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The Art of Night – The Photography of Mark Gee

New Zealand has some of the best night skies in the World!

New Zealand is a country with a population close to just 4.5 million people, with 31% of this population living in the Auckland region. The rest of the country is made up of two other major centres of Christchurch in the South Island, and the capital Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island. The majority of the land in-between is rural and nature reserves, which benefits from having very little light pollution making New Zealand one of the best places in the world to view the night sky.

In fact, New Zealand is one of only three countries in the world to have a Gold Rated International Dark Sky Reserve – the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve on the South Island. This dark sky reserve is also the biggest in the world, and includes the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and the villages of Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook.

Even in the capital city of Wellington, you can drive just 20 minutes out of the city centre to the south coast, and view the Milky Way in all it’s glory with the naked eye.

For me personally, living and working in New Zealand for well over a decade now has been an amazing experience. In that time I’ve spent many hours under the night sky with my camera, capturing the incredible universe above, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to show you 63 images which proves New Zealand has some of the best night skies in the World!

Just Follow this link to see them all.

Just some of the night skies photographed in New Zealand, click on the image to see all 63 - Mark Gee, Milky Way, Astrophotography

Just some of the night skies photographed in New Zealand, click on the image to see all 63!


57 Responses to “New Zealand has some of the best night skies in the World!”

  1. Albert Lai says:

    Dear Mark,

    The night sky of New Zealand is really great. I would like to go to Tekapo lake of South Island to see that.

    Would December be a good time to see the night sky in Tekapo Lake?

    thanks in advance for your kind advice
    br
    Albert

    • markg says:

      Hi Albert – between April and October is probably the best time when you get to see the Galactic Centre of the Milky Way, but the summer night sky during December is pretty spectacular too.

      • Sam says:

        Hi Mark,

        seriously this is absolutely amazing. I am just getting introduced to this field of photography and I’m new to photography in general. I will be visiting NZ next month for a year + and packing my Wide lens and d3200 to try and practice with the NZ sky.

        I hope i’ll be able to take photos like this one day.

        • markg says:

          That’s awesome Sam – I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice under the New Zealand night sky once you get here! Our Milky Way season begins again next Feb/March, but there are still some amazing stars up there in our summer night sky.

  2. Mark, How long a does it take to make an exposure there?

  3. bryan tan says:

    Hi, i came across the your pictures and i love it. Do you still go back to these places? I would love to go for the photography trip if you do have one. Thanks.

  4. Marklin says:

    Hi Mark! I’m in awe. Spectacular photos throughout! Can’t believe I didn’t come across this. I will be visiting South Island in Oct 8-2X and it’s pretty tight for milky way shoots. I can only accomplish that in the beginning of my stay. I also understand that the milky way will probably be a setting horizontal band. Any chance you might have some shots of Oct milky way?

  5. Olivia says:

    Hi,

    Thank you for these amazing pictures. We are now in New Zealand. Where would be the best place to see these wonderful skies ?

    Many thanks,

    Olivia

    • markg says:

      Hi Olivia,unfortunately you’ve just missed ‘Milky Way Season’ where the bright glow from the center of our Milky Way can be seen in the sky. But our summer Milky Way and night sky is still stunning. You just need to head to a dark rural area with little light pollution and be amazed by the night skies. In the North Island I recommend the area around Mount Ruapehu and the Wairarapa down towards Wellington. In the south island you can’t go past the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve which includes Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook.

  6. Yoshio says:

    Hi,

    These are many great photos!
    I’d like to go New Zealand next year to take astrophoto like you.
    I hope many sunny days.
    Mount Cook or Kaikoura.
    I am going to use the Canon 6D and tripod and Tamron15-30 wide zoom lens.
    Do you recommend the nice place somewhere?

    Best Regards,
    Yoshio

    • markg says:

      Hi Yoshio,

      There are many places to photograph astro in New Zealand. Any where away from the city lights is great. If you were to go to one place, then I definitely suggest Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook. Very dark skies and amazingly beautiful, and both are only an hours drive apart. You’re camera setup is perfect for capturing the stars – I hope you get amazing clear skies!

  7. Yoshio says:

    Hello Markg,

    Thanks for your quick reply.
    I heard there are not many sunny days in Mount Cook.
    But I do not know the real.
    Is it no problem?

    Best Regards,
    Yoshio

  8. Dumith says:

    Hi Mark?

    are there any sites in north island to see the dark sky? Thanks

    • markg says:

      Anywhere rural on the North Island has dark skies. If you want really dark, then anywhere around Mount Ruapehu and the Tongariro National Park in the central North Island is great.

  9. Daniel says:

    Hi Mark,

    Your milky way shots look amazing !
    I notice that you mentioned that the milky way will be horizontal along the horizon in October
    I am planning to visit the south island some time in Nov/Dec this year. Any examples of photos shot during Nov/Dec ?

