Best New Zealand Long Exposure Photography Locations

Last Updated on September 27, 2022 by seanmichaelpritchard

Long exposure photography has a unique quality that enhances the attraction of already stunning settings.

The landscapes of New Zealand draw photographers from all over the world, and many utilise long exposure to get professional photography shots of the country’s most magnificent locations.

This blog will aim to show you the best long exposure locations in New Zealand to use this photography technique.

Before we get started, what exactly is long exposure photography?

Long exposure photography catches something that traditional photography does not: a long period of time.

Using a long-duration shutter speed, the fixed elements of a picture are precisely captured while the moving ones are blurred or obscured. 

Best long exposure photography locations in New Zealand (click to jump)

  1. Auckland – Epic City lights 
  2. Waitomo – Stunning Glow Worm Caves 
  3. Hahei – Naturally formed Cathedral Cove
  4. Moeraki – Bizarre Moeraki Boulders
  5. Karitane – Charming coastline and dramatic sea arches
  6. Wanaka – That Wanaka Tree
  7. Tasman Lake – Fascinating Icebergs
  8. Punakaiki – Unique rock formations
  9. Kaka Point – Nugget Point Lighthouse
  10. Lake Te Anau – Picturesque Jetty & more
  11. Milford Sound – Iconic NZ landscape

To achieve this technique having the right equipment is essential. 

Long exposure photography recommendations:

  • A DSLR or Mirrorless Camera. This is significant because long exposure photography requires a camera that allows you to manually modify the shutter speed, ISO and aperture settings. Cameras that allow you to connect remotely have the extra benefit of limiting undesired movements. If your camera does not have this feature, you should consider purchasing a remote shutter release. The little movement of pressing your camera’s shutter button can cause unwanted effects on your final images. Can’t afford a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera right now? Some high-end smartphones, such as iPhones, allow mobile apps that enable manual camera mode.
  • Tripod. It is hard to keep a camera completely steady while shooting handheld for more than a few seconds, therefore, a tripod is an important piece of equipment for long exposure photography. While many lenses and cameras include image stabilisation features, these tools are useless for long exposure times where even the slightest movement would affect the final image.
  • Neutral Density Filters (ND filters). Long exposures work best in low-light situations. You may, however, choose to photograph lengthy exposures in brighter conditions. In these cases, you’ll need to add a neutral-density filter, or ND filter, to your lens to avoid overexposure in strong light. An ND filter reduces the amount of light that enters through the lens, allowing you to replicate low-light circumstances.

What makes a best location for long exposure photography?

As with other types of photography, choosing the correct location is vital in long exposure photography.

The majority of long exposure photography is landscape photography, which makes use of a long shutter speed to expose distinctive elements such as star trails, cloud patterns and dramatic water flows.

When seeking for the best long exposure photography locations in New Zealand, consider rivers, woodlands, and deserts, as well as metropolitan cityscapes.

Look for sources of visible light that can be transformed into light trails, such as vehicles during rush hour or other sources of movement. Water scenes are typically a crowd pleaser.

Check out the top waterfalls in New Zealand for more epic locations to practise your long exposure photography.

Let’s go!


1. Auckland

Long exposure photography in Auckland at night is a fantastic opportunity to experiment.

The photo possibilities in Auckland make this one of the best long exposure photography locations in New Zealand!

The city skyline is distinctive, and the sky tower serves as an excellent focal point, while flowing traffic on busy highways provides a thrilling element of motion blur.

Another possibility is to use a long shutter speed to smooth out the water in the Waitemata Harbour so that it reflects the wonderful city lights.

Where to stay in Auckland:

The hotel is centrally located in the CBD, about a 10-minute walk from Aotea Square, and offers both private and dormitory rooms. Dormitory rooms feature common bathrooms, whilst private rooms have a flat-screen TV and their own bathroom.

The hotel is located in the centre of Auckland, just a short walk from the viaduct waterfront. The studios are nicely designed and have a fully equipped kitchenette.

This elegant boutique hotel is located in the heart of Auckland’s CBD, only steps from the Sky Tower and the Viaduct Harbour. Each room is one-of-a-kind and features New Zealand art and photography. The bathroom has free EcoStore toiletries. Cocktails, as well as local beers and wines, are available in the House bar.



waitomo glowworm photography
2il org

2. Waitomo 

Waitomo is famous for its huge underground cave networks. The Glow worm Caves are illuminated by thousands of glow worms which can only be photographed by using the long exposure photography technique.

You’ll want to avoid arriving at the main Waitomo Glow worm Caves with high hopes only to be disappointed by its no photography restrictions.

The good news is that there are around 300 caves in the area and several family-owned businesses provide photography-friendly boutique trips, for you to use a long shutter speed.

All of these trips take place in enormous cave systems.

Their group size is lower, and they provide excellent opportunities for long exposure shots.

Where to stay in Waitomo:

This award-winning holiday park, located just 650 yards from the famed Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, has a swimming pool, outdoor hot tub, and BBQ area.

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves are only a 3-minute walk away. The swamp room is well designed and with a luxurious soaking tub. Guests may relax in the communal lounge and garden.

