Images by Cassandra – living a creative life. » creative based in Tokyo, Japan inspired by life.

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New Zealand | Christmas 2015

I have finally finished editing, it took me longer than I thought but I took 2980 photos in total. Don’t panic I am not going to be sharing 2980 photos, I edited just over 500 of those and I will share those – Joking! I will try my best to pick just a handful or two or three.

So is New Zealand all it’s cracked up to be: yes, yes it is! It is a nature lovers paradise, a photographer’s paradise, an extreme sporter’s paradise, a hiker’s paradise, basically it should be crammed full of people but its completely empty so therefore also a loner’s paradise. Coming from Tokyo this amount of empty space and seeing so few people and not one single crowd took a while to get used to.

But I am a woman of few words so I won’t ramble on I will get to sticking some pictures in here. I will try to caption them as best I can. Enjoy. If you have any questions just shout.

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First stop Auckland.

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There may only be 4 hours time difference but my littlest doesn’t like to sleep on a plane.

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The Sky Tower.

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Standing on the glass floor on the sky tower, this is as adventurous as I got, if you look at the photo below that is a girl jumping off the top.

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I am a huge seafood fan (good thing I live in Japan) but there are things I cannot get in Japan which I completely pig out on when abroad. I gained 2.5kg over the 3 weeks – oops.

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Next stop the Ferry from Wellington to Picton. Wellington was one of my favourite cities in New Zealand, I know its one of the windiest places on the planet but it has a really nice compact feel with loads of soul.

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One of the only wet days we had in New Zealand, yes I know – WE WERE VERY LUCKY!

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From one boat to another. Due to my not so organised planning I didn’t know we would be taking a 20 minute water taxi to a empty jetty to wait for a car to come and fetch us and drive us over the other side of the hill to our amazing little hotel with great views and fantastic food.

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Yeah see that view!

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All to quickly it was then time to get back on the really cool water taxi back to Picton and off we went around the south island.

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Passing lots of gorgeous scenery along the way. I think the hardest thing for photographers travelling around such a gorgeous country is the amount of times you actually want to stop the car and walk off road to get some photos, however I think its even harder for the photographer’s husband and children lol.

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Next big city for us was Christchurch. Coming from Tokyo we are used to quakes, what I wasn’t expecting was the amount of damage caused by the quake in Christchurch 5 years ago. It was a shock for me, I have never seen any damage from quakes here so I didn’t realise the extent of it in Christchurch when I saw it on the news. I then found out that Christchurch is actually build on a swamp, and they knew about one of the big fault lines beneath the ground but the fault line that caused the last quake was a new one and it is was just 5km below the surface, then I understood why there was just so much damage. There is a lot of graffiti and street art through the city, lots of rubble (like you can see on the ground in the image above) which must have been where a building once stood but has since been demolished, and lots of buildings like the grey one behind here which is awaiting demolition. It was very sad, but the city is rebuilding and they are doing it in a very colourful way, it would be great to see this city again a few years down the line.

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One of the first shots I took after dropping my lens and when I realised that it was in fact busted!

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Our next big stop was Dunedin and this is the Taieri Gorge Railway. Dunedin seems like a really nice town, unfortunately though we were there just after christmas and everything was still closed and the city was like a ghost town. So instead we headed off on this train journey and we explored the Otago peninsula as well before heading on.

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I know I am sharing a lot of pictures from this train ride but it really was a great trip, all of us enjoyed it.

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We also travelled all the way down south to Invercargill and Bluff. This I have to be honest was my least favourite area of New Zealand, but since we have been to the south tip of both South America and Africa we felt we had to make the trip. I think you would really need to love the cold and solitude to live all the way down there. (or maybe be trying to hide lol)


You probably have not noticed but I am leaving out a few towns along the way. With so many photos to share I need to be a little picky.

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Beautiful scenery as we head towards Te Anau.

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More gorgeous seafood. Te Anau is a really nice town, its small and full of tourists but really nice and the setting is amazing. It is from here that you can take trips to the glow worm caves as well as Doubtful Sound.

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The first of our boat trips was to the glow worm caves. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The next 3 photos below are all from inside the glow worm caves and they are courtesy of REAL JOURNEYS as you are not allowed to take photos inside the caves. We were also not expecting how dark it was inside the cave, they cannot use any lights because then the glow worms stop glowing. You are pulled along in a boat by a guide who uses a chain system attached to the rocks, its actually quite scary at first and for kids that are scared of the dark it is petrifying, especially as the boat keeps bumping into the rocks along the way. It is well worth it though and it was a highlight for my own kids. The youngest started signing twinkle twinkle when she saw the glowing lights, it was super cute.