    Thanks

    Daniel

  10. imogen says:

    Hi your pictures are absolutely stunning but i was just wondering what the song name you used was as i cannot find it anywhere and would love to be able to listen to it

  11. hamish says:

    Hey Mark

    Do you know of any great spots on the west coast south island? I know whereever it is really dark will be good but looking for a really good foreground

    • markg says:

      Hi Hamish – I haven’t actually shot much on the west coast of the south island and have been meaning to get there, especially in the later part of the year when the Milky Way sets to the west. Any rural location without light pollution would be great. You also might want to check out places like Lake Matheson, the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier area, Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki, and any other landmark locations with little light pollution.

  12. Che Nal says:

    Hi sir..
    Its milkway still available can see at north island in april or may ?

    • markg says:

      The Milky Way is visible in the night sky right throughout the year, but the best viewing time is from March through to October, as the galactic centre of the Milky Way is visible, currently from 9pm. So yes April and May are perfect months for viewing.

  13. Brook says:

    In tekapo during what hour is the best time ? Midnight or early morning ? Cheers

  14. Samantha Swedenberg says:

    Hello Mark, I’m super excited to have found your page here, your pictures are amazing! I will be in the Queenstown area for a long weekend in mid Aug this year, but am considering extending our trip a few days to get in some of this star gazing around the Lake Tekapo area. If I may, I’d like to abuse your helpfulness for some insights:

    – I am assuming based on your other responses that mid-August will be ideal for seeing the Milky Way?

    – Are the conditions in mid-Aug around Mount Cook consistently clear for ideal star gazing? Or would you recommend staying multiple days to increase our chance of a clear night?

    – You mentioned you sometimes run star photography sessions, and I checked your facebook page and was devo to see you don’t have any scheduled until October. Do you have any recommendations for similar photography focused tours in the area?

    Thanks,
    Sam

    • markg says:

      Hi Sam, to answer your questions. August is winter here and at Mount Cook the weather can change in an instant. You can have everything from blizzard conditions to perfectly clear skies, so I would suggest staying a few extra days, but break your time up between Mount Cook and Tekapo (about 50 min drive away)

      I don’t have any workshops around that time, but there are stargazing tours at both Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo. I’m not sure how much they go into the photography side of things, but definitely worth enquiring about.

  15. Hi Mark,

    Very nice photos..!! I’m a great admirer of the work.

    I’m from the UK and planning a trip for some Milkyway photos next winter (2017) to southern hemisphere. At the moment I’m considering either LAKE TEKAPO New Zealand or Victoria, Australia (around Ballarat). I’m sure you have done photography in both NZ and AUZ. I’m interested in knowing your view as to

    1) which country (around locations stated above) has the best (darkest) skys
    2) which location has the best chance to get clear skys

    As I’m travelling halfway across the globe for this its best go where I have the best chance of capturing milkyway.

    Your views are very much approciated.

    Many Thanks

    Deepal

  16. Dominic says:

    Hey Mark, have you had any experience photographing glow worms? there’s a few in Welly I’d like to try shooting. cheers

    • markg says:

      Hi Dominic, I haven’t really, but the principles are still the same as astro. Long exposures and a high ISO. Didn’t know there was glow worms in Welly.

  17. Goran says:

    Hi Mark,

    I don’t have a Facebook account so I’ll take this opportunity to thank you for an amazing evening/workshop in Christchurch/Southbridge. We appreciate so much your dedication and willingness to share your passion and knowledge.

    We hope that we might join you again in not so distant future.

    Thank you again – we are looking forward to more great astro-photos from you.

    Kind regards,

    Irena and Goran

  18. Ng Yong Hong (Mr) says:

    Dear Mark, if I were to visit NZ in mid-Dec (summer), what time in the night will I get to see the Milky Way pls? Thanks for your expertise advice.

    • markg says:

      The Milky Way is visible in the night sky all year round and at all times of night, but it’s position varies throughout the year. The best time to view the Milky Way in New Zealand is between March and October when the bright galactic centre is visible. You won’t be able to see that part mid-December, but it will be still stunning. Best viewing time then is from midnight until first light.

  19. Rospita says:

    Hi Mark, is it possible to snap stargazing using smart phone like SamsungNote2?

  20. Iva says:

    Hi Mark, I will visit south NZ in April Easter Holiday. it’s gonna be full moon during that period of time. Moonrise at 8pm and set at 10am the next day. Do you think I can still film milky way? What time does the milky way visible in April? 9pm?

    • markg says:

      I’m presuming that date is the 15th April. Unfortunately full moon pretty much kills any chance of seeing the finer details of the milky way. That night it will be dark enough around 7.30pm to see the Milky Way, so you will at least be able to see something before the moon rises. The moon will rise close to an hour later the next night and so on, so hopefully you have a few days to play with. Best direction to look at that time of year is to the east.

