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A New Zealand Adventure: Tiptoeing through the Lupins

By James Appleton, Landscape Photographer

Driving through the central and fiordland region of South Island New Zealand in Spring was one of the most beautiful and colorful experiences I’ve ever had. I had read about the incredibly bright varieties of the non-native lupin flowers that crop up in December in those regions, but was still gobsmacked to see them in person. In particular one area near to Lake Tekapo, they had sprung up, fields upon fields, stretching for miles, carpeted with their colour, with the amazing mountains of the Southern Alps in the background. Hard to envision, awestricking to witness. Walking through them towards the end of a particularly clear day was a surreal experience, it felt like walking through a painting.

Fiordland near Te Anau

On the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound, I happened across another valley, the one used in the latest “The Hobbit – the desolation of Smaug” film. It was a shock for me watching the movie on my return to the UK to see the exact same scene that I’d ended up photographing only a few weeks earlier. Whoever scouted the location for that film obviously shares an equally sharp eye for a beautiful setting! I decided to try and use this location as sunrise to capture some striking colors in the sky that would match the flowers, and ended up shooting for almost the whole morning as the sun rose. Rainshowers over the far hills kept conjuring up rainbows and the view was too good to walk away from without feeling I’d really done is justice.
Sadly as with all things the lifespan of the lupins is all too short, by the time I came to leave near the end of December they were distinctly fading away. If you ever plan to visit New Zealand around this time I would recommend going sightly earlier in December to make sure you don’t miss out. Before my trip there I envisioned coming back with heaps of rugged mountain and coast photographs, but in the end some of my favourites are of more peaceful views. Almost always featuring the gorgeous lupins in the foreground.

James and crew were sponsored by Powerocks to make this incredible journey. We love getting to see the beautiful New Zealand landscape through his lens, and his equipment, charged by Powerocks! 

A New Zealand Adventure: Barrier Peak, Part 2

By James Appleton, Landscape Photographer

(Read Barrier Peak, Part 1)


Waking in the darkness at 4am I geared up and set off, with nervousness of finding a safe route up, coupled with a huge sense of excitement. I could see the stars above, though the valley below was filled with clouds, perfect conditions for the best for mountain photography. As I climbed up, the dawn began to approach and the sky began lightening, but I noticed the clouds rising to block out the ridge behind me. I knew I was going to need to rely on my GPS data to backtrack safely through the fog. This was the steepest and most exposed part of the scramble, and I was grateful for knowing I’d be able to navigate back down regardless thanks to the reliability of Powerocks charging my devices the evening before.


I reached the summit just a few minutes before sunrise, and spent the next hour frantically photographing as the sun quickly rose and cast gorgeous morning light over the fog filled valley. To the north of my peak thereSummit3 was a whole line of snow-covered mountains jutting out from the clouds, and it made for a beautiful sight. Once I felt the morning light had faded and the colour become less intense, I turned to find the route back down the mountain. With the clouds now almost as high as the peak itself, I knew I had a long descent through the mist to find our camp. I knew I could rely on both my phone and GPS to help avoid me taking any wrong turns and avoiding the huge drop-offs to either side. Descending something like this in clear daylight is always a great experience, however coming down dangerous terrain when you can’t see more than a few metres ahead is somewhat less enjoyable. Despite the thick mist, I was able to navigate correctly and eventually saw the dim shape of the tent emerge out of the fog.

After packing up camp and returning to the valley floor via the previous day’s route, I had a guilty feeling of satisfaction that the weather underneath the cloud-level was mostly rain. I felt all the more fortunate for having been able to climb above that cloud and see such an incredible sunrise when everyone else was waking up to grey skies and drizzle.

I would HIGHLY recommend anyone with a good level of fitness and mountain experience to make the hike up to Gertrude Saddle in the Milford Fiord area. The views from the mid-point alone are worth the effort. Going further up to Barrier Peak requires a knowledge for heights and the correct mountaineering equipment. This should never be attempted without previous experience and much planning.


*Powrocks was proud to sponsor James on his New Zealand adventure, and is still providing stunning pictures from the trip. Stay tuned for more!*

A New Zealand Adventure: Barrier Peak, Part 1

By James Appleton, Landscape Photographer


Of all the hikes, climbs, sunsets and sunrises that I witnessed while in New Zealand this last December, one particular expedition stands out – a two stage climb up Barrier Peak from the beautiful Gertrude Valley, in the south-west Fiordland region. We started by bushwhacking for a few miles up a intimidating valley, and then following hundreds of waterfalls up the far bowl of the valley late in the afternoon. The aim was to scout out, and possibly climb, the nearby mountain known as Barrier Peak. Not typically a difficult mountaineering expedition, this area has claimed lives in the past. The climb involves steep sections of late winter snow, and the drop-offs to either side are treacherous.

GertrudeSaddleHiking and scrambling up the first section through broken clouds, we reached the famous Gertrude Saddle late in the day. By this point the snowfields were wet and slushy, and I made the decision to pitch a camp here for the night, on a flat section of earth, and continue the climb before dawn. By then the snow would have frozen overnight, giving a much safer surface to ascend on. However after an incredible sunset over the valley far beneath us, clouds rolled in and it was with some sense of foreboding that I lay down for a few hours of sleep. Before nodding off however I made sure to ensure both my GPS device and mobile phone were both fully charged – I would be climbing this last section alone in the pre-dawn night. I knew that access toCamp1 both accurate position data and the ability to call for help might be essential. Leaving them charging overnight on my Powerocks magicube I knew they’d be reliable in the morning…

(To be continued.)

*Powerocks was privileged to sponsor James on his New Zealand adventure. The rest of the incredible climb and more beautiful photography coming soon. Read New Zealand Adventure post #1 from James here. *