I Found Lord Of The Rings Filming Locations And Photographed What They Look Like In Real Life (27 Pics)
It was already twenty years ago that The Fellowship of the Ring premiered around the globe (2001). In subsequent years, The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003) were released. Despite the advancement of visual technologies since the release, I still believe it’s one of the greatest film series ever made. The appendices of the extended DVDs and several “making of” books of the trilogy amplified my interest in the film-making process of The Lord of the Rings movies.
In this article, I will share a selection of color-graded photos together with screenshots of the corresponding scenes. For more information and an overview of all the locations and GPS coordinates, you can visit my website.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. owns the copyright of the screenshots.
More info: middle-earth.timeworx.nl
Bag End - Hobbiton Movie Set
In one of the most well-known scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring, we see Gandalf arriving at Bilbo Baggins' home, Bag End. The exterior that can be seen today, is the one that was rebuilt for the Hobbit trilogy in the Hobbiton Movie Set near Matamata. The home of Bilbo offers a view of The Party Tree and The Green Dragon. The interior of Bag End was shot in a studio in Wellington, using different scales for Gandalf and the Hobbits.
Because of my work as an engineer, I am able to live and work in various countries and travel from there during holidays. When I was living in Australia, the filming locations in New Zealand were relatively nearby. In 2016 I visited the Hobbiton Movie Set for the first time. By that time this set was rebuilt for the Hobbit trilogy. Seeing the site you know so well (from watching the films over and over) made a big impression on me and made me even more interested in the other locations. So much, that I returned to New Zealand a couple of times to visit several other filming locations.
Rivendell - Kaitoke Regional Park
The original Rivendell set has been removed after filming. However, later, Wētā Workshop placed an arch in the same architectural style.
Nen Hithoel - North Mavora Lake
Towards the end of the first film the Fellowship land the Elven boats after passing the Argonath. After the breaking of the Fellowship, Frodo and Sam cross the lake, continuing their journey to Mordor. These scenes were filmed around North Mavora Lake.
In order to find the locations, I purchased the Location Guidebook by Ian Brodie. Though this certainly helps, some locations are missing in this guide. Among the various other sources I used to find additional filming locations, I find the YouTube video by Niki Topgaard one of the most informative. In cases where only a rough description of the filming location was available, I used Google Earth to find the exact location.
Edoras - Mount Sunday
The remote location of Mount Sunday was transformed into Edoras. It took several months to build this huge set. In the photo, we see the view that Éowyn has from Meduseld when she sees Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli arriving by horse.
Argonath - Kawarau River
Kawarau River doubled as the Anduin River. The screenshot is taken just before The Fellowship sees the two Pillars of the Kings guarding the river. The photo is taken in the opposite direction. A river trip is required to go to the exact spot.
The films relied on digital colour-grading to change the ambience of the scenes. The prologue, for example, has a very antiquated look whereas Hobbiton had a warm and welcoming look. I have recreated the ambience in Photoshop by applying a gradient map with sampled colours of the original screenshot. The success of this process depends on how similar the lighting conditions were.
There is a nice colour grading tutorial by PiXimperfect on youtube if you're interested.
Pelennor Fields - Twizel
The plains near Twizel were used to shoot the scene in which Gandalf rescues the riders from the winged Nazgûl.
Pelennor Fields - Twizel
This viewpoint is seen in the epic scene when Théoden gives a speech before the Rohirrim charge into battle.
I am most proud of finding locations that are not that well-known. For example, I knew the backdrop of the location where Legolas shoots down an Oliphaunt was somewhere near Mount Cook. By studying the scene frame-by-frame and comparing this with my own photos, I found the exact location.
Currently, I am making plans to visit the Game of Thrones locations in Croatia and Iceland.
Get Off The Road! - Mt Victoria
This is the scene where Frodo senses the approaching Nazgûl. This spot is very close to where the Hobbits hid under the roots of a tree. The artificial tree for that was part of the set and has been removed. The scene was filmed at Mount Victoria, very close to Wellington.
Emyn Muil - Whakapapa
In the opening scene of The Two Towers, we see Frodo and Sam climbing uphill. The precise location is to the right of Meads Wall.
Gandalf Calls Shadowfax - Mavora Lakes Rd
The scene in which Gandalf the White calls Shadowfax is filmed at the same location as where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli find the burnt Orc Mound.
Hobbiton - Hobbiton Movie Set
When Gandalf arrives in Hobbiton, there is a brief shot of one Hobbit with a wheelbarrow and one sweeping the floor in front of their Hobbit hole. This shot is from the extended edition.
Minas Tirith - Mount Cook National Park
This mountain range seen in the photo served as the backdrop left of Minas Tirith. It features prominently in the scene of The Return of the King where Gandalf and Pippin ride to the capital of Gondor. The photo is taken from the Tasman Glacier viewpoint, roughly 80 m above ground level. The battlegrounds around Minas Tirith were filmed near Twizel.
Pelennor Fields - Mount Cook National Park
A slope in the Mount Cook National Park can be seen in the background of the scene where Legolas shoots down an Oliphaunt. The photo is taken from the Tasman Glacier viewpoint, roughly 80 m above ground level.
The Green Dragon - Hobbiton Movie Set
The Green Dragon first appears in The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf and Frodo pass it in Gandalf’s cart.
Hobbiton - Hobbiton Movie Set
This hobbit hole appears briefly in the scene where Mr. Proudfoot sees the four Hobbits returning to the Shire. In The Fellowship of the Ring, he appears in front of a different Hobbit hole with a red door.
Helm’s Deep - Erewhon Station
In a wide shot, we see Aragorn arriving at Helms Deep. This location is nearby Mount Sunday (Edoras). In front of the mountain range, a few trees are visible. Just to the right is where Helms Deep was superimposed onto this mountain range.
Rohirrim Village - Poolburn Reservoir
The Orc attack on the Rohirrim Village is filmed around Poolburn Reservoir. Scenes with Aragon, Legolas and