In 2019, landscape photographer Krista May flew across the ditch, landed in Queenstown, and never looked back. Here’s why Krista chose the town in the mountains, without having visited before.

Taking the Leap and Moving to Queenstown

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last 3.5 years in the beautiful, natural playground called Queenstown. I made this life move without ever having visited Queenstown or even New Zealand before. I was living in Canada at the time and my working holiday visa was coming to an end, but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the mountains and snow. I’d developed a deep love for the alpine and appreciation for nature, and I wasn’t ready to give that up.

So after a few suggestions from friends, Queenstown came up in conversation and knowing I didn’t need a visa to live there, it was no brainer.

Hi new home!

Originating from Australia, I grew up with beautiful coastlines and beaches but never thought I’d feel the way I do about mountains. It’s easy to fall in love with towering mountaintops and my passion grows stronger by the day. I’m more obsessed than ever! 

Mountains give me a unique perspective on the world. Seeing the view of Queenstown, even from a slight elevation of 907m on the local Queenstown Hill hike, shows you just how insanely huge Lake Whakatipu is and how spread out the town is. Gaining a new perspective brings a new appreciation for a place, even if you’ve seen it a million times before. Seeing your world in a new light makes you appreciate it more and that’s what mountains do for me. 

Now, adventure is literally on my doorstep. Rather than a city skyline, I have a direct view of striking alpine peaks like The Remarkables, Cecil Peak, Walter Peak, and Ben Lomond, all from my balcony. Every day I feel like I’m looking directly into a postcard. 

After living amongst the mountains of Canada and now Queenstown, it ignited my spark for adventure. We all have a spark for life, you just have to find what ignites yours. If you think it’s mountains, blue lakes, endless adrenaline-fuelled activities, and escaping the every day to immerse in nature instead, Queenstown might just be the place for you. 

What fills your cup?

For me, it’s about getting the most out of life.

I want to be surrounded by nature, because the smell of fresh air and capturing untouched landscapes is what brings me joy. I want to be overwhelmed by the abundance of activities I can enjoy on my days off. 

I want rejuvenating soulful experiences that connect me to the outdoors. For me that’s heading into the endless mountains for an overnight trip. Myself, my camera, tent, sleeping bag, food, and friends all packed ready for some TLC in nature with no reception. 


Filling my cup looks like a full cup of coffee in the mountains


It’s about putting myself out of my comfort zone and pushing the personal boundaries I set for myself. Doing more than I think I can, hiking further, climbing harder, setting goals that seem scarier and pushing myself as an adventurer and landscape photographer. 

It’s not the pain or exhaustion you feel in the moment that’s the reward.
It’s being the only one on a mountaintop with a 360-degree view.
The sun shining on your face.
The delicious taste of dehydrated food after a slog.
It’s soaking in the serenity. 

It’s knowing you earned your right to be there and basking in the spectacular surroundings because you put yourself through a challenge to achieve something not many people bring themselves to do. 

What I get out of the mountains I try to give back. It’s about respecting the place that treats you, because we want it to be around forever. A place that enriches your life is something that should be protected.

Adventure fills my cup and I say, fill it to the brim!

How Queenstown Influences My Work as a Photographer

I’m a wedding, commercial, and landscape photographer who’s obsessed with the outdoors. With camera in hand, I’m ticking off hikes and big adventures, one steep uphill mission at a time. For me and my work, it’s about being immersed in places you can only get to by foot, where you may not see another soul all day, and you may be the only person witnessing that exact moment in time. 

I believe hiking and photography go hand in hand. I hike because I want beautiful photos of unique landscapes. I love photographing landscapes because I love the effort I have to put in for the reward of finally arriving at these breathtaking places that only a few get to experience. 

When I’m on an adventure it’s not just about the final photo. It’s about capturing and experiencing the in-between moments of struggle, the seconds when you think you can’t take another step, alongside the sweet smiles of joy when you see your destination for the evening.

A bit of a slog, but it’s all worth it

It’s the moment of waiting for the sun to set over the horizon and capturing the alpenglow at last light before the sun says goodnight. And then doing it all again when that bittersweet alarm chimes at 4am, all to get a glimpse of first light as the sun illuminates the day. 

