“There and back again: A Dragon’s tale of Middle Earth, by Lignum Draco.”

New Zealand April 2017 (10 photos)

This is part 1 of my New Zealand series of posts.

Bilbo Baggins: It began long ago in a land far away to the east, the like of which you will not find in the world today. There was the city of Dale, its markets known far and wide, full of the bounties of vine and vale, peaceful and prosperous. For this city lay before the doors of the greatest kingdom in Middle-Earth: Erebor, stronghold of Thrór, King under the Mountain and mightiest of the Dwarf-Lords.

A lovely town nestled in a beautiful peaceful setting.

Gandalf: A sickness lies over the Greenwood. The Woodsmen who live there now call it Mirkwood and, uh, they say…
Saruman: Well, don’t stop now. Tell us what the Woodsmen say.
Gandalf: They speak of a Necromancer living in Dol Guldur, a sorcerer who could summon the dead.

But peace is a fragile condition. And so I was summoned by the White Council to restore the balance to Middle Earth.

Legolas: There lie the woods of Lothlórien! That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.

I ventured to Lothlorien to seek counsel with the Elves; immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings.

“Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

For ancient king and elvish lord
There many a gleaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
To hide in gems on hilt of sword….”

There, I accepted the quest to venture beyond the Misty Mountains to Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, to challenge the mighty Smaug who was overcome with dragon sickness and threatening the peace.

Theoden: Arise! Arise, Riders of Théoden! Fell deeds awake, fire and slaughter! Spears shall be shaken. Shield shall be splintered. A sword-day! A red day! Ere the sun rises! Ride now, ride now!

I crossed vast ancient lands and renewed friendships of old.

Gandalf: Go back to the Shadow! You — shall not — pass!

Unexpected dangers were encountered and overcome.

Elrond: Put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be. Take the Dimholt Road.

Chances were taken along the way.

Pippin: Eagles! The eagles are coming!

The final battle was fierce with no quarter given.

From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, we fought.

Until at last, I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside.

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

My 1/14th share of the reward was more than adequate.

Gandalf: Well, all good stories deserve embellishment. You’ll have a tale or two to tell of your own when you come back.
Bilbo Baggins: …Can you promise that I will come back?
Gandalf: No. And if you do… you will not be the same.

I returned to a triumphant welcome. After all, not all dragons are evil like Smaug.

Look out for more Dragon tales from Middle Earth in the next few posts.

Yes, I have been there and back again. Momentarily I have satisfied my wanderlust and returned from my recent trip to the South Island of New Zealand where I was based in Queenstown, one of the locations used to film scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies. Over 6 days, I took in the sights of Queenstown and the surrounding region. All this without ever once considering taking a bungy jump or jet boat ride.

This is part 1 of my New Zealand series of posts.


Photo 1: Aerial view of Queenstown from a helicopter.
Photo 2: The Wanaka tree
Photo 3: Skippers Canyon.
Photo 4: Queenstown morning.
Photo 5: At the top of the Remarkables Mountain Range.
Photo 6: Skippers Canyon.
Photo 7: At the top of the Remarkables Mountain Range.
Photo 8: Queenstown.
Photo 9: Queenstown.
Photo 10: Cromwell, Otago.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

There and back again: A Dragon’s tale of Middle Earth


131 thoughts on “There and back again: A Dragon’s tale of Middle Earth

  1. Beautifully done from above, middle and below, Dragon. It really did sound like you were walking through the land of LOTR. That shot with the bird seemed very random, and I’m guessing not what you were expecting. It fit the journey and story very well 🙂

    • Thank you very much. It felt very much like I was in Middle Earth. Much of the scenery can be recognised from the movies if you know where particular scenes were shot.

      Yes, the (sea) eagle was not planned but it flew in right on cue. 🙂

  2. J.D. Riso says:

    I had a feeling that’s where you went. Rare are those who resist the temptation of bungy jumping, jet boats, zorbing, and all other such easy adrenaline highs. Nothing beats nature for true bliss, which your photos have so richly captured. Those gold leaves. A forest of heaven.

    • I do drop occasional hints for those who know how to see them. Yes, I was on a photographic tour in the majestic scenery of autumnal New Zealand. That, of itself, is excitement enough for a Wood Dragon. As you say, who needs that other stuff? The colours were absolutely amazing.

    • Thank you, kind Sir. The autumn colours were epic. As if I really were in Lothlorien. Somehow, this Wood Dragon felt very much at home.

      We’ll save the Balrog photos for another day. Life is too short to worry about the shadows.

  3. Draco! The photos are stunningly beautiful. What a wonderful wanderlust story – perfectly matched photos to carefully chosen words. You’ve outdone yourself – but then you do that with each post!
    I’m looking foward to the tale of a Wood Dragon wielding an Elven Sword ~!
    Please do tell…. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Debbie. The Wood Elves and the Wood Dragon are natural friends, from way long ago. It’s only natural… 🙂

      Loved every moment in Queenstown. It’s a beautiful town and region.

  4. Phenomenal post!! Oh my gosh, I have goosebumps! The tale you tell and your images are from a land of Magic. You just enthralled me with your tale and the beauty and the awesomeness of what you captured makes me long to be a Wanderer through this Land. Just wow! ❤

    • Thank you very much, Amy. It’s taken me quite a while to visit New Zealand, even though it is only a 3 hour flight from Sydney. I’m sure I’ll be returning soon enough. The majesty of the land and the scenery is beyond words.