  21. Debbie says:

    Hi Mark,
    I’m hoping to come to New Zealand around 8th – 22nd November 2017, what sort of time during that period do you think |I’d be most likely to get a clear night sky? Likely to be spending the first week in the North Island and the second in the South.

    Many thanks

    Debbie

    • markg says:

      Hi Debbie, November is the end of our “Milky Way Season”. We have daylight saving and depending where you are in New Zealand, it doesn’t get dark until after 10pm, and you then have about an hour before the galactic centre (the brightest part) of the Milky Way sets. So that would be the best time to be out there – from say 10pm until 11.30pm

  22. Debbie says:

    Sorry, and what time of day is likely to be best?

  23. Gavan says:

    Hi Mark, your pictures are beautiful. I’m heading over to the south for a 10 day loop, hope to be able to capture pictures as beautiful as yours. If you dont mind, could you share briefly what your post-processing workflow is like?

  24. Lien says:

    Hi Mark,

    I’m currently doing my internship in New Zealand. At the beginning of May I will travel to lake Tekapo. I’m considerating to do a Mount John Observatory Tour. Do you think this is worth the money or are there any recommended places which you can visit by yourself?

    Kind regards

    • markg says:

      The Earth and Sky tour is good, but it depends what you want. If you want a guided tour of the night sky then that’s the way to go, but if you want to head out on your own and know the basics of what you’re doing, there are plenty of locations to explore around Tekapo. If you continue down the same road of Mount John, there are some great locations by the Lake. Also Lake Alexandria is great too and the entrance to that is on the opposite side of the road of Mount John. Just go check out the locations in the daytime first, as they can be tricky to find at night. I’d also recommend the hour extra drive to Mount Cook. It’s stunning there at night, and the Tasman Valley is easily accessible at night by car. Tekapo Springs is starting up Hot Pool Star Gazing this month, so it’s definitely worth looking at that too.

  25. Mehul says:

    Hi mark,
    I am a traveller from india and have planned a trip to new zealand from 16th may to 8th june and around 30th may to 2nd june for four days i will be at lake tekapo, mount cook and glaciers. Will i be able to see the milky way and around what time and which place.

    Cheers
    Mehul

    • markg says:

      Hi Mehul, yes that is the best time of year to see the Milky Way. As soon as it gets dark, look to the east and you will see the galactic centre of the Milky Way rising and it will be visible all night. Great locations too as all of these have some of the darkest skies in New Zealand.

  26. Patrick Cheung says:

    Hi Mark,

    This is very beautiful stunning astro photos I have ever seen ! Great place Great photos !!

    I am planning to visit New Zealand around end of October which could be good time when the galactic milky way is horizontal. In this case, how wide angle lens should be used in order to cover the milky way (e.g. 21mm, 18mm, 14mm..etc) .

    Another question, would you suggest to use Star Tracker (e.g. Vixen polaris) to keep minimum star trail when taking still photos ? or when the sky is really dark, and with today’s advance in photography equipment, these tools might not be necessary I mean, when even taking 20 sec would be quite enough to make the milky way stand out.

    Thanks very much in advance !

    Best regards,
    Patrick Cheung

  27. Mehdi says:

    Hi Mark,

    It’s nice to see all the conversation and your answers.

    I am a tour guide based in Wellington. I have a request for a group of photographers to find few good location for night photography during July.

    It’s highly appreciated to suggest few hot spot location in both islands.

    Kindest,
    Mehdi

    • markg says:

      Hi Mehdi, there are lots of locations on both islands – it depends on where they will be going, but my pick on the South Island is the Mackenzie region of Tekapo and Mount Cook. And on the North Island, central plateau and the area around Mount Ruepheu.

      If you want something closer to Wellington, the Wairarapa is great, and a visit to Castlepoint at night is always stunning.

  28. Ann Do says:

    Hi Mark,
    I love your photos and am really excited about going to New Zealand to see the night sky. We are headed to the South Island mid-April and will be in Queenstown / Mt Cook / Lake Tepako from 17th – 20th April. What is the best time to see the Milky Way please? I read it was somewhere between 2am and 4am, but I can’t find anything more definitive. Unfortunately it looks like a third quarter moon, so not sure we will get to see much anyway.
    Can you see much with the naked eye, or is this more reliant on camera exposure?

    Your help is must appreciated.
    Many thanks,
    Ann

    • markg says:

      Hi Ann – thanks and great to hear you’re coming to New Zealand. Even though it will be a third quarter moon, it won’t rise until around 9.50pm on the first day you are here, then then that will get later every day. The galactic center of the Milky Way (the brightest part) will rise around 8.30pm to the east, so you will still get a good hour plus to view and photograph that. If you are in a dark enough environment like it sounds like you will be, then it will definitely be viewable to the naked eye. Hope you get some great weather while you are here!

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