It is a lot like looking at the night sky, but with a green colour.


Thank you to REAL JOURNEYS for the use of the photos.

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Our next trip also headed out from Te Anua, as you can see the weather started out very misty and cloudy but by the time we got across to the other side and on the boat to cruise the Doubtful Sound the weather was lovely again.

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Our first sight of the beautiful Doubtful Sound.

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Such a gorgeous place, it felt like I should just keep snapping and snapping, I had to remember to just sit and watch and take it all in and remember just how lucky I am.
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Back to Te Anau and a beautiful sunset.

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Soon though it was time to follow the gorgeous scenery to Milford Sound. There is just one road to Milford Sound and the road ends there, from there you have to head back the way you came. The road is stunning though and was a definite highlight, many people do it as a day trip but we were lucky enough to be able to stay in Milford Sound for 2 nights. It was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most and it didn’t disappoint.

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A quick stop at the mirror lakes along the way.

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We took our poor little rental car down some not so great roads, we ended up with the dirtiest car every time we parked somewhere. The dust was like clay when it got wet.

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The road took ages to drive because we just kept stopping. We found a few of these suspension bridges. My kids were too chicken to go on them but they were great, felt like you were walking the plank lol.

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The beautiful scenery never ended.

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When my husband told me that we were going to be driving through the Homer tunnel, I expected a big tunnel, this tunnel was actually quite scary and only one lane. It felt really carved out of the rock!

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Settling in to our new spot for two nights at Milford Sound.

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Off we go a cruising the Sound. To be honest though Milford is not actually a sound at all, it is a fjord. I didn’t care, it was gorgeous no matter what it was.

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My personal favourite photo from the whole trip.

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We were even lucky enough to see dolphins! I am so lucky!

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A stop at the underwater observatory. The story behind how this was build and transported is fascinating, I found it more interesting than the observatory itself. The setting was pretty awesome too.

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Now I have to admit that I am not a night owl. I like to go to bed early and I like my sleep, so it wasn’t easy for me to wake up at 2 am to get some shots of the stars. I had two problems, one I was fast asleep and two I had never taken night photos before and had no idea how. But living in Tokyo means I very rarely see a starry sky, so I had to give it a go. Not the best job in the world, but I now know that I really want to do it again.

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Back on the road again, can you see it there, that little wiggly thing in-between all those gorgeous big mountains!

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Getting closer to Queenstown, I have never in my life seen a city with such a awe inspiring setting. I am not into the adventure sports so I didn’t really know what to expect from Queenstown, but once I saw the setting I knew that myself and my camera would be very happy there. (until my camera broke)

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Taking the gondola up to the viewing spot.

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It’s quite the viewing spot. Again I was really lucky with the clouds, the following day was completely overcast and quite cold. I would love to have gone up here a few time in different weather.

Queenstown though is a strange place, I think if you are young (like in your 20s) its probably a blast, if you are a adventure sports junky then there is not better place. If you live there permanently though it must be quite strange, it has become very commercial and full of souvenir shops, it has a transient feel to it as everyone you meet is passing through. I really enjoyed being there but couldn’t image living there. The setting and the places around it that you can drive to though cause easily change my mind.

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There is a really cool little go-cart spot at the top of the gondola called the Lupo. I recommend buying a load of tickets cause you are going to be addicted.

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Travelling down to a place called Paradise, we took the coast road that you can see in the image above. It was a cloudy day and the wind was strong and cold. The scenery was spectacular and I know that a lot of television productions are filmed around here and I could see why.

For me though this is where my camera broke. I was taking a photo of the water and suddenly I heard a noise I shouldn’t have heard, the mirror went up and didn’t come down. I travelled back to Queenstown and asked at the local camera shop what they though and they told me it would need to be sent to the factory. So I realised that I would be spending the rest of the holiday without a camera, just my little old phone. It took me a few days to get over it but hey that’s life isn’t it. I still got to see some amazing things, if you check out this post  “A lesson learn’t”  you will see the photos from Fox Glacier, taken with my phone but I am happy to have them as well as to have had such an amazing experience.

