Moving Towards Beauty – A New Zealand Photographer’s Perspective

Brendon Gilchrist captures the stunning landscape and nature of his native country in an extraordinarily powerful way. His images are a gift to all who see them, and are, as he says, his way of “sharing a beautiful or amazing place that many people may not get to see.” While Brendon has always had an eye for beauty, it was a tragic loss that caused him to begin to focus differently on the world around him, on the landscape, and in the mountains. His beloved wife passed away in 2012 leaving him pained but also imbued with a new and single-minded sense of purpose. 

“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.” -Oscar Wilde

In the span of two short years, Brendon has gone from a man with a regular job to an impressive landscape photographer. While he still has his day job, his skill and passion for photography continues to grow and the inspiration that comes from the mountains is now an ever-present sense of urgency. “The mountains are basically my second home now,” he says, “I keep a book of ideas to help with planning photos. When I have the right scene and the right light, I capture my ideas.”

Speargrass Sunset

Spear Grass Sunset – I took a three hour walk to reach this location and shot after a snowstorm had quickly passed.

KeaIn Flight by Brendon Gilchrist

Kea in Flight – This photo was a happy accident; I was taking a picture of the mountains below and the bird flew into view.

Getting Into It

So how does he do it? How did he get started? “I never took a real photo before,” Brendon says, ”But I bought a camera and I asked photographer friends how they did it. I copied their settings. I spent a lot of time taking a number of photos. For each walk, I’d take about 30 photos. And now, for about every six photos I take, I really like one of them.”

Lake Alexandrina Jetty by Brendan Gilchrist

Lake Alexandrina Jetty – I love the contrast of black and white; I painted in the red for effect.

The Equipment

The Sony A57 has been his go-to camera for the better part of two years – until just last week when he bought a Canon 6D with a Canon 14-40mm f/4 lens for general use and a Samyang 14mm f/2.8 lens for sky imagery.  Like, for example, shooting the Milky Way. That’s right. The Milky Way. “I took my mom out to see the night sky and she was blown away. She was counting all the shooting stars,” Brendon says.

The Process

“Christchurch, New Zealand is an area that lets you enjoy the best parts of nature in about two hours in any direction. I live in the middle of the South Island, so I can go north, south, or west and have any sort of landscape I want.”

Brendon hikes, or “tramps,” to see new things and find new visual perspectives to share. Arresting images require unique vantage points that, in turn, require long distances and potential mountaineering. He uses Google Earth to find spots he’s interested in and then the project begins.

As for addressing different lighting conditions, Brendon does a few things depending on the time of day or year and what type of image he’s trying to capture. He’ll either slow down the shutter or increase the aperture. And if the lighting isn’t just right even with the proper settings and equipment, he’ll move on. “I add it to my list of things to photograph and come back another time.”

Minga River by Brendan Gilchrist

Minga River – I used a 2.5 second exposure. A longer exposure conveys movement but also softens the water.

How to Become a Self-Taught Photographer

“Just get out there,” he says, adding, “An image leads to a photo. All you have to do is find it.”

Easier said than done? Maybe. But maybe not. There is innate talent but there is also practice. Put in the time and you’ll find something beautiful in the end. And you’ll be able to share those perspectives with others.

There are some good techniques that can help and tripods always come in handy. Play with the image during the capture process by trying different settings and exposure lengths. Long exposures can yield beautiful color changes (as you can see in Under the Pier) and can help soften the look of water giving it a sort of “milky” appearance (as you can see in Minga River). Experimentation will help give photographs your own artistic signature.

Under The Pier by by Brendan Gilchrist

Under the Pier – Taken at New Brighton Pier in June, during New Zealand’s winter, with a 3 minute exposure.

Who is ESB?

“My wife’s nickname was ‘ES’ and mine is ‘B.’ Together it represents the two of us.”

About the author:

Brendon GilchristWorking to live and not living to work, Brendon Gilchrist vocationally pedals the Christchurch postal run, but his true passion is exploring New Zealand’s rugged landscape and capturing its essence with his powerful photography. No mountain too high, he journeys from snowcapped peaks to Stony River valleys carving out a unique niche of photographic art. See more of his work via his website and follow him on Facebook.

About the ArcSoft Photographer Spotlight:

ArcSoft is proud to share our third post in our ongoing spotlight featuring pro, semi-pro and amateur photographers who have talent, unique perspectives and special skills to share. As an imaging technology company, we are passionate about photography and we are equally passionate about promoting beautiful work created by inspired people. 


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  • Enrique Meza

    Hi, they can’t see myself