Skip to Store Area:

James Kay


ULTIMATE New Zealand   February 6-20, 2020



"Thank you for an awesome, mind-altering New Zealand adventure. As always, it was with the now-expected excellence that the two of you bring to your craft. The group was wonderful; the learning exceptional; the lodging and meals over the top. You are, without a doubt, the best of the best of photography workshop planners, instructors, and hosts. Again; thank you for a lifetime of memories, images, and just flat-out fun!"  Fred Kraut - Salt Lake City, UT  See all testimonials


We don't call this workshop ULTIMATE without good reason. James first traveled to New Zealand on assignment in 1985 and has since returned countless times to the point where he has now spent more than 2 full years of his life photographing there. In other words, he knows the place well. Based on these experiences, he's designed the most comprehensive photography workshop tour of the South Island available today. Included in the price are 2 private customized helicopter flights and one private fixed-wing flight for aerial photography over the most dramatic portions of the Southern Alps. This 14-day, all-inclusive adventure is about much more than breathtaking photography opportunities; it's a complete tour of the most magnificent, world-renowned locations on the South Island; including New Zealand's five premier national parks; from the ice-clad summits of Aoraki/Mount Cook to the lush rainforests and wave-battered coast of Fiordland. Because experiencing New Zealand is one of life's grand adventures - one that most people would prefer to share with their spouses  - we've designed this trip to appeal to both photographers and their non-photographer spouses with spectacular lodging, exceptional meals, multiple aerial excursions, and wine tastings. We'll travel with an intimate group of 8 guests and we'll maximize our time in the field capturing images in a wide diversity of awe-inspiring locations. With 9,000 miles of surging coastline; 12,000 square miles of national parks; sparkling glaciers; soaring peaks; glistening lakes; thundering waterfalls; bottomless fiords, and lush rainforests; visiting New Zealand is like traveling back in time to experience the Earth when it was young.   READ MORE


To get an idea of the tremendous photographic opportunities you'll have during this adventure, take a look at the work of our guest John Morrison. He captured all of these images during our recent Feb 2018 tripJohn Morrison Images


$12,975.00 - Single Occupancy 
$11,500.00 - Double Occupancy (Only one bed per room in several of our lodges.)
What's included: 14 nights accommodations, all meals, ground transportation, plus all excursions; including 3 private customized helicopter & fixed-wing flights plus 2 private wine tastings. (see details below).
What's Not Included: Airline flights to and from Christchurch, New Zealand; alcoholic beverages.
Use the above button to add your name to the waitlist. Please email us if you have an interest in this workshop for 2021. We'll add your name to the advance-notice list to receive an email before we post it on our site next year.   Cancellation Policy    Spouse/Partner Policy.



Dates: February 6-20, 2020

View a map of our route: South Island Map

Maximum number of participants: 8

Accommodations: Included in the price. For information on each of our lodges, click this link: Accommodations  We've reserved the most desirable rooms in some of New Zealand's finest hotels & lodges. We will be using only 4 & 5-Star properties based on New Zealand's Qualmark Rating System. Some of our most comfortable, intimate lodges only have one queen or king bed per room so the double-occupancy discount would only be available for two people sharing one bed.

Excursions: Included in the price.
2 Private customized 1-hour helicopter flights with glacier landings in Mount Cook & Westland National Parks: View video
1 Private customized 1-hour fixed-wing flight above Mount Aspiring & Fiordland National Parks: View video
1 two-hour boat excursion on Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park (see boat portion of video clip above).
2 Private wine tastings
Meals: Included in the price. New Zealand has a wonderful variety of excellent restaurants and we'll dine at some of the best ones in the country. We will handle all meal reservations and we'll dine together as a group. Alcohol is not included and will be the responsibility of each guest.
Ground Transportation: Included in the price of this workshop. You are responsible for your travel arrangements to Christchurch Airport on New Zealand's South Island. During the workshop, we will use 3 comfortable SUVs to travel around the South Island.
Photography Skill Level: Novice to advanced - Jim will work with each participant based on his/her individual skill level.
Physical Difficulty: EASY  While this is one of our easiest workshops where we'll have easy, short walks from our vehicles to the vast majority of our photography locations; we'll also have 2 easy hikes of 1-2 miles round-trip each plus 3 easy hikes of 3 miles each. Each partiipant will need to be in good physical condition.