So naturally, I love that my work allows me to combine my two passions – the outdoors and photography. That’s why when jobs arise around conservation I jump at the opportunity. I love to help capture and tell the stories of what local businesses are doing to protect their natural places. 

I’ve photographed the efforts of the Walter Peak Land Restoration Project, planting native trees to fight against the invasive wilding trees that are spreading across the region. I’ve photographed the unique landscape and species of Rakiura/Stewart Island and Ulva Island where they’re hoping to rid the island of introduced predators to help more than 20 threatened native species thrive.

I feel lucky to be able to capture the planet’s natural beauty as a job and I want my work to be able to give back to the environment that’s given so much to me.

The Adventure List is Neverending!

Three years of living in Queenstown and I’m still finding new adventures to conquer. I have a neverending list of expeditions, weekend trips, and new places to explore that just keeps on growing. 

Before heading out into the mountains on any adventure, I always check out my destination and route on the Department of Conservation website and refresh my outdoor knowledge on the AdventureSmart website. There’s nothing worse than turning up at a trailhead to find the hike is closed or not packing the right gear or enough supplies. Big recommend for anyone heading out into nature!  

Read more: 8 of the Best Hikes Around Queenstown 2023

Room with a view

My favourite overnight mission is the Earnslaw Burn. Although not the hardest hike I’ve done, it certainly keeps you on your toes and is up there with one of the most picturesque views. 

After spending the first 9km in the forest watching your every step as you carefully walk over raised tree roots, uneven ground, and fallen trees, you spend the next few kilometres unable to keep you eyes off the magical view up ahead.


Peek-a-boo, I see view


The track opens up into a vast valley with lush grass flanking you on both sides and a clear view of the hanging glacier on Mt Earnslaw. 

Just beyond the treeline is a good spot to set up camp for the night and soak in the serenity.

It’s easy to call it there for the day because the views are rewarding enough, but the real treat is waiting for you at the base of the glacier at the end of the track. Leave your gear (besides water and camera) at the campsite and carry on feeling light as a feather.

Once you reach the end of the track you’ll be standing underneath giants. Steep vertical walls tower above you, the sound and sight of waterfalls run down cliff faces, and a hanging glacier above your head all make you feel so small. The hardest part about this hike is making the decision to leave.

My favourite day adventure is definitely summiting the highest peaks of The Remarkables – Double Cone and Single Cone – sitting at 2319m. This is a mountaineering route that takes roughly eight hours to complete. It’s a mix between hiking and trad climbing where you need to use a rope and place your own climbing gear. You need to have a fair bit of rock climbing experience to conquer this one, so if you’re a climber add it to your list. 


Can you spot the Double Cone?


As for the next adventures on my list, my current top two are hiking and camping out the back of The Remarkables in a place called the Doolans. It has some beautiful alpine tarns that are just calling my name. And as Queenstown is the gateway to many other incredible adventures, I want to explore more of the eighth wonder of the world, Milford Sound, where I’d like to camp at Lake Marian and hike Gertrude Saddle

Why Queenstown?

Ahhh yes. The famous question everyone wants an answer to.  

You know that feeling you get when a holiday is coming to an end and a little bit of dread creeps in as you start to think about heading home? When home is Queenstown, dread is replaced with excitement.

I want to live in a place where I can spend my weekends on mountaintops sipping coffee as the sun rises and others where I can swim in the lake and enjoy a BBQ by the water. Somewhere I can paddle board down a river or bungy jump off a bridge. Somewhere I can ride bikes uphill or downhill and climb rock faces with ropes.

If you say you’re bored in Queenstown, you’re not looking hard enough. 

It’s a hard thing to do, uprooting your whole life and making those uncomfortable changes to your daily routine – but disruption to the norm is a good thing. When that change brings you to a new place that makes you feel like you’re home, it’s not one to take for granted. 

The hardest part is being away from my family, but luckily Australia is just a stone’s throw away (and I’m thankful for those direct flights to the Gold Coast!). Queenstown attracts Explorers from all over the world, and that means friendships here are tight. Your friends here really become your family. 

So, why Queenstown? 

Because I want to spend every minute I’m awake staring at something beautiful. I want to spend every day surrounded by nature and the things that bring me excitement. 

If you like to hike big mountains, scale tall walls, ride down hills, chill by perfect lakes, and kayak on crystal blue waters, then you already know why Queenstown.