top of page

A Journey to the Middle-Earth

Please note that all photographs displayed in this post have been edited and colour-graded in Adobe Lightroom for optimal presentation.

Since the pandemic, I've not ventured abroad until recently. My last international trip was to Osaka, Japan in 2019. In March 2024, I seized the opportunity to explore New Zealand, known as Aotearoa.

My previous visit to Aotearoa in 2017 took me to Auckland and Rotorua, with the latter being a standout thanks to its connection to The Hobbiton, a filming location from The Lord Of the Rings.

This time, I explored South Island, following an itinerary from Melbourne to Christchurch, Kaikoura, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Queenstown, and back.

For my first genuine trip in five years, I meticulously packed my gear: 

  • Nikon F3 HP

  • Nikon EM

  • Pentax 67

  • Nikkor AIS 28mm f2.8, Nikkor AI’d 85 f1.8, Nikkor AI’d 135mm f2.8

  • Pentax SMC 105mm f2.4

Deciding on camera choices was a struggle. While I typically bring my half-frame Olympus EE-3 alongside my Nikon F3 HP, I opted for the Nikon EM to explore more SLR creativity. Despite pondering a point-and-shoot for carefree shooting, I ultimately streamlined my kit, downsizing to three cameras compared to the five I carried during my 2023 trip to Hong Kong.

During my journey, I captured moments with a total of 12 film rolls, evenly split between 35mm and medium format. Among the 35mm rolls, I experimented with slide and cinema film alongside traditional C-41 colour.

  • Nikon F3 HP: Kodak Ektar 100, Kodak Vision 3 250D, Kodak E100D, CineStill 50D, CineStill 400D

  • Nikon EM: Kodak Ultramax 400

  • Pentax 67: Koda Gold 200 x 2, Kodak Portra 400, Lomography 400 x 2, CineStill 400D

Here, enjoy snapshots from my Nikon F3 HP equipped with Kodak Ektar 100, capturing the beauty of a whale-watching expedition in Kaikoura through the lens of a 135mm focal length.

Nikon F3 HP, 135mm f2.8, Kodak Ektar 100


Of course, some landscape shots in Kaikoura as well.

Nikon F3 HP, 135mm f2.8, Kodak Ektar 100


I had this roll developed at a lab in Christchurch, but honestly, I'm a bit disappointed with the scan quality; the colours seem a bit flat. Despite the quick turnaround time, I'm considering getting a rescan at one of my trusted labs in Melbourne.

Following that, I loaded a roll of Kodak Vision 3 250D. This cinema film beautifully encapsulates the stunning landscapes of Aotearoa. Kudos to Hillvale Photo for scanning the roll with the border!

Nikon F3 HP, 28mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8, 135mm f2.8

Christchurch, Fairlie, Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo was undeniably the most photogenic spot of my entire trip. With its breathtaking scenery, tranquil atmosphere, and pristine surroundings, it was a photographer's paradise. I captured countless photos in this picturesque town, focusing mainly on the mesmerising beauty of the lake itself.

Pentax 67, 105mm f2.4, Kodak Gold 200

Mount John, Lake Tekapo

I also decided to load a roll of hand-rolled Kodak E100D into my Nikon F3 HP. Typically, I don't shoot slide films for several reasons, especially considering the high cost of Kodak Ektarchrome at AUD$50 per roll. However, the hand-rolled E100D film stock I purchased from Walkens Film proved to be a more budget-friendly option, while still offering similar quality and characteristics.

Nikon F3 HP, 28mm f2.8, Kodak E100D

Mount John, Lake Tekapo

I ventured to Mount Cook, famously known as the Lonely Mountain in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit film trilogy. Located about a 1.5-hour drive from Lake Tekapo, it promised stunning vistas and cinematic landscapes. Despite my initial plans for a Heli & Glacier Hike near Mount Cook being thwarted by adverse weather conditions, the wild and windy weather added a dramatic touch to the scenery. Although the sun shone brightly in my photos, the reality was quite different. Nevertheless, I seized the opportunity to capture some remarkable shots along the journey to Mount Cook.

Pentax 67, 105mm f2.4, Kodak Gold 200

En route to Mount Cook

Nikon F3 HP, 85mm f1.8, 135mm f2.8, Kodak E100D

En route to Mount Cook

Pentax 67, 105mm f2.4, Kodak Gold 200

Mount Cook

It was a missed opportunity at Mount Cook with my Pentax 67, all because I absentmindedly left my film bag back at the Airbnb. With only a handful of exposures left, I had to make do with my 35mm camera to capture the breathtaking scenery. Lesson learned: always double-check your gear before heading out.

I used up my final exposures of Kodak E100D at the Tasman Glacier. The hike up to the hill was quite strenuous, especially with all my gear in tow.

Nikon F3 HP, 28mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8, 135mm f2.8, Kodak E100D

Tasman Glacier

I also captured some shots at the Mount Cook Airport with my Nikon EM, an aperture priority camera. However, the photos turned out underexposed, likely due to the inaccurate light meter of my camera. Additionally, you can clearly see the drastic weather change in these shots compared to the earlier ones. The weather was wild and constantly changing, adding an unpredictable element to the photography experience.

Nikon EM, 28mm f2.8, Kodak Ultramax 400

Mount Cook Airport

Next stop, Wanaka. This charming lakeside town boasts an unexpected point of interest: a solitary tree standing sentinel by the lakeshore. Surprisingly picturesque, especially on a fine day.

Pentax 67, 105mm f2.4, Kodak Gold 200


Nikon F3 HP, 28mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8, 135mm f2.8, CineStill 400D


Apart from the solitary tree, the lake itself is strikingly beautiful. Rarely do the hues of the water and sky merge so seamlessly, while the backdrop of mountains adds depth to the composition.

Nikon F3 HP, 85mm f1.8, 135mm f2.8, CineStill 400D


After a brief sojourn in Wanaka, Queenstown marks the culmination of this Middle-earth odyssey. Upon my arrival, the cloudy skies lent a dynamic quality to the photos I captured. Fortunately, the overcast weather proved fleeting as the sun emerged shortly after.

Nikon F3 HP, 28mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8, 135mm f2.8, CineStill 400D


Pentax 67, 105mm f2.4, Lomography 400


TSS Earnslaw stood out as the crown jewel of Queenstown, being one of the rare steamboats still in operation globally. Remarkably, it has navigated the waters since 1912, coinciding with the year of the Titanic's ill-fated voyage. Onboard, I opted for a roll of CineStill 50D to capture the picturesque moments of the cruise.

Nikon F3 HP, 28mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8, 135mm f2.8, CineStill 50D


As my middle-earth journey draws to a close, reminiscent of the Fellowship of the Ring, it's been a voyage filled with surprises and adventures. What destiny awaits me next? Until then, peace.


What is Roll Trip?

Join me as I document the intricate tales behind multiple rolls of film, capturing the essence of varied photographic escapades. This series is a collection of detailed narratives, revealing the behind-the-scenes nuances of diverse shooting journeys. From the hum of city streets to the quiet of natural landscapes, discover the stories, techniques, and spontaneous moments that each film roll encapsulates.


bottom of page