About Jim     Our Philosophy/What You'll Learn      FAQ      Customer Testimonials 





During our 14 days, we'll travel 1,100 miles throughout the South Island where we'll explore and photograph the five crown jewels of New Zealand's magnificent National Park system: Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring, Fiordland, Westland, & Paparoa plus the beautiuful regions surrounding Queenstown and Wanaka. Included in the price are multiple aerial-photography excursions including two private, customized helicopter flights and one private, customized fixed-wing flight plus two private wine tastings (see Excursions section above). View a map of our route: South Island Map


As a field workshop, we'll maximize our time outdoors for 14 full days capturing images in a wide diversity of locations throughout the South Island.
Mount Cook National Park
Surrounded by stupendous mountains and glistening glaciers, we'll spend 3 nights and more than 2 days in the field exploring and photographing some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in the world. We'll enjoy three nights in our Premium Rooms at the Hermitage Hotel in the heart of the park with its jaw-dropping views of Aoraki/Mount Cook from our rooms. Whether you prefer the more recent name of "Mount Cook" or the original Maori name of "Aoraki" this 12,218-ft glacier-wrapped peak will take your breath away as it towers more than 10,000' above us. Once you see these mountains, you'll understand why Sir Edmund Hillary used this area as a training ground for his accent of Mount Everest. We'll capture first and last light as it illuminates the highest summits in the core of the park and we'll also take advantage of excellent hiking trails which will lead us to iceberg-studded lakes and sweeping views of the glacier-draped mountains. During our two days in the field, we'll take one easy/moderate hike of 3 miles round trip, plus a variety of other short walks to our photo locations. One of the highlights of our time here will be a private, customized, 1-hour helicopter flight with tandem helicopters through the heart of the most stupendous mountains in the Southern Alps. From his many years of experience with aerial photography in New Zealand, Jim has designed the ultimate flight path to maximize our photography potential as we fly past tumbling glaciers, towering ice cliffs, and soaring ice-clad peaks. Halfway through the flight, we'll land on the surface of a glacier and hop out to photograph the ice-covered mountains around us. After that, we'll jump back into our tandem helicopters for more aerial photography as we fly the entire length of New Zealand's longest glacier.  
Fiordland National Park
We'll spend two full days photographing Fiordland's countless waterfalls, soaring peaks, tremendous glacier-carved valleys, and luxurious rain forests filled with Jurassic-era vegetation. The road from Te Anau (the gateway village for Fiordland) to Milford Sound on the west coast, is world-renowned as one of the most dramatic auto routes on Earth. With massive, glacier-sculpted peaks rising on both sides of the road, we'll take one full day to explore and photograph the entire length of this route. Along the way, we'll venture well off the beaten path to explore and photograph waterfalls, turquoise rivers, and rainforest-covered mountains in deep, glacier-carved valleys. When we arrive in Milford at the end of this first day, we'll check in for 2 nights at the Milford Lodge with our comfortable chalets overlooking the Cleddau River before heading out to capture last light at New Zealand's most iconic single location. World-renowned for its views of Mitre Peak towering more than one vertical mile above the deep waters of the fiord, Milford is truly one of the most stunning locations on Earth. Two nights here will allow us multiple opportunities, in this often-stormy region, to capture dramatic images of swirling clouds, waterfalls, and sheer-walled mountains rising thousands of feet from the water's edge. We'll also take an intimate, two-hour boat excursion along the entire length of the fiord, out to the Tasman Sea, to photograph soaring cliffs, plunging waterfalls, birds, seals, and dolphins. Accessing our photo locations here will involve short, easy walks.
Westland National Park
