What a lot of water: Waipunga Waterfall

September 05, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I stood in the drizzle, watching the large waterfall sending clouds of spray and mist upwards. It has been raining a lot in NZ.  Not only have we had several cyclones dump a lot of water on the North Island, winter has had some decent downpours as well.  This is partly good news for waterfall photography. The hard bit is finding a break in the weather that coincides with some free time.

When the opportunity to visit my parents in the Hawks Bay arose over the weekend however, I grabbed. it.  One of the sights that along the route is Waipunga Waterfall.  This is on the Napier-Taupo highway, and a very convenient stop.  The waterfall drops off the edge of a volcanic plateau created by Taupo eruptions centuries earlier.  Sometimes you can see the Waiarua waterfall as well.  Waipunga Waterfall is probably one of the most photographed waterfalls in the country, and most are taken from the perspective of the lookout. I wasn't going to change that this trip.

The Photographs

It's hard to go wrong with a good close-up of the falls. It also required some patience. For about 10 minutes I stood in light drizzle, hoping that the rain would clear. People drove in to the carpark, took snaps on their phones, and left, while I stood there. Waiting.  When the rain first stopped the sun came out strong. I had to wait for a large cloud to slowly make its way to block the sun.

Waipunga WaterfallWaipunga WaterfallWaipunga waterfall after heavy rainfall. This perspective focuses more on the falls themselves. The pounding waters created a lot of mist and spray in the right-hand side of the image.

Stepping back I got some shots that included more of the river in the foreground.  Usually when I pass these falls, the mist and spray isn't so dominant.

Waipunga WaterfallWaipunga Waterfall

Waipunga WaterfallWaipunga WaterfallWaipunga waterfall after heavy rainfall. This perspective includes more of the river flowing down from the falls. The pounding waters created a lot of mist and spray in the right-hand side of the image.

Finally, I took 4 shots to stitch together a composite. Usually you don't see much of the Waiarau waterfall to the left of these falls. The recent heavy rain changed all that.  By going for 4 stitched shots I got a perspective that a wide-angle lens couldn't. It also makes a nice 68MP image.

Waiarua and Waipunga FallsWaiarua and Waipunga FallsThis is actually a stitched shot of 4 photos, with Waiarua waterfall on the left and Waipunga waterfall on the centre-right. Both falls spill over the edge of a giant volanic plateau, produced by an eruption at Taupo centuries earlier. The abrupt edge of the plateau I thought was interesting.

This plateau has a diameter of 100-130km, and still includes active volcanoes and tectonic activity. I got lucky with the light winds and the sheltered position of the falls.


I have been taking photos of these falls since 2013, and these are the best I've taken. In part it is just a product of the much greater waterflows.  It's created a water dynamic my earlier photos never had.  The other fortuitous part is just the lighting. The weather wasn't too dull and the wind was relatively calm.

All the photos were taken with my Sony a7R and 70-200 f2.8mm G lens.  I was using an Induro carbon-fibre tripod (CT314) and a Lee 3-stop ND grad filter to slow the shutter a bit.



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