Star Gazing & Astro-photography Workshops by Martinborough-based professional photographer Marcus Adams of Travelling Light Photography

About New Zealand’s Dark Sky Reserves

Around the world, the ability to see stars is diminishing rapidly due to population growth and light and air pollution. There are just a few special places on earth where the light pollution is strictly controlled – and this is what makes Dark Sky Reserves so special and unique and where a star gazing opportunity is second to none.

New Zealand offers some of the finest star gazing and photography locations in the world:

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (South Island)

In South Island’s Mackenzie Basin and Mount Cook area this Dark Sky Reserve can be found, which in 2012, became the Southern Hemisphere’s first International Dark Sky Reserve – one of only 8 in the world.

Martinborough Dark Sky Reserve (North Island)

Martinborough is an area with very little light pollution, making conditions ideal to gaze at and photograph the night sky. It is hoped that Martinborough will soon become New Zealand’s second Dark Sky Reserve – and the first one in the North Island.

In February 2018, Martinborough was awarded 3K status by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). This is a key step in its application process to be recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve.

The Southern Hemisphere’s Night Sky

Seeing the southern sky through a telescope is an experience unlike any other. If you take the time to look up, to study the galaxies and stars, you can feel connected to the majestic history of the universe.

Stargazers will be able to see amazing constellations that can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere, including the Southern Cross, to the Magellanic Clouds and the Milky Way.

The winter months in Martinborough and around the South Wairarapa area regularly provide amazing opportunities for night time photography, as the nights are often very dark and the skies are clear. This provides excellent opportunities for Star Gazing and Astro-photography.

In Winter the sun sets around 6pm and in Summer it can be as late as 10pm.

Milky Way viewing
The core of the Milky Way is not visible in New Zealand between November and February, so if it’s the Milky Way that you’re particularly interested in seeing, it’s recommended that you book one of our tours between March – October.

New Moon – Phases
Tour availability is highly dependent on the weather, as well as the moon phase – therefore tours cannot always be guaranteed.


New Moon – Dates
www.timeanddate.com/moon/phases/new-zealand/wellington

We love getting out to gaze at and photograph the sky, so if we can – we will!

Getting prepared

What you need to bring for Star Gazing
Binoculars if you have some.
Glasses or contact lenses if you wear them.
If you don’t have binoculars don’t worry, you will be able to see even more through our Telescopes.

What you need to bring for Astro-Photography
We recommend that you bring a DLSR (or Mirrorless) camera which allows for manual Aperture, Exposure duration and ISO settings. These cameras generally support interchangeable lenses.
For Night Photography, you will need a fast 20mm lens (F2.8 as a minimum), although a 14mm lens is preferable. It is recommended that you bring a tripod.
Please note that it is highly unlikely that your cell phone will have sufficient low light capability to be able to take night sky photographs.
If you don’t have a DLSR or mirrorless camera we can show you some tips and tricks and you can focus on star gazing, rather than photography.

What to wear
Do come prepared for all weather conditions – regardless of the season.
Bring a warm and windproof jacket, gloves and hat.
We may need to walk on loose and/or stony ground, so covered in shoes are essential. Non-slip trainers, flat heeled boots, or walking boots are ideal.

​Where will we go?
There are a few different locations that we like to use and it will depend on the night, as to which one we go to.

What will I learn and see and photograph?
The tour is informative and educational and what you see will be dependent on the weather conditions and moon phase. We’ll discuss this when we meet.
You will experience some of the wonders of the universe, explore the beautiful dark southern sky and view planets, stars and distant galaxies and experience the thrill of looking deep into the cosmos with our deep sky telescopes.

Astro-photography – what will I get to photograph?
Join us for an introductory session on how to take wide-field astrophotography images.  Make sure that you bring along your DSLR (or mirrorless) camera if you have one. We will cover all of the camera setting and techniques required to get the most out of your DSLR camera.
What you will see and get to photograph will be dependent on the weather conditions and moon phase. We’ll discuss this when we meet.

What’s Included?
Pick up from and drop off at Martinborough i-Site.
Travel in comfort and safety in one of our 4WD vehicles.
2-hour Star Gazing or Astro-Photography Workshop.
Viewing of the night sky through our powerful telescopes.
Pre-workshop briefing at either Star Gazing H.Q. or on location.
Tea or coffee and biscuits.

Pricing – Star Gazing

Small Group Tours
$145 per person (maximum 5 participants on each tour).
Weekend and public holiday pricing $175 per person.
Solo tours will run. These are priced at the two-person rate of $350 for an individual participant wishing to book a solo tour at a weekend or on a public holiday and $290 at other times.
All prices include GST.

Pricing – Astro-Photography

Small Group Tours
$165 per person (maximum 5 participants on each tour).
Weekend and public holiday pricing $195 per person.
Solo tours will run. These are priced at the two-person rate of $390 for an individual participant wishing to book a solo tour at a weekend or on a public holiday and $330 at other times.
All prices include GST.

Booking conditions

Travelling Light Photography runs Star Gazing and Astro-Photography tours on demand. These will operate only when there are suitable weather and sky conditions. All departures will be subject to availability. A full refund will be given if the tour is unable to operate.
Our tours are not suitable for children and anyone under the age of 16.
We do run solo tours for individual participants and a two-person minimum charge will apply if the tour runs as a solo tour.
Due to changing sunset times throughout the year, we will confirm your departure time one week prior to your tour.
You will need to know how to use your camera for the Astro-photography workshops. However, basic tuition will be hand.
A weekend is Friday – Sunday inclusive.
Booking on one of tours means that you consent to the use of your imagery on our promotional channels.