Orchard Valley Glamping is located in Otorohanga, 7 miles from Waitomo Caves. Free private parking is provided on site. The luxury tent comes with its own hot tub!



cathedral cove sunrise image
russellstreet

3. Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, only accessible by foot or boat, is a must-see photography destination in the Coromandel.

The one hour hike begins at Hahei’s northernmost point and traverses the cliff top before descending to the Cove.

A gigantic arched tunnel passes through a white limestone cliff to connect two secluded beaches. The cathedral-like arch adds to the area’s magnificence and provides a perfect frame for your long exposure shots.

Note, this is a really popular location, therefore if you want to use a long shutter speed for long exposure photography here, you need to get up early before the crowds.

Where to stay in Hahei:

Budget options are limited in Hahei. Harborside Holiday Park, located in Whitianga, opposite Estuary Beach is a good option close by. It has an outdoor seasonal swimming pool, a children’s playground, and a BBQ area with picnic tables. Cathedral Cove is about a 30-minute drive away.

The beach is a 10-minute walk away, while Hahei Village is a 5-minute walk away. Each room has its own terrace with outdoor seats and views of the garden.

Set on 1.5 acres of tropical gardens, guests can unwind to the sounds of native birds and the Pacific Ocean. The beach is a 5-minute walk away from this property. All rooms include natural wood furnishings, a dining space, a refrigerator, and tea/coffee making facilities.



moeraki boulders long shutter speed shot
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard

4. Moeraki Boulders 

Moeraki is a location best known for its boulders, which are bizarre spherical stones scattered along Koekohe beach on New Zealand’s Otago coast.

Each rock weighs several tonnes and with the largest ones reaching a height of two metres.

The stones are thought to be calcite concretions that formed 65 million years ago, according to scientists.

The best times to use a long shutter speed here are early morning and late afternoon in the wonderful soft light.

Long exposure photography is made possible by the movement of the sea pounding onto the boulders.

Don’t worry if the weather isn’t great when you arrive; storms might create an even better atmosphere in your images.

Where to stay in Moeraki:

Moeraki Beach Motels, located a few steps from Koekohe Beach, offers rooms with a garden, free private parking, a private beach area, and a patio.

Noah’s Boutique Accommodation is located beside the beach, about a 20-minute walk from the Moeraki Boulders and cafe. Both the King and Queen rooms provide sea views.

The Cube is located in Kakanui, roughly 12 miles from Moeraki Boulders, but it is well worth the journey for the spectacular architecture and views at this luxury accommodation.



BEST NEW ZEALAND LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard
5. Karitane 

The lovely community of Karitane, north of Dunedin, is perhaps New Zealand’s best hidden secret. It has a stunning coastline!

Karitane is well-known for its picturesque beauty, golden beach, and tranquil atmosphere.

On the short walk around the headland, you’ll come across some amazing natural arches that provide terrific opportunities for long exposure shots.

Where to stay in Karitane:

Since accommodation choices in Karitane are limited, you’ll want to stay in neighbouring Dunedin if your budget doesn’t allow you to rent a holiday home in the charming settlement.

Tui2 Macandrew Bay offers garden views as well as free Wi-Fi and private parking. The property’s relaxation area includes a hot tub and a sauna.

Larnach Lodge, located on the grounds of the majestic Larnach Castle, provides uniquely furnished rooms with panoramic views of the harbour and the Otago Peninsula.

Sea Breeze Sanctuary is situated in Karitane, with magnificent walks just outside your door. A lovely private holiday house with wonderful decor. Everything you need and more is provided in this nice and spacious property.


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that wanaka tree long exposure black and white photography
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard
6. Wānaka Tree

Is this the world’s most photographed tree? It had to be included on the list of best long exposure locations in New Zealand.

The Wanaka tree is a willow tree situated in the New Zealand province of Otago, at the southern end of Lake Wanaka.

The tree appears to be floating on the water’s surface as it stands boldly out of the lake and is framed by the majestic Southern Alps. 

To take long exposure shots here, make sure there’s little breeze so the tree stays as still as possible, and your images stay sharp.

Where to stay in Wanaka:

Wanaka Backpackers Bothy is a short walk from Wanaka’s town centre. The facilities are all clean and well-kept, and guests praise the helpful staff. There are both mixed dorms and private rooms with communal facilities.

Edgewater sits on the shores of Lake Wanaka. The hotel features scenic lake views, a day spa, sauna, and tennis court. There is a restaurant and a café on-site, both with lake views. Guests can experience delicious New Zealand food as well as a large selection of regional wines.

The beach is within a 2-minute walk away. An outdoor pool and a hot tub are available, as well as a private balcony with views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park. The barbeque area is ideal for a relaxed supper with spectacular lake and mountain views.



tasman lake photography
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard
7. Tasman Lake 

One of New Zealand’s greatest short hikes is the one-hour trip to Tasman Lake to see New Zealand’s longest glacier, the enormous 23km long Tasman Glacier.

In the summer, you will be able to see icebergs in the lake, which make for spectacular scenes and unique long exposure photographs.