      • I understand when you say, “is beyond words”. I’ve been in those circumstances where I just stand there with my mouth open in complete awe. To be in your shoes and experience in person New Zealand, oh how I wish!! It is on the other side of the world from me.

  5. The vastness of a land is not easy to capture, but you did so wonderfully with this visit to the South Island, Draco. A dramatic post with stunning photos from beginning to end. While I love all the photos, I find the rainbow and lone boat especially appealing.

    • Thank you very much, Jet.

      I was eating brunch before a late hotel checkout. When I stepped out to walk back to the hotel, I saw the rainbow and took several quick shots with my phone. Then I quickly decided to run back to the hotel, unpack my camera and ran back to the beach to get this photo. That was a lucky shot. 🙂

  6. Omigosh – Omigosh – Omigosh… These photos are so gorgeous. I absolutely love this post and how you’ve connected it with LOTR! Love this trilogy — both the books and the movies. I have always, yes, always wanted to visit NZ. As a side note, our little Poodle who passed away a few months ago at age 13 was named Pippin!

  7. I can say no more than has already been said, praise no more than has been praised. New Zealand is at the top of our bucket list and my husband is a huge aficionado of LOTR. Many, many years ago, I bought him the dramatized tapes, which were marvelous and entertained us on vacation for many years. Now each of our girls, out on their own, have a set on disc as do we. Thanks for the marvelous photos and enjoyable story.


    • Sounds like a possible pilgrimage in your future. I have the full set of recorded audiotapes as well, narrated by Rob Inglis.

      Queenstown is very picturesque but I need to see more of New Zealand now.

    • Thank you, Lisa. That rainbow was a lucky find as I was taking final walk through Queenstown, about an hour before checking out of the hotel. Almost missed check out time as a result. 🙂

      Have a great week ahead, too.

  8. Hello ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’! Oh Mr Draco these are quite simply stunning! Love love … You have done my country proud! The last shot I could fall into .. so beautiful. I bet you had a wonderful time .. 😀 😀

  9. Beautiful shots. I’m not a Tolkein fan, and am very ambivalent about NZs “Middle Earth” branding, but I’m happy to put my curmudgeonly thoughts aside for these images 🙂

    • Thank you for your patience and understanding. Kind of like the phase I went through with Paul Hogan and Crocodile Dundee. But in the end, I have a bit of Tolkien geek in me which needs to be let out every now and then.

      I didn’t realise how beautiful this area is. Already contemplating a return, further north next time perhaps.

      • I get the Crocodile Dundee thing!! I’d probably be ok with the NZ/Middle Earth branding if the people doing it actually had some respect for the novels. Queenstown, and indeed that whole region, is beautiful and hard not to enjoy. The north island is pretty special too. You can still have a beach to yourself sometimes, or walk alongside a river with only birdsong for company.

        • Sounds good. Must go further north next time.

          PS I don’t understand why Queenstown needs all that non-skiing adventure stuff. The scenery should be attraction enough. The town sure was busy enough whilst i was there.

        • 🙂 I used to love Queenstown, but it (like so many places here) has become soooo busy. I don’t think we really have the infrastructure for the level of tourism we’re getting and it’s going to bite the country on the bum very soon as more and more visitors don’t really enjoy themselves, and don’t experience the “clean, green” country they’ve expected. I’m with you on the adventure tourism thing — I guess scenery alone doesn’t bring in enough young people or something.

        • There did seem to be daily traffic jams in Queenstown whilst I was there. A friend of mine who lives in Queenstown expressed the same views as you have.

  10. Well, Draco. Thanks for those woods! Another impressive post. How on earth did you capture that avenue? (Ok must be a special lens) I reckon if you ever go to Scotland, you’ll be there a while!
    Cheers M

  11. I almost don’t know what to say, your photographs have rendered me (almost) speechless. I’ve never seen anything quite this beautiful. Live or in print. LOVE the shot of the giant tree bare of leaves. Wow.

    • You’re far too kind, Elisa. Thank you very much.

      Funny you should mention that tree. It is probably the most photographed tree in New Zealand. At the right time of the year, that Willow Tree is completely surrounded by water. Christchurch photographer Dennis Radermacher took a photo of this tree on a misty June day that won the 2014 New Zealand Geographic photograph of the year.

    • Thank you. We saw that orchard as we were driving along. Had to stop immediately. 🙂

      I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to make my first trip there. You’d enjoy it.

  12. Fabulous photos and a lovely post LD, but you do know, of course, that Tolkien was describing the Shires of Middle England and the Mountains of Mordor are most likely based on his journey in Switzeralnd – just saying… 😉

  13. felixstar4 says:

    Your photos are really nice and I was shocked to find this in my feed since I’ve lived in Otago in my childhood 🙂. I love the symmetry in the last photo!

  14. Truly epic photos showcasing our favourite part of the world. I’ll share with the social media followers (Queenstown related). Would love to see some winter photos of the same spots. Would that be in the pipeline?

  15. That tree with the pools of water… it’s just sheer art all by itself!!! And the mist in the hills and mountains… wow, I would live to see a scene like that one day! And the rainbow!!! 😀 Did you just get lucky, or is New Zealand as stunning as that all the time? I did see The Lord Of The Rings movies, and I can remember my brother telling me a lot of it was filmed in New Zealand. It certainly made a perfect fantasy world, combined with some clever CGI.

    • New Zealand is a naturally beautiful place, but there was a certain degree of luck in finding that misty valley and that rainbow. 🙂 The LOTR connection added another dimension to my experience there. I loved every moment there.

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