“By the time we arrived I practically leaped out of the car,” recalled Dawn Chapman, our featured analogue traveler, about her thoughts upon reaching the starting point of the her solo hike. Earlier this year, she she braved the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s well-known multi-day hikes, for the first time. “You start the trail by crossing a bridge over a wild blue river and that totally took my breath away.”
Armed with a bunch of cameras, including her trusty Nikon F50, Dawn documented the sights that make Routeburn such a sought-after track. “The changing scenery and views over valleys to distant snow-capped peaks makes it feel completely wild and untouched,” she said of one of her favorite walks within the country.
Read the rest of this Wanderlust installment to find out more about Dawn’s hike, and pick up some tips should you decide to traverse the Routeburn Track yourself!
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? How long have you been shooting with film? Anything keeping you busy or inspired aside from film photography?
My name’s Dawn, and I’m an analogue photographer based in New Zealand. I picked up my first film camera in high school and straight away I fell in love with the process. Later when I was in university, I bought a digital camera and gave that a try, but recently I sold it in favor of shooting all film. I’m happiest when I’m on the road exploring, and I find shooting film compliments that because it helps me to snap one or two frames and then come back to enjoying the moment, rather than getting caught up in taking 100 photos of the same thing! Going on adventures, even just taking a drive to the nearest beach, keeps me inspired.
Please tell us more about your Routeburn Track adventure, which you said involved a 3-day hike that you did solo this year. Where is the track located and what made you decide to do this trip? What makes this particular track stand out from all the other hiking tracks in New Zealand?
The Routeburn is a 32 km hiking track in New Zealand’s South Island, which begins near the Queenstown side of the Southern Alps and finishes at the Milford road, near Te Anau. The track is classified as a Great Walk by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, meaning that it is a particularly well maintained trail, and you need a booking to secure a bunk in a hut each night you are on the track. I wanted a challenge but this was the first time I had done a multi-day hike, and the first time I had hiked alone, so those factors made it an easy choice for someone without much experience!
What were your first thoughts upon arriving at the Routeburn Track? Do you still remember the first scene that welcomed you?
I had booked a shuttle to the start of the track, so I remember spending the whole drive looking out the window at the mountains, and becoming more and more excited to start walking. By the time we arrived I practically leaped out of the car. You start the trail by crossing a bridge over a wild blue river and that totally took my breath away.
Can you describe to us what that 3-day solo hike along the Routeburn Track was like? Did anything challenging or difficult happen to you during the hike?
Since the Routeburn I’ve done a lot more hiking within New Zealand, but it remains one of my favourite walks. The changing scenery and views over valleys to distant snow-capped peaks makes it feel completely wild and untouched. The most challenging thing was that within half an hour of being on the trail it became clear to me that I had packed far too much for the trip! I had weighed my bag before I left for the hike and it came to a total of close to 30 kgs (an average pack weight is around 15 kg), but at that point I had no other option but to take it all with me. It may seem obvious, but you won’t need that pair of jeans, and you can forget anything but the most essential toiletries. The less you carry the happier you’ll be, which I definitely learned the hard way! When I got to the hut on night one I had two helpful older gentlemen politely mention that they had seen me struggling, and perhaps they could help me to adjust my pack? They gave me a few important tips, and adjusted the straps on my backpack so the weight was on my hips, rather than my shoulders. It all sounds fairly obvious in hindsight, but it can make such a huge difference to your enjoyment of a hike!
We’d like to know about the analogue arsenal you brought along for this trip. While your trusty Nikon F50 enabled you to take beautiful travel snaps, did you ever think you should have brought another camera – perhaps a more compact one – with you at the time?
I actually took three cameras with me, as well as a large tripod. A digital Canon 6D with 24-105mm f/4 L lens, my Nikon F50 with a 50mm prime, and a disposable film camera. It was the first and last time I would ever carry so much gear, but it gave me a good idea of what worked and what didn’t. As I mentioned I’ve since gone all analogue and I’ve purchased a 28mm lens for my F50, so that’s my favourite combination now when I hike. I wouldn’t sacrifice it for a more compact camera because I like having a camera with me that gives me total control.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your trip?
Conical Hill. It’s a side trip from the main route, but it’s the highest point of the track with incredible views above the clouds. If you get the chance to hike the Routeburn and the weather is fine it’s an absolute must-do.
Can you give an important piece of travel advice for film photographers like yourself, especially for those who have yet to try hiking around New Zealand?
I would say make sure you stock up on film and take a spare battery with you! The cold will zap your battery life, and film can be hard to find in some of our smaller towns.
Lastly, if you could take just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination, where would it be, which camera and film would you bring, and what will you make sure to take photos of?
I’ve been itching to have a play with a Nikonos, so that with a roll of Ektar or Fuji Superia 200 would be my pick. Destination Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, where I would spend my time snorkeling and photographing everything I see.
To see more of Dawn’s photos around The Routeburn Track and the rest of her works, please head to the links below: