Photographing/Hiking Lake Marian New Zealand
Hiking Distance: 3.2 miles (5.14km) each way
Hiking Time: 1:30-2 hours each way
Elevation Gain: 320 (car park) - 720m (base of lake), 400m total gain
Trail quality: proper trail with some difficult areas
While in New Zealand I had a chance to photograph Lake Marian and so far I've been very happy with the pics I took during the hike. The hike itself is a relatively easy hike just off the highway on the way to Milford Sound. For this hike I brought my Sony A7RIII with my Sony 24-70mm GM and 16-35mm GM lens. I also brought my Sony a6500 with 24-70mm Zeiss Lens which I have been using for lots of time lapse stuff. I will say that bringing that on this hike was a waste and I could have done without it. However, I did also bring two tripods that were both clutch.
The above shot is crossing the bridge at the very start of the hike. This crosses one of the many rivers in the Milford sound area and I thought made for some awesome pics.
From here you move into an almost rain forrest like environment with a steep climb towards Lake Marian. I had high hopes of getting to the lake in just over an hour but I wasn't planning on the unbelievable photography opportunities along the way. Honestly, you could spend a few hours just taking pics while you hike, so if you are going for photography give yourself a little extra time.
The above shot was taken as I was coming back down from the hike. I wanted to stay for sunset but a pretty gnarly storm was rolling in and I didn't feel like getting stuck in the rain. So I hauled ass down to the bottom, eating shit more than once along the way. I passed by this river that is about 500m into the hike and decided to try and get some good shots. There was a solid crowd taking pics of the river already and I decided to venture past the safety railing... because well, I am a pro. Right? Wrong. I ate shit in front of the entire crowd of people and I am sure I am on someone's Instagram profile now as that d-bag who thought he was too cool for the safety railing. Oh well.
For this shot I first tried using my 24-70mm lens but I quickly found out that I needed to go as wide as possible so I swapped to my 16-35mm. So far on this trip the 16-35mm has been amazing. I brought an 18mm Zeiss as well but I haven't used it a singe time.
I first tried doing a super long exposure at 4 seconds but I lost all the definition in the water. I then reduced it down to 1/4 second and had the motion I wanted but not enough light. The 1.3 sec seemed to be the right mixture. I kept the aperture at f/22 so I could get as much of the photo in focus as possible.
Just as I was taking the shot the clouds opened up and I got a glimpse of the sunset which you can see through the clouds. It was a very lucky break but I think it really helped add to the pics.
The lake itself offers some incredible shots. I'd recommend going later in the day. Just know that the lake has a little micro climate, so even though it might be sunny out, there is a high chance of there being clouds or rain at the lake. When I went there was a bunch of clouds that crushed any chances I had of a sunset.
Most the photos I have seen are taken right where the trail hits the lake. I tried moving to both sides of the lake and it's fairly limited. I think the best vantage point is from right where the trail hits the water. There is a rock there that would make for a great shot of a person sitting and looking towards the mountains.
What I learned on this trip:
I actually learned a lot about polarizing filters and graduated filters. The polarizing filters helped me see into the water which was great because it was super clear. The graduated filter helped me with the huge light contrast. I have also been focusing on being better about making a capturing foreground to go along with the background. I used rocks, a splash and even me to help make the photos have more depth and give them a subject.
Other tips I have are:
1. Bring a graduated filter- the clouds get super bright with the sun behind them and there is a rough light contrast cast by the mountains.
2. Bring a friend- this is a good spot to do those shots where you're looking out.
3. Bring lots of water- I sweat my ass off on this hike...
4. Go during the weekday if possible- there were way too many people there to do anything cool
5. Bring a tripod- The light got low fast and I had to start using a tripod pretty quickly. I used the Joby DSLR Tripod which has been unbelievably clutch this trip. I will write a review on it later but if you're looking for something that's light and easy to carry, get that.