New Zealand is beautiful – even if you haven’t been there yet, we all know that much. Images of its mountains, coasts, country, and lakes saturate the internet and people rave about how clean, green, and natural everything looks. Although photos can’t possibly do its beauty justice, many photographers try of course. As a New Zealander, I can say that Crystal Brindle’s photos are some of the first I’ve seen that truly do. She works as a park ranger and most recently spent several months as a hut warden in New Zealand’s South Island. She lives and breathes landscapes and their beauty, and she knows how to capture it well.


She’s now based in Alaska working as a park ranger there, but has taken stunning photos in places like Colorado, Hawaii, America’s southwest desert area, and Kenya. She is one of those photographers whose images leave you in awe, inspired to go. That’s why I though  you should know more about her and asked her a few questions:

What’s your name, age and where do you live?

My name’s Crystal Brindle, I’m 23, and I’m living in King Salmon, Alaska.

How is traveling part of your life?

I travel for fun, education, and work! I am currently traveling to work as a park ranger in different places around the world. I just returned from working for the Department of Conservation in New Zealand for seven months and am now settled off the road system on the remote Alaskan Peninsula working for the National Park Service in Katmai National Park and Preserve. Travel forms the foundation of my life as a park ranger and photographer working to increase support for conservation and highlight incredible wilderness areas accessible to all.

Through the Eyes of Crystal Brindle |

What camera and techniques do you use?

Most of the technique involved in my photography is getting to the locations! I do whatever it takes to reach high alpine landscapes and unique vistas. I’ve learned that being there is more than half the battle. I backpack to most of my photo locations and bring my camera and tripod along with me. These excursions require travel across difficult terrain and plenty of early mornings and late nights spent shooting!

I recently upgraded my camera system from a Nikon D5100 to the new Nikon D7200 DX format DSLR body. My go-to lens is the Tokina 11-16 mm f/2.8 because of its fast performance and sharp quality.

Technically speaking I shoot in RAW and process all of my images in Adobe Lightroom. Although this is very important for producing engaging photos, it does not outweigh the fundamental element of composition which should underscore all aspects of photography. I do my best to compose my images with care so that the scene is represented in its full splendor.

Through the Eyes of Crystal Brindle |

What got you into photographing landscapes?

Just three years ago I began taking photos of landscapes with a newly purchased DSLR camera. However, long before I dove into landscape photography, I had an interest in the power of photos. I have always loved sharing knowledge and telling stories about places and did so for many years without the help of a camera. Somewhere along the way I realized that the detail and emotion I so desperately wished to share with others was only possible through the use of tangible imagery. Photography went from only a tool to an exclusive hobby shortly after I received my first DSLR.

In short, I started taking photos because I wanted to share the beauty of my surroundings (some of the finest protected areas in the world) with others in the simplest and most true-to-nature form.

Through the Eyes of Crystal Brindle | Through the Eyes of Crystal Brindle |

What are your favorite places in the world to take photos at?

After traveling through and living in many world-class landscapes, I must admit that New Zealand’s South Island is my favorite. The photographic, intrinsic, and recreational values of this landscape are endless. I have fallen in love with dramatic mountain passes, snow-capped peaks, towering glaciers, and mystical sea cliffs. This land holds a special kind of magic that cannot be explained in words alone. I have traveled to national parks across the South Island at every opportunity and have carried my camera to both remote and iconic locations in an effort to capture the singular qualities that distinguish the New Zealand landscape. As a general rule – anywhere that snow covered peaks and glaciers sweep into rugged coastlines and fjords is where I want to be.

What is important for you regarding travel photography?

For me, travel photography is focused on seeking off-the-beaten path landscapes and revealing the hidden wonders of national parks. Therefore, it is important to me that my images clearly convey a message of inspiration or education so that the protection of these places remains of paramount focus. Travel photography in this sense affords many wonderful experiences but is only made possible by the protected areas it showcases. As a result, I do my best to make sure this message isn’t lost in the process.

Through the Eyes of Crystal Brindle | Through the Eyes of Crystal Brindle |

What is your favourite picture and what is so special about it?

My favorite photo is what I like to call “For the love of landscape” which is a vertical shot of Lake Mackenzie at dawn in Fiordland National Park in southern New Zealand. This photo is special to me because I had been away from the country for almost a year and it was this trip that reminded me of why I had returned.

I almost didn’t get this shot because I did everything wrong. I set off too late for pre-dawn glow and had a hard time securing my tripod in the shallow lake water. I then left before the most impressive clouds formed in the valley. Despite my efforts to seemingly ruin my chances of getting a decent photo I managed to capture this.

Through the Eyes of Crystal Brindle |

I tried a vertical composition which is something I usually shy away from and used heavier polarization than I normally do. The combination yielded a memorable photo. To me it speaks of the landscape’s ability to display its true colors, regardless of human intervention. From this experience I’ve learned that it’s best not to get in the way when nature unveils her wonders.

What photography-related advice would you give other travelers?

As any photographer will tell you – light is key to the creation of a stunning image. I use soft morning and evening light as most landscape photographers do. My photography improved instantly once I started shooting during these hours. I seek dramatic light beams, brilliant clouds, and golden rays constantly. However, even when the weather does not allow the capture of such phenomena, sunrise and sunset still provide alpenglow or the glimmer of a sunstar as the sun touches the horizon. Therefore, I find that I work with this light to enhance the colors of landscapes almost exclusively. Give it a try on your travels and you may find unexpected magic in otherwise ordinary scenes!

Through the Eyes of Crystal Brindle |

How can we follow your adventures?

You can follow me on Instagram and on Facebook, where I post pictures of my journeys all the time.

Thanks, Crystal!

Through the Eyes of Crystal Brindle |

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*This interview was written by guest blogger Murielle Baker, who blogs over at Not Mary Ellen.
Also check our her recent article for Travelettes here.