I was asked to write about this for Tourism New Zealand who often get asked the same question. I thought that it would be useful to write about it here too so that clients planning a New Zealand photography tour with us will have easy access to the information.
The simple answer is the one you might expect, in the summer. However, there are nuances for photographers that you should take into account. It depends on what you like to photograph, what weather tolerance you have, how long your New Zealand Photo Tour will be and so on.
Winter in NZ is the opposite of winter in the northern hemisphere. It begins in June and runs through to September. Think of June as being the equivalent of December in the Northern Hemisphere.
In winter, NZ is colder, wetter and (in the right parts) snowier. Down on the South Island, expect winter overnight temperatures as low as -5C and day temperatures ranging from 0C to 15C or thereabouts. On the North Island, overnights generally around 5C and days around 17C average, with some occasional dips into early negative temperatures at night in many parts.
Spring is from September to November. Temperatures begin climbing, especially overnights, rainfall is plentiful and grass grows well on the many farms. The countryside is a riot of green crops and white sheep, cows and budding trees.
Snow will depart from all but the highest of peaks (such as Mount Cook).
Summer runs from December through to the end of February.
Usually, long periods of settled, warmer weather. Tourism is at its height and hotels, activities and locations become crowded. Daytime temperatures can hit 30C. Often the countryside will brown over in summer due to insufficient rainfall to keep the grass.
Autumn is from March to May. The countryside will green up if rainfall over summer was short. Early snow will appear on the peaks towards the end of the period. Daytime temperatures are pleasant, evenings start to get chilly.
When Should I Come On My New Zealand Photography Tour?
My recommendations, if you have no other factors driving your decision, is to come in one of the shoulder seasons of Spring or Autumn. Tourism is less fraught than it is in summer which means less crowding and a more pleasant visit. Photographically, either choice can offer spectacular snow covered landscapes. Spring offers a lush, verdant countryside replete with young lambs, Autumn offers (down south at least) brilliant colours from autumn tree foliage.
Do not be put off coming in Summer or Winter if you have no option to do otherwise: both offer equally special photographic opportunities but will require skilled itinerary planning in the summer to avoid the crowds (a speciality of our service, of course) and in winter you will need to pack accordingly to deal with location shooting in colder weather.
For more details on what we can do for you, contact us for a chat.