscape photographer Ansel Adams believes in the art of visualization. What are the visualizing elements you look for when composing a landscape image?

I think when Ansel Adams talked about the art of visualization he was referring to the visual elements that make your image unique, right? For me, I’m happy when my images can tell a story or give you a better sense of the place. I don’t want to just take a nice photo. Some photographers won’t agree with this, but I actually like to include people in my landscapes for a sense of scale.

Lake Te Anau, Wanaka, Hooker Lake and Lake Pukaki by Dawn Chapman

Yes, we agree with Adams’ concept of visualization in photography. So, as a photographer, what are your thoughts when a scenery of nature gets translated into a photograph?

Nature is always amazing to me. When I see a great landscape photograph I think it’s great because it’s captured that sense of awe I feel when I’m in a spectacular place.

What’s the favorite photograph you took from your trip to South Island?

That’s a hard question! But I was very happy with some of my images from Mt Cook, because I think I managed to capture the sense of scale I mentioned before.

Mt. Cook and Mt. Sefton by Dawn Chapman

Lastly, before we part, what’s next for you? Do you have any place in mind for your next photowalk/travel photography?

I’d love to do another South Island road trip, this time around the top half of the island. It’s winter here now so there will be more snow on the mountains, and I’ve heard about a magical waterfall in Kaikoura where baby seals come to play during the colder months.. either that or I’d love to go somewhere warm! Maybe Tropical North Queensland or Fiji!

If you liked our talk with Dawn Chapman’s travel to South Island, check out her website and Instagram for more of her photographic journeys! Images used are with permission from Dawn Chapman.

written by Ciel Hernandez on 2016-06-25 #places #new-zealand #south-island #landscape-photography #travel-photography #nature-photography #travel-stories #dawn-chapman


  1. lomodesbro
    lomodesbro ·

    Well done Dawn, you put a lot of effort into your photography with a well matrched text; I love the Sealy tarns

  2. oriolphotography
    oriolphotography ·

    Wow what a beautiful set of pictures! These photos bring me wonderful memories, I travelled to New Zealand 10 years ago for my honeymoon. Your website is amazing!

  3. crismiranda
    crismiranda ·

    Great shots, tks for sharing the memories!

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