My Samsung Welcome - West Coast, South Island

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...

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.

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.

Kathmandu, Nepal

Back in March of this year, I had the most amazing honour of travelling to Nepal to watch two of my very good friends tie the knot. Full Nepali styles. This involved lots of dumplings and a 4 day wedding celebration!

I really challenged myself on this trip to try to capture the locals. While I have a passion for nature, I love people. But I've always been too afraid to capture strangers. I always feel too intrusive and like I'm taking advantage of them. Thankfully with the help of our personal guide (AKA the bride: Ayesha Giri), I was able to get heeaapps of practice in. So the below might not be what you're used to from me, but some of the included portraits are my most favourite images I've ever taken.

The end of two long-haul flights saw us flying pretty much parallel to the Himalayan Mountains. They are scary big. This turned out to be one of the handful of times we actually got to see them during our stay - #thankssmog. I had no idea what to expect here. I assumed it would be busy, but not on the level of chaos we were met with when we arrived. Bustling, dusty, smoggy and colourful. A complete cultural smack to the face the second we got off the plane. A fun game of bag Tetris in a tiny taxi at the airport was then followed by speeding, dodging and weaving through the bustling streets of Kathmandu. Imagine instant dust to the back of your throat, dust in your eyes, cars, motorbikes and people everywhere. Tangles of power cables, rubble covered streets, toppled buildings, tiny ramshackle shops, cooking in the streets, and in the middle of it all; random cows dotted throughout the chaos. Just chillin' on the road. As with Indian culture, they are sacred in Nepal. So sacred in fact, it's considered rude to shoo them. So they literally just go where they please and the world just whizzes around them.

We were stationed in Thamel during our time in Kathmandu, which is known as the most popular tourist area. As a result, the whole suburb is a car-free zone and very clean in comparison to the rest of the city. Lots of shops and lots of good food. Hit up BK's for the best fries and momo's (Nepali dumplings). I was amazed at how safe I felt in Kathmandu. You trust the people and I never felt uncomfortable once. In a country where they really believe in karma, crime is unsurprisingly quite low!

During our stay here we were super lucky to be part of the Holi Festival. The streets get filled with people throwing brightly coloured powder and water bombs on you every 2 steps. If you don't want to get colour on you, you just don't leave the house. The Nepali believe it to be good luck to put powder on fair skin, so fair to say (lel) we got nailed. Definitely a highlight of my life so far.

The wedding was made up of several days, with the main wedding day being the biggest of them all. My beautiful friend Ayesha (the bride) is a twin and her and her sister were married off on the same day. As a result, there were hundreds of people in attendance. The ceremony itself went on for hours, so you just kind of eat and drink all day while the bride and groom do their thing. Then suddenly they are married and they leave in a horse & carriage. It was a whirlwind of colour and a multitude of traditions that had to be done in an exact order and way. So that was really fun watching my kiwi mate Jack stumble through a few of those while a Nepali priest yelled at him in an ancient language he didn't understand.

Highlights of the wedding included: my mum teaching our Kiwi group how to do the 'bus stop' (an old-school line dance from the 70's) then proceed to perform said dance to "Slice Of Heaven" to a crowd of bewildered Nepali.

"Where do I go from here? I think I may have peaked. Does it get any better than doing The Bus Stop to Slice of Heaven in Kathmandu at a traditional Nepal wedding? I think not!" - My mum.

We also had to also play a sort of crazy rugby game with Jacks wedding shoes. Tradition calls for the grooms' shoes to be stolen by the brides family and stolen back by the grooms family. A hilarious game of this shoe rugby erupted in the middle of the wedding. Needless to say, the kiwi boys nailed this part of the celebrations!

The next series of images are from an ancient city called Bhaktapur. The delicate brickwork of this historic city suffered mercilessly to the earthquakes in April 2015.  Effects of this damage are still very apparent, but a lot of rebuilding and repair has gone on in the past 3 years. This was my favourite place to photograph the people. They are so kind and open. I was really fascinated with their day to day lives and loved capturing it all.

DISCLAIMER: There are graphic images below of a goat being BBQ'd with a blowtorch in a town square. Sorry in advance if you find this offensive.

Then back to Kathmandu for the wedding reception! We had handmade saris to wear which we had to get help putting on because they are so complicated. Then to top off Kathmandu, we visited a couple more stupas including The Monkey Temple - the most ancient religious site in Nepal. True to its name, there were monkeys everywhere!

Again, congrats for getting through another long one! Stay tuned for part 2 of my Nepal trip when we head to Chitwan and Pokhara!

