Polynesian Spa at sunset

After long days of travel, with hours spent driving or walking around with a camera, a spa is the perfect treat. One of the best I’ve so far experienced in New Zealand is the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua. This was the second visit, this time at sunset. There are two natural springs that feed 28 hot mineral pools with geothermal waters. For the best experience the lake view private pools, shown above, are the way to go. You get this pool all to yourself for about 30 minutes. The water is 38.5 degrees C even in the evening. The perfect way to relax.

Lake Rotoura sunset

Lake Rotorua – Te Rotorua nui ā Kahumatamomoe is a large lake just north of the town of Rotoura. I’ve been here half a dozen times but found photographing the lake itself quite a challenge. There’s great views of the lake from the Skyline Gondola that goes up Mount Ngongotaha. This visit I wanted to capture the sun setting over the lake. This wouldn’t be possible from the nearby mountain. In the end I drove the east side of the lake. Overlooking Ōwhatiura Bay this is the view of the lake from the end of Owhata Road. Just below the sun on the horizon is the centre of Rotorua.

Tree on Lake Taupo

Single tree with no leaves, surrounded by the lake water with a tiny amount of stoney lake shore in the foreground.

Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake. Last year I was making the drive along it’s shores about once a month. Having seen photographs of this tree on Flickr and Instagram I was keen to find it. Unlike “That Wanaka Tree” it isn’t on Google Maps and I can understand why. It took me five or six stops and short walks along various parts of the shoreline to find it. It is practically in someone’s back garden. So like other photographers, I won’t be sharing this location publicly. The small island to the left of the tree is Motutaiko Island. This photograph was taken with one of my neutral density filters in front of the lens. This allows for a longer exposure time in the middle of the day. In this case 8 seconds long with an aperture setting of f/16. Giving the water this blurry appearance. Next time I’m in the area on a clear night, it would be interesting to try and get a star filled sky behind the silhouette of the tree.

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That Wanaka Tree at dusk

Silhouette of a tree with no leaves standing alone in the lake, reflected in the water. Snow capped mountains behind.

The most popular stop for photographs of the lake is That Wanaka Tree. I’d visited Wanaka but not seen this tree on the water. On the day I arrived in town I visited this spot three times. On arrival in the afternoon it was very overcast and gray. Then after sunset, pictured above. Then a couple of hours later at night when it was too cloudy to see the stars above. Each time I walked along the shoreline of the lake to the tree there were more than a dozen other tourists. At sunset maybe 40 or 50 people around. And that was in a time when New Zealand’s borders were closed to international tourists! Photography has been changed a lot in the last decade. First smart phones with good cameras. Then Instagram. This tree isn’t just pin pointed on Google Maps. It’s labeled with #ThatWanakaTree. This has taken a popular spot and turned it into a must see location with public toilets and a big carpark.