Located on the central - and very wet - West Coast of the South Island, Westland N.P. hosts some of the most dramatic, glaciated terrain on earth with the highest peaks of the Southern Alps rising more than 10,000 feet from the edge of the Tasman Sea. The highlight of this portion of our adventure will likely be our private 1-hour helicopter flight departing adjacent to our lodge and ascending straight up the face of the enormous glacier which spills from the mountains above our village. As we climb out of the rain forest in our tandem helicopters, we'll photograph towering icy seracs and deep blue crevasses until we reach the upper reaches of the enormous Fox Glacier where we'll set our helicopters down on the surface and hop out to photograph the stunning ice-clad peaks around us. After that, we'll jump back into our twin helicopters and climb even higher into the sky for our close-up shots of the precipitous summits of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman; New Zealand's two highest peaks. With the sparkling, glaciated hulk of Aoraki/Mount Cook beside us and the shimmering waters of the Tasman Sea below; words cannot adequately describe this experience. After our flight, we'll explore the region at the base of the mountains where we'll photograph lush rainforest vegetation; evening light illuminating the peaks; and one of New Zealand's most iconic vistas with the Southern Alps reflected in the calm waters of Lake Matheson. We'll spend two nights here in our lodge with its stunning views of the mountains. Accessing our photography locations here will involve one easy hike of less than 2 miles round-trip plus a few short walks from our vehicles.
Queenstown Region (Fiordland & Mount Aspiring National Parks)
With the jagged crest of the Remarkables Range as a backdrop, Queenstown serves as a gateway to both the southern portion of Mount Aspiring National Park and the eastern section of Fiordland N.P. Located on the shoreline of 60-mile long glacier-carved Lake Wakatipu on a narrow strip of land at the base of the mountains, you'll understand why Queenstown has become one of New Zealand's most desirable destinations. During our two-night stay here, we'll spend one full day exploring and photographing the stunning mountains, turquoise rivers, and deep glacier-carved valleys of both Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks, at the headwaters of the lake. This area was one of the primary filming locations for Lord of the Rings due to its other-worldly landscapes. In the evenings, we'll return to our very comfortable one-bedroom suites in our lodge at the water's edge with their tremendous sweeping views across Lake Wakatipu. We'll also enjoy a private wine tasting at one of the region's most prominent vineyards. Accessing our photo locations here will involve very easy short walks.
Paparoa National Park & the Northwest Coast
Located along the sublime, lush, almost-tropical-feeling northwest coast of the South Island, we'll spend one night here in our lodge on the edge of the Tasman Sea. This long stretch of remote coastline is a land of deep limestone gorges, pounding surf, deserted beaches with wave-sculpted arches, rainforest-clad mountains, Nikau palm trees, waterfalls, and turquoise rivers spilling from glaciers along the distant crest of the Southern Alps. At the heart of this region, Paparoa National Park is best known for the unique limestone formations of Pancake Rocks which have been sculpted into caves, grottos, and natural bridges by thundering surf over the millenia. Accessing our photo vantage points here will involve easy strolls from our vehicles.
Wanaka (Mount Aspiring National Park & Surrounding Region)
Serving as the gateway to the central and northern portion of Mount Aspiring National Park and located along the shores of its magnificent, 25-mile long, namesake lake; the small village of Wanaka still possesses the same wonderful, sublime charm we discovered during our first visit over 30 years ago. One of the highlights of our 3-night stay here will be a breathtaking 1-hour fixed-wing scenic flight in a grand circle from Wanaka to Milford Sound with a fly-by of the 10,000' glacier-draped summit of Mount Aspiring. Having already photographed the mountains of Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National parks from ground level over the last few days, we'll now have the opportunity to view them from above; which is, without a doubt, the best way to appreciate their grandeur. Back on the ground, we'll spend two full days photographing waterfalls and glaciated peaks in the heart of the park and a third day exploring the far northern reaches of the park with its narrow, water-filled canyons, thundering rivers, waterfalls, precipitous mountains, and forests of Jurassic-era tree ferns. At the end of each day, we'll return to our one-bedroom suites in our lodge; the only accommodation in Wanaka located directly on the shore of the lake. We'll also enjoy another private tasting at a winery with some of New Zealand's finest offerings, and without a doubt, the most breathtaking view of any vineyard in the country. Accessing our photo locations here will involve several short walks plus one easy/moderate hike of 4 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 500 feet.


