Press Photographer and Photojournalist

Goblin Forest

The Tararua Forest Park is a large, mountainous national park just north of the capital city of Wellington, and is scattered with tramping tracks and huts for those with an outdoors bent.  It features a variety of dense bush; from lush temperate rainforest in the low-lying areas to stunted, moss-covered beech trees as you approach alpine environments around a height of 1000 metres. At this height, the beech trees become quite stunted, the gnarled branches deformed by layers of moss and from the vicious cycle of storms which batter the mountaintops of Tararua’s on a regular basis.

I’ve been wanting to photograph these beech forests for a while now. A few weekends ago my partner and I headed to Waikanae (a small coastal town 60 km north of Wellington) where you can head east along the Reikorangi Road toward the Tararua range and the start of the Kapakapanui tramping track. A screenshot of the track is below:

Kapakapanui Map

The Kapakapanui track is a 6-8 hour walk, ascending one steep ridge and descending another. Climbing to a total height of 1100 metres, the track negotiates steep, technical terrain on gradients anywhere between 30 to 50 degrees. Lest to say, carrying a carbon fibre tripod, a Canon 5d mk iii with a 28mm lens, and a Mamiya 645 with 80mm lens was a challenge! The camera gear weighed in at 11Kg, while my water, food and spare clothes weighed around 4Kg. I see myself as a reasonably fit person so the climb wasn’t that bad. The descent however was a different story. There’s a good reason why many of the trees flanking the sides of the track on the way down, have bare patches on their trunks where no moss grows!

The images below were shot with a 28mm lens using the Canon 5d mkiii. The second image is a composite of three images to create a panorama. Eventually I’ll develop the slide film I shot with the Mamiya.

Kapakapanui small Kapakapanui Tramp 2015

Kapakapanui hut is about 2.5 hours hike from the start of the track, so staying the night to recover and then spending the day photographing might be a better option. There are several rivers to cross at the beginning of the tramp too, so you’ll have wet feet for the whole journey.  The Goblin Forest (sub-alpine stunted beech forest) lasts for several kilometres at the top of the tramp, and is an absolutely remarkable place to walk through. It’s certainly worth a visit.


6 responses

  1. great pics! I’m keen to do this, how deep is the river at the beginning of the track?


    July 2, 2016 at 8:38 am

    • All river crossings were ankle to knee deep, so easy to cross. Just keep an eye on the weather forecast first as they can rise quickly.


      July 2, 2016 at 9:12 am

  2. Kamkin

    I do interest to this goblin forest! thanks for sharing, may I ask if there is any car park near by ? thx
    because i wanna go there in March 2018, hope its gonna be a good weather to go 🙂


    December 21, 2017 at 4:36 am

    • There’s no car park as such, but there are spaces at the end of the road to park. Weather should be good in March. Technically it’s still Wellington’s Summer.


      December 21, 2017 at 7:49 am

  3. Kamkin

    also would like to ask do i have to book the hut ? or just first come first serve : )


    December 21, 2017 at 4:38 am

    • The hut is not bookable. It’s first come first served. It may be busy that time of year so perhaps bring a tent just in case. The hut is really not a 1.5-2 hours from car park.


      December 21, 2017 at 7:51 am

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