This year, I was presented with the honour of joining the Samsung New Zealand family. I had heard all about their famous new Galaxy S9 PRO+ camera settings through the media and the king of froth Mr Logan Dodds. I was on the fence for a while whether or not to switch from ye ol iPhone to a Samsung. I had been attracted to the idea of a smaller camera I could easily take anywhere for a while. For those that know me well, you will know that I’m actually a bit of a lazy photographer at times. In the sense that I find it a bit of a drag taking my camera with me everywhere, but then I HATE missing moments – especially a sunset. The idea that I could add a small tool to my kit that could capture professional quality imagery anywhere and anytime was a really exciting concept to me. So with the launch of their Galaxy S9+ and a push from seasoned Samsung user Logan, my decision to jump ship was too easy.
One of my main concerns with switching was that I would lose everything off my old phone. I had heard Logan talk about “Smart Switch” now and again but didn’t realise how “smart” and easy it was going to be. I was actually very surprised I could literally plug in my old phone into my new Samsung and transfer everything over within minutes. Niffttyyy as.
Once I was all set up, Logan and I knew the best place for me to test out my new toy was no other than the South Island of New Zealand. A place both of us can’t get enough of. The GS9+ has an incredible low light capability, so I immediately thought of Fox Glacier on the West Coast. I’ve always wanted to explore and capture ice caves, so I was keen to see how the GS9+ would handle the darker caves and winter light. And hot dang did it handle it or what! I was so so impressed. I even managed to capture one of my favourite images to date on my new phone!
Basically, the Galaxy S9+ has something called Dual Aperture that boasts two aperture modes; f/1.5 and f/2.4. The f/2.4 mode is used mostly for your daylight shots. Then when the sun has dipped a bit low, chucking it into f/1.5 lets in a huge amount of extra light. This aperture setting doesn’t have an effect on your depth of field for landscape shots – it’s more about additional light. In addition to this feature, you can have control over ISO (again for more or less light), shutter speed, white balance and focus! It’s insanity that we can have this kind of control and quality in a phone! Me likey.
So I chucked my new phone in with my kit, plonked Logan and Jordan onto a plane at 7am on a Saturday, and we set out on a road trip from Christchurch to Franz Josef. Four fun days saw us frolicking in frosts, skimming rocks along perfectly still lakes, flying around in helicopters, exploring an ancient glacier, staring in awe at snow-capped mountains, losing our minds over perfect sunsets and eating too many pies. All imagery in this blog is an even mixture of shots taken with my DSLR and my new fave gadget: The Galaxy S9+. Blown away…
First stop and an absolute must on a roadie from Christchurch to the West Coast; Castle Hill (also known as Kura Tawhiti). Huge ancient limestone formations randomly jut out of the Canterbury landscape. So worth a visit first thing in the morning when the sun is still low and streams through the gaps and cracks of the rocks. A really fun place to have a play with the contrasting scale of the rocks and little people. Excellent hide and seek location. Or just an excellent hide and jump out to scare the shart out of someone location.
Our arrival to the West Coast was met with typical West Coast weather. Drizzly and grey. We thought we would try our luck at Lake Matheson for sunset, but no magical parting of the clouds occurred. While I love a good sunset light show, I’m also a lover of dark moody tones. The weather ended up being an amazing opportunity to give the Sammie GS9+ a good run for its money. Dark clouds and downpours – no wazzas! The rain also ended up being perfect to have a play with the super-slo-mo feature – check out the crazy 960 frames per second in action on the video at the start of this blog! When you think that any other phone camera can only do slo-mo at 240 frames per second, this really is incredible.
The next day, we ventured on a massive day trip to Haast to check out the Blue Pools and Fantail Falls. A rather massive storm was making it’s way over the West Coast resulting in the Blue Pools looking like they should be named the Dark Brown Poo Pools, so that was hilariously sad. Then with the combination of mountains and dark clouds, it was practically night time by the time we got to Fantail Falls at 4pm. Yet I was still able to bang out some shots on the phone. The comparison between my GS9+ and Jordans iPhone 6s was insane. The same scene looked horrible on his phone!
Then do you want to guess who the tinnyest little bastards were that woke up to beautiful blue skies and no wind? Lola, Logan and Jordy, that’s who! The storm had passed and it was time to jump into a chopper for the main event upon Fox Glacier! We were even lucky to have a fresh dusting of snow all over the mountain tops and the glacier itself. Fox Glacier has the distinction of being one of the few glaciers to end among lush rainforest only 300 metres above sea level – New Zealand you never cease to amaze me. It’s a bittersweet experience to have the opportunity to visit this amazing site, yet knowing that it is retreating rapidly. Despite the tragedy of how much has disappeared, we had an incredible morning with Malcolm from Fox Guides exploring ice caves and arches. Loved loved loved how the GS9+ performed in the caves. I even had a few moments when I was editing my images when I was like “wait… was this off my DSLR or the Galaxy?” Also, loving that it’s water resistant because I’m forgetful as hell and it kept dropping out of my pocket into the snow when I was jumping around and lying on the ground 🙂
How do you end an insane day of natural splendour? MORE NATURAL SPLENDOUR. Lake Matheson round 2 people. Great success. This place is even more beautiful in real life. No photo’s I’ve ever seen have done it justice. We met some cool tourists on the jetty and I confused them by dipping my Galaxy into the lake to get some fresh perspective shots. As Mount Cook and Mount Tasman reflected a perfect sunset orange on the water, I took the opportunity to have a fiddle with all the white balance to help intensify the warm tones I was witnessing in real life. I found that setting it to 6500K (cloudy) helped bring out the sunset colours better. Stunneerrrr. One of the best sunset experiences I’ve had.
After that spectacular day of spleendoouurrr, it was time to head back to Christchurch. So strap in for a foggy start at Lake Mapourika, a little taste of the Hokitika Gorge, a fresh stop at Arthurs Pass and heap of “out the windscreen road” shots. All topped off with a river bed sunset surrounded by mountains. What.is.life.
That my friends, was our little journey to the West Coast of the South Island. As per usual, New Zealand, take a bow. Galaxy S9+, also take a bow. Thanks, Samsung for the opportunity and for becoming an exciting addition to my photography kit. Also churrs to Logan for taking me under his wing and showing me how to get the most out of the phone! Excited for the next adventure! Ta ta for now.