"Thank you for a memorable adventure!! It was beyond my wildest expectations! It was a wonderful trip; certainly one of the very best I have ever had. You and Susie do such a wonderful job in making every aspect of a photo workshop a winner! I know it takes months of planning to make such a complicated itinerary a success. Your personal attention to details is so much appreciated. I cannot think of one item to improve the workhop. It is not surprising that all your workshops fill up so quickly. You two are great!!!"  Dr. Carl Kjeldsberg - Salt Lake City, UT

"I want to thank you for planning and executing the ultimate workshop! I can’t think of a better way to see and photograph New Zealand than being a part of a small and very nimble group of like-minded people led by two individuals who truly know the country. Whether it was shooting locations, wineries, accommodations, great places to eat or knowing the history and geology, you know New Zealand as well as you do Utah. The accommodations and the cuisine were off the charts and the aircraft and boat rides really made the trip special. The quality of everything we experienced was top notch but what really impressed me most about this workshop was that it was such a great value. Here's a link to my images: " John Morrison - San Diego, CA
"Many thanks guys. What you accomplished was nothing short of magnificent. Your hard work and dedication to excellence and detail was obvious. I cannot imagine that any other photo excursion could come close to what you gave heartfelt thanks!"  Dr. Murray Robertson - Edmontal, AB
"Thanks for two glorious weeks in New Zealand. Even though this was your inaugural NZ workshop, it felt like you've done it many times before. The photo locations, the lodging, and the adventure was unmatched. You guys offer so much more than a typical workshop; you make us all feel like family, much appreciated and well looked after. Secondly, your expertise and familiarity with New Zealand is unmatched for US-based tour providers. Thanks to all your trips to New Zealand over the years, you certainly know "The Land of the Long White Cloud". You made the workshop feel like a family vacation. Taking great photos in spectacular locations is certainly a plus, but being able to tour, enjoy great food and lodging, learn new things and do it with like-minded and adventurous people makes this workshop one not to be missed. Thank you both!"  David Benson - Denver, CO
"The New Zealand exploration was my best workshop ever! An epic voyage through a fascinating and picturesque world with the best guides on the planet! Many thanks for a marvelous trip - best one yet!"  Paul Kaufmann - San Diego, CA
"Thank you for the best workshop ever! You are wonderful guides, and even better people, and your commitment to creating a great experience for us was evident throughout the trip.  We will be looking at your other workshops, and plan on signing up for at least a couple more next year. I'm afraid you haven't seen the last of the Pigotts!"  Paul Pigott - Seattle, WA
"Thanks for an incredible time in New Zealand!! I really do not have any word but unfathomable!!! Thank you for creating an amazing experience for the tribe!!"  Lynda Holman - Marietta, GA
"Thinking back to all our adventure trips in the last 17 years, I recognized one central element in which your trip differed fundamentally from every other trip: Every single element of this trip to New Zealand was determined and overseen by the two of you, no one else.  In every other trip experience, the trip leader was an important element of the trip, but only ONE element; (many) other people were responsible for the many parts of the trip.  You two OWNED this trip!!  What a positive difference that made to us."  Michael & Linda Roberts - Darnestown, MD
"I looked at my photos and was amazed at how well they turned out. So in addition to having a fun trip filled with new adventures and friendships, I have a renewed passion for photography. Thank you again for making it all possible!"  Claire Benson - Denver, CO
"We had a fantastic time! It was such a fun group of people, and, of course, the scenery was amazing. Enjoy the rest of your time in New Zealand. We hope to see you again soon!"  Molly Forstall - San Francisco, CA
"I just wanted to thank you again for an awesome New Zealand workshop. As always, it was with the now-expected excellence that the two of you bring to your craft. The group was wonderful, the learning exceptional, the lodging and meals over the top. This trip was not about removing an item from a photographer's bucket list, it wiped out the entire bucket list in one trip! You are without a doubt, the best of the best photography workshop planners, instructors, and hosts. Again, thank you for a mind-altering 3 weeks of friendship and photography and a lifetime of images, memories, and just flat-out fun!"  Fred Kraut - Salt Lake City, UT

Jim is a regular contributor to Outdoor Photographer Magazine and has served as one of their professional advisors for more than 25 years. His work has been featured in the Nikon Legends Collection and his photographs have been published in a wide variety of magazines including Nikon World; Los Angeles Times; Arizona Highways; Sunset; National Geographic Adventure; and Time. A short list of his commercial clients would include The New Zealand Tourism Board; VF Corp; American Express; Sundance Institute; Nikon USA; Visa; and The Nature Conservancy. His landscape photographs have been displayed in the Utah Museum of Art & History; the Natural History Museum of Utah; and in the US Capitol Rotunda in an exhibit advocating wilderness protection for Utah's Colorado Plateau region. His recent book, Resurrection Glen Canyon, published by Mountaineers Books, showcases his ongoing project to document the legendary canyons of Glen Canyon as they have emerged from the waters of Lake Powell due to the ongoing drought in the American Southwest. See his full biography.








Photographer James Kay hosts photography workshops on South Island New Zealand. Join us for this photography workshop where we will photograph New Zealand's six premier National Parks: Mount Cook National Park, Fiordland National Park, Abel Tasman National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park, Westland National Park, Paparoa National Park, plus Milford Sound, Wanaka, Queenstown, and the Kaikoura Peninsula. This photography workshop in New Zealand is open to photographers of all skill levels.