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How To Capture The Mount Taranaki Photo

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

As the wise Peter McKinnon once said -

"There’s just nothing like waking up early before the rest of the world, heading out when it’s still dark, and seeing nothing, but you know that landscape is right there waiting for you. It’s only a matter of time before the veil is lifted and the light starts to make it come alive. That’s a feeling that only photographers know well. It’s incredible."

I have a few Bucket Shots scattered around New Zealand and the one that was sticking out like a sore thumb to me was that Mount Taranaki shot. You know the one? The one with the crystal clear water reflecting an almost perfect mirror image of the mountain.

Great, let's do it! But wait a sec, how and where on earth do you need to go?

This information is a little hit and miss online, so I thought I'd share with you my own take on how to nail this shot!

What do you need?

  • Camera (duhh)

  • Standard zoom or wide angle lens

  • Tripod - very important!

  • Head light

  • Gloves and any cold weather gear you have

  • Tramping boots

  • Snacks - slow releasing carb stuff

  • Toilet paper

  • Luck

  • Optional stuff include; a polarising filter, ND filter, shutter remote, sleeping gear, PhotoPills (App)

When & how do you get there?

When do you need to wake up, how long is the commute, how long will it take you to hike, when is sunrise and when is golden hour? All things you need to plan in advance!

It's all about lighting and weather and only one of those you can control, so at least make sure you get the lighting right! You're going to want to get to the tarn well before sunrise which means either a sleepover at the Pouakai Hut or a 3am wake up call followed by a 2 hour hike from the carpark.

Try and check at least 3 different weather services well in advance. Keep an eye on cloud cover, rain and wind.

You'll need to park your car in the Mangorei Track Carpark which is at 39.20253° S, 174.05720° E. Plan ahead to you give yourself 2 1/2 hours to do the entire hike from carpark to tarn. If you're planning to do the hike first thing in the morning this is where a head light is a must!!!

The coordinates for the Reflective Tarn are 39.23382° S, 174.04723° E. The track itself is very well built and signage is obvious. You will get a little muddy in some parts so if you're planning on rocking up in style with your pure white Nikes, maybe don't?

Map to get to Mount Taranaki Reflective Tarn Photo spot
Bottom Circle - Carpark | Center Circle - Reflective Tarn

Setting up camp!

What does the reflective tarn actually look like? Is it small? is it overcrowded? How many people are there? What time do you need to arrive?

If you're as lucky as I was then you'll be the only person there. But if we're being honest you'll most likely be greeted by a handful of equally eager photographers waiting with their tripods.

First things first - find your exact framing and tripod placement! If there's a bunch of other photographers there they'll all be after the best spot so make sure you're there first! Take note of where my tripod is set up ^^

Settings! Now we get into the fun stuff! I carry with me the Sony A7RIII and the mighty Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 Art lens and for this one I also brung my Sony 24-240 to get a few telephoto shots while I was there. The metadata for the main shot was 1/50 at f/11, ISO 100 with a focal length of 29mm (on full frame of course).

14th Oct 2021 at 6.01am. Important to note that sunrise for that particular day was at 6.39am - like I said earlier - some of the best lighting is before sunrise.

You'll need to put your camera into Aperture Priority Mode, set that anywhere from f/8 to what ever you're most comfortable with, I stuck with f/11. Get your manual focus right, chuck it onto a 2 second self timer and sit back and relax! Play around with the settings, different exposures, play some music (if you're alone) and just take it all in, it's going to be a truely magical hour.

You can grab an ND filter and try play around with some long exposure shots as well if you're feeling spicy!

Fun fact - I actually don't have a Polarizing Filter for my Sigma lens and it's evident in the image if you know what to look for. But to be completely honest, I don't think that matters at all - with or without a filter you can make this shot look surreal either way.

And the finished product?

So that about does it for my first ever blog, WOOO 😅 🥳

If you have questions or comments please feel free to leave those or get in touch

Cheers, Mitchell

Prime Photos NZ


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