Where to stay in Mount Cook Village:

Glentanner Park is a holiday park and activity centre that supplies economical lodging as well as magnificent views of Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount Cook National Park. Self-contained cabins and dormitory rooms are available as accommodations. There is a shared kitchen, bathroom, and sitting space, as well as a covered BBQ area.

Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge, found in Mount Cook National Park and boasting stunning views, is a 5-minute walk from Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. The higher level rooms provide mountain views.

The Hermitage Hotel offers a variety of rooms and suites, all with magnificent mountain views, most with views of Mount Cook. There are several restaurants and bars on-site, and free Wi-Fi is available at the Snowline Lounge and Sir Edmund Hillary Cafe.



long exposure sunset photograph
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard
8. Punakaiki

Punakaiki is most known for its Pancake Rocks and blowholes, which are must-see attractions for any photographer visiting the West Coast.

This natural work of art was created by nature 30 million years ago. Over thousands of years, alternating layers of small marine organisms and sand on the ocean floor were buried and compacted.

As a result, many layers of hard limestone and softer sandstone were created. Seismic action progressively lifted the limestone above the seafloor, where water, wind, and salt spray damaged the weaker layers, resulting in the pancake-like stacks of harder limestone seen today.

These interesting rock formations create a wonderful focal point for long exposure photography.

You could also then head up the road to Westport and get some great surf photography!

Where to stay in Punakaiki:

The beach is only a one-minute walk away from this property. Punakaiki Beach Hostel provides guests with a garden and a deck. There is free Wi-Fi provided. Dormitory rooms as well as private rooms with shared bathrooms are offered.

The beach is within a 2-minute walk away. Located near to Paparoa National Park on a 5-acre hillside. The rooms at Hydrangea Cottages provide spectacular views of the Tasman Sea or the South Island’s natural garden sceneries.

Tasman Sea Retreat offers sea views and is about a 17-minute walk from Fox River Beach. The lodge has a terrace, pool views, and a seating space for guests. Tasman Sea Retreat has 5-star accommodations that include a spa bath.



photographer at nugget point lighthouse
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard
9. Nugget Point lighthouse

The renowned Nugget Point is located in the Catlins, near the little settlement of Kaka Point.

This antique lighthouse, perched high above the water’s edge, has been a staple of the Catlins for more than a century.

The best time for long exposure photography in this incredible New Zealand location is at sunrise or sunset, although stormy clouds may also produce stunning gloomy images with a long shutter speed.

Where to stay in Kaka Point:

Mike & Jenny’s budget double room is an excellent choice for individuals on a tight budget. The beach is a 5-minute walk away from this property. From your backyard at this Kaka Point guest home, you can watch the waves flow into the beach.

Seascape Accommodations offers three modern apartments, each with high-quality furnishings and views of the Nugget Point Lighthouse across the water. The beach is about a two-minute walk away.

At Kaka Point, only a few feet from the beach, the Salty Bushman B&B provides beachfront rooms with a community lounge and BBQ facilities. Previous guests have given the bed and breakfast glowing ratings.



man standing at lake te anau with long shutter speed
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard
10. Lake Te Anau

The Te Anau jetty, which sits on one of New Zealand’s most beautiful lakes, has long been one of the best long exposure photography locations.

However, the lake itself provides several vantage points from which to capture various viewpoints and photographs utilising long shutter speed techniques.

Where to stay in Te Anau:

Amber Court Motel offers contemporary accommodation in a serene environment, just two minutes’ walk from the lake and ten minutes’ walk from Te Anau’s shops and restaurants.

On the beaches of Lake Te Anau, Lakefront Lodge offers self-contained suites. All of the apartments are on the ground level and are soundproofed.

The Fiordland Lodge in New Zealand is set within a World Heritage Site and provides views of Lake Te Anau and the surrounding highlands. The large rooms in the lodge have private terraces and superb bathrooms.



milford sound long exposure shots
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard
11. Milford Sound 

Milford Sound is part of Fiordland National Park. Its breath-taking combination of mountain peaks, thundering waterfalls and towering cliffs, has to be seen to be believed.

Mitre Peak is the best long exposure photography subject in this well-known New Zealand landscape location.

Blue hour is an excellent time to take long exposure shots in this location.

Where to stay in Milford Sound:

You might also stay in neighbouring Te Anau, which offers more variety; check my choices in the Lake Te Anau section.


Bonus location: Lake Tekapo in lupin season!



Final thoughts

The beauty in New Zealand is nothing short of breath-taking. Every place in New Zealand will leave every photographer speechless with postcard-like views.

I’d recommend learning long exposure for individuals who enjoy experimenting with their photography abilities since it provides a professional touch to your travel photography images.

Playing around with a long shutter speed can provide incredible outcomes!

This list of the best long exposure photography locations in New Zealand only scratches the surface of the possibilities.

When looking for the ideal long exposure settings, keep an eye out for sources of light and movement that might contribute an intriguing aspect to your photographs!

For more New Zealand inspiration check out the best places for wildlife photography!

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DISCLOSURE: I may earn a small commission from some of the links above. For the benefit of the doubt, please assume all links might be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

time lapse photography of city road at nighttime

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