New Zealand was eye opening for me, so beautiful and so empty. I could image exploring it further, deeper, given the time. I image that I will always want to go back again to see more, if I am lucky enough. I know its seriously far away and a long long long way down under but it was definitely worth the trip and I will forever be grateful that I have been lucky enough to see it. I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse of it through my lens.



Milford Sound | New Zealand

Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, two amazing places that I am forever grateful to have seen. I wouldn’t be able to choose between the two as they are both good in their own ways. I would go back to both given the choice and I would probably stay longer and just sit and soak it all in. We were incredibly lucky with the weather while in NZ and it’s not often that you would get sun like this, this is one of the rainiest places on the planet. But having said that I have now seen many many photographs of these sounds and they look amazing in all kinds of weather, they are definitely not weather dependent. I am however very grateful for the blue sky, the wispy clouds and the warming sun. This is my favourite photograph that I took while in NZ, it takes me straight back there when I look at it and I can feel what it was like to be standing on the front of the boat in the cold morning air and looking out at THIS. This is Milford Sound and it was one of the reasons we went to NZ. It was worth it.


a lesson learnt…

So I do really need to start showing some photos from New Zealand. I have a little story to tell though as I learnt a really good lesson while I was in NZ. On Christmas day I unfortunately dropped my main lens, my workhouse lens, my go to lens and it broke. Not great. I had however bought 3 lenses with me so I put away my broken one, dried my tears and moved on. By the end of the second week I realised just how much I loved that broken lens as I found myself in situations where I would have loved to have had it. It’s hard, no it’s impossible to choose a favourite lens but I do now know just how much I loved it.

Then things got much worse. With just one week left in our holiday (I am forever grateful that this didn’t happen at the beginning) I was out in a really cold wind taking a photo, click, I then rotated the camera, click – ERR !!! I got the dreaded ERR sign on the camera, the mirror was stuck open and I sat in shock. I hate to admit it but when I got back to our hotel, I cried and then cried some more and then went off looking for wine.

The following morning it dawned on me that I no longer had a camera to use on the holiday, stupidly, naively, I didn’t bring a backup, not even my little fuji which I normally always bring as a backup. I had nothing but my iPhone. It took me a full day of feeling sorry for myself before I decided that I needed to see it as a challenge. It also ended up giving me more time to play attention to the kids and a lot more time to just look, properly look and take it all in.

So here are some photos taken in that last week, with nothing but my iPhone. We took a helicopter ride over the fox glacier, which actually landed on the glacier and we were able to get out and play in the snow. It was an experience that will forever be ingrained in my brain.

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This ^ is Mount Cook. Its pretty impressive!

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Holly - These are wonderful, such a talented lady.

It’s almost Christmas!

As the end of the month of November has started to appear I have to admit my #NaPhoPoMo challenge failure, however I also have to point out that I have blogged more this month than ever before so it wasn’t all bad!

Today is the 25th of November, which means we have just one more month before yet another christmas is here, it goes too fast!

Anyway today I am sharing something very small, I have been working away on Xanthe Berekely’s time capsule workshop and having a blast of a time with it. I wasn’t that thrilled when I read the first week because it was all about making slideshows with photos and I wanted to just jump right into the juice video bits BUT I WAS SO WRONG!! I got to make stop motion videos and lets just say I can see an addiction forming! So here is a little 15 second one I made for Instagram (my other addiction).


Lemitsu Mausoleum | Nikko 

Ok daily blogger I am not lol! Let’s make up for the few days missed with a few pictures of a gorgeous place in Nikko. 

 Taiyuinbyo is the mausoleum of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, the grandson of Ieyasu. It was my favourite place out of everywhere I saw over the two days there. 




A taste of Nikko…

So apparently I am unable to keep up with my #NaPhoPoMo challenge while travelling! Never mind, I have to make an exception for that and just make up for it now. After all travelling with kids (especially when one of them is potty training) does mean you have your hands pretty full.

We travelled to Nikko over the weekend, its only just over 150km from Tokyo and most people do it as a day trip but we decided to stay one night in Nikko so that we could wake up early in the morning and walk around before the crowds arrived. And believe me there are crowds in Nikko, all year round! The locals must be sick of tourists!

I will be sharing photos from there but first I wanted to share a little time capsule video. I am still working on these, this is my first ever long one (its only just over a minute lol), but I had good fun making it and it is great to see memories with movement.

Password: Nikko2015

Nikko 2015 from Cassandra OLeary on Vimeo.