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!

84 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

    • 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.

          • Jackson Medley says:

            Are any of these pictures layered with other pictures or did you use light painting in any of them? Please email me response if possible. Thanks ?

          • markg says:

            These are all single exposure – a few are panoramic photos made from multiple tiled smaller images stitched together to make up the high resolution complete image. And there is no light painting in any of them.

  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:


    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,


    • 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:


    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,

    • 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,

  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 ?



    • markg says:

      Hi Daniel – glad you’re getting a chance to come to NZ. Unfortunately by around the 20 Nov the galactic center of the Milky Way goes below the horizon for a few month, but this shot shows it on Nov 12: During December the Milky Way is still in the night sky, you just see a different part of it like this shot:

      • John says:

        Hi markg,

        Are these photos reflecting what is visible to the naked eye? Or the cameras capture the Milky Way much better than the naked eye does? I’m not a photography enthusiast, just a traveler wanting to see the stars in its glory, yet have to set my expectations correctly.

        • markg says:

          The long exposure of the camera definitely captures more clarity and detail than what the naked eye can see, but if there is little light pollution like in these locations photographed, you can definitely see it with the details of the Milky Way with the naked eye, just not to the detail you see in the photographs, but it’s still absolutely stunning!

  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?


    • 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


  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


    • 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.


    • 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.


    • 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,

    • 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!

  29. David says:

    Hi Markg – i find your comments most helpful. Being hunting high and low for something like this.
    We are thinking of going for the night skies in Tekapo area on either –
    1. Late July from 27th-31st. Which it appears there is quarter moon.
    2. Late sept/early oct.

    May i know if in the case of 1. Will there be too much moonlight?
    2. Late sept/oct. Is that a good time? For this, where does the Milky Way rise.

    Is there an app where we could rising times of Milky Way.
    And finally – is there a good season where there are higher probabilty of clear skies?

    Many thanks in advance.

    • markg says:

      Hi David – I think your timing for July 27-31 works best. The moon will set around 9.40pm on the 27 July and around 12.40am on the 31st, so you would have a moonless sky to see the milky way after moonset. The Galactic Centre (the brightest part of the milky way) will be up high and overhead, so great viewing conditions. Weather can never be guaranteed of course, but July conditions tend to be more stable than October.

      As for an app, I highly recommend PhotoPills

  30. Wai Theng says:

    Hi Markg,
    Thanks for all your wonderful photos and useful comment.
    I will be traveling to New Zealand South Island in September. Is it a good time to hunt for Milky Way? Is it necessary to follow a tour for stargazing or I can do it myself? as I’m trying to budget cut.

    Many thanks in advance.

    Wai theng

    • markg says:

      Hi Wai – September will be still good and the galactic centre of the Milky Way will be visible in the sky once it gets dark. You don’t need to follow a tour – just find a dark location on a clear moonless night and look up. The Tekapo and Mount Cook area is one of many that will be good places to visit for that.

  31. Marcelle Lim says:

    Hi Mark,

    My friends and I will be visiting New Zealand in the first half of September. May I check what are our chances of seeing the Milky Way during that period (Sep 4-13)?

    We will be at Lake Tekapo between Sep 6-7 and it seems to be full moon during that period. Will the Milky Way be completely washed out? We have signed up for a stargazing tour with Earth & Sky then, not sure if this is wise now! We’d really love to see a sky full of stars!

    We also have a night around the Mount Cook area on Sep 10 – which is half moon – would you advise us to go stargazing at the Mount Aoraki reserve instead?

    Look forward to hearing from you, thank you!

    • markg says:

      Hi Marcella, you will have a much better chance of seeing the Milky Way during your Mount Cook visit, as it will be visible just after 7pm and the moon won’t rise until 9.30pm on the 10th. Hope this helps.

      • Marcelle Lim says:

        Hi Mark,

        Thanks very much for your reply! Will plan accordingly 🙂

        • Marcelle Lim says:

          Sorry Mark, another question – is it possible for us to self-drive to a stargazing spot at Mount Cook instead of signing up for a tour? Is there any place you’d recommend, like the Aoraki Mackenzie reserve?
          Thank you!

          • markg says:

            All of Mount Cook is a very dark location, so no matter where you are all you have to do is to look up. You don’t need a tour. But if you want a really dark location to see the sky at its very best, drive down the Tasman valley road right to the end where the carpark is. The sky should look amazing from there.

  32. Marcelle Lim says:

    Thanks again Mark for sharing tips so willingly! Appreciate your advice 🙂 Looking forward to the starry skies of New Zealand!

  33. Cheng Joseph says:

    Hi Mark,

    Awesome photo works you have here!
    I am also an avid photographer as a hobby, particularly interest in Astrophotography (star trails & Milkyway) and had always been inspired by all these beautiful non-light polluted dark sky at NZ, which we dont enjoy it at our highly light-polluted south east Asia.

    Have traveled before to USA-Nevada/Arizon and now am planing to visit NZ-North & South Island from 3rd week November for a 4 weeks self drive vacation with family and of course for my photographic interest…

    I do understands that for shooting star trails at Northern hemisphere the POV direction will be the Polaris-Northern star to get a full-circle star trails, however since NZ is southern hemisphere, does it means that the POV direction should be facing South? (sometime I uses TPE app or a compass to gauge it)

    Would really appreciates if you could help provide some pointers and advise including any recommendation if possible….


  34. Kevin says:

    Hey Mark,

    Its great to see you help everyone here! I just have two questions, im going to Tekapo for a few days (16th to 21th of october) and i was wondering if im gonna be able to see the galactic center of the milky way at that time? Since october is the end of the milky way season..
    And if yes, at what time of the evening? Cause the days are getting longer now..

    It would be great to have some answer from you!



    • markg says:

      Hi Kevin – yes as soon as it gets dark, around 10pm the galactic center of the Milky Way can be seen to the west, and will set around 1.30am. Hope this helps.


  35. Sara says:

    Hi Mark,
    First I wanted to say how stunning your photos are, it’a really anazing. I am going to be in New Zealand during Christmas Holidays, in the south part o the South Island, and I wanted to ask where I could get the best views of the night sky and if I will be able to see the milky way in this period.
    Thank you!

    • markg says:

      Hi Sara – thanks! Milky Way is still visible all year round, but you won’t be able to see the Galactic core until late January when it rises around 4am to the east just before daybreak. Unfortunately with summer here and long twilight it won’t be dark enough on the south island until after 11pm. But still worth checking out. The Tekapo Mount Cook areas are definitely my pick, but any rural area in the south island will be great for star gazing.

  36. Seamus White says:

    Hey Mark, I’m gonna be at lake tekapo tomorrow (14/12/17) and friday nights. I’ve heard there’s gonna be no moon. I’m keen as to take some timelapses of the sunset leading into the milkyway coming out. From the old church at lake tekapo, which way will the milky may be? Will I be able to get a shot of the church, the lake and the milkyway? or just the lake and the milkyway? and how can I find out for other places – is there an app or something you use?

    • markg says:

      It will be hard to get all of those elements in one – sun will set to the west and the best part of the Milky Way will be in the south which is behind the church looking up away from the lake. PhotoPills is the perfect app to plan something like this.

  37. Gaku says:

    Hi Mark,

    Great photos! I am planning going take star photography at Lake Tekapo on June 2018 during new moon.

    I plan stay for 9 days and want to ask if I will need to have a condensation preventer for my DSLR lens, like PROTAGE. Since I will be taking a long expose time lapse, one session will require about 2 to 3 hours of shooting. Do you think buying those condensation prevention is necessary for a cold dry night in June?

    Thank you

Leave a Reply