Queenstown Birthday

Jord and I have made it a bit of a tradition to go snowboarding for my birthday every year (bar last year because we had just got back from Europe and were knackered. JK, had no money left.) We hadn't had a good shred in the South Island for a good few years so reckoned it was about time to frolick down for a play. I always froth on the flight down so I made sure I had my camera on me this time...

We arrived in Queenstown first thing on Saturday morning so it was straight to Cardrona for a shred. (That's a lie, we got an Arrowtown bakery pie first). This was probably one of the most fun days I've ever had on my board. I've finally found my holy grail snowboard and I was fizzing all day trying to beat my personal speed records and learning to butter around in the forgiving spring snow.

Ain't no trip to Queenstown complete without a prospect and a Ferg. This was the day NZ was hit with a slight heat wave so it was a perfect 20 degrees for our search for some paydirt with a cold beer in hand (kept chilly by the Shotover River!)

Now, this next part of the trip I was sooo fricken excited for. Shacking up at The Spire Hotel was the best decision to add to the birthday celebrations. Of course, you know I love the adventures where we sleep in the roof tent or under the stars, but every once and a while I think we all deserve some luxury (espesh on ya birthday). This place was SO nice. Just walking through the door you understand why it's earned an epic 5 stars.

Even though my heart lies in the outdoors, one of my favourite things to do on holiday at the end of the day is to watch a movie in bed. And what a bloody bed it was. I thought getting out of bed before was hard, then this comfy ass dream bed came waltzing into my life all like "you didn't know you needed me, but ya do". The kind of bed that it doesn't matter what you endured that day, you get in and it whispers "I gotchu boo." And you just melt into it and become one with the mattress then have one of those dead limp stone sleeps where you don't move AT ALL. That's because you actually temporarily died and went to heaven. Not to mention there was a fricken PILLOW MENU. For those that know me well, know I am all.about.the pillows. The staff were out of this world amazing and the room was perfection. Can I please come live there foreva gaiz?

After a quick relax and reset, I dragged Jord out for a hike up Queenstown Hill! Joookkeess, he dragged me.

Yes, those are little fudgies they put in our room for our return. Can someone just do this for me every day plz? #ahemjordan.

Is it even your birthday if you don’t have breakfast in bed? The weather wasn’t looking so great for sunrise so we had a nice lazy morning in bed and ordered room service from No5 Church Lane downstairs. I’m calling it, this was the best french toast I’ve ever had. It’s set the standard for all other french toast and now all other french toast is RUINED. Upsetting yes, but at least I know where to find the best french toast now. (Please if you can help me reset my french toast expectations here in Auckland, slide into my DM’s and direct me to the noms). There really is something about getting food delivered to you that brings me eternal joy. When it happens while you’re wearing a luxe az robe in your comfy ass bed with the sun streaming in, WAWAWEEWA. I love it.

For the afternoon we took another trip over the Crown Range to visit my mates at CrossFire Wanaka. I visited Criffel Station back in May when they were still in the process of revamping the whole set up so I was awesome to come back and see it all finished. Jord and I were pretty lucky to head up the hill to have a go at the newly launched clay bird shooting. With the best views in Wanaka, we had way too much fun blasting clay birds out of the sky with the incredible backdrop of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea (seriously you can see everything! – One of the only spots in Wanaka you can see both lakes.)

The legend Adam then took us for a quick tour around the rest of the farm to feed some animals and check out their incredible and super unique Wool Shed wedding venue! (Hollah if you’re getting married there and need a photographer – so keen to see it all in action!)

You would have caught on by now that I’m massively obsessed with food, so to keep with the “it don’t count when it’s your birthday” vibe, it was time for some more deliciousness.

The Grille. Come at me.

For those of you that know about The Grille already, it’s pretty much the crème de la crème of dining in Queenstown. It’s right on the waterfront so you get amaaazing views of the lake and surrounding mountains (and of selfie sessions and seagulls attacking drones, A++ dinner entertainment, would dine again). I’ll let the photo’s do most of the talking, but for those that are interested: DEFINITELY order the Charcuterie Board to share & the garlic crumbed oysters. For main, I went for the Crispy Havoc Pork Belly served with scallops. Now, I’m a huge snob when it comes to crackling. Do it right or don’t do it at all, ya know. They absolutely nailed it. Like, outstanding shit people. Jord indulged in the Beef Short Rib (which he wouldn’t let me taste at first because he got all “man” protective over it). The service is second to none and everything came out piping hot. Beeeauuttiiffuul. I approve The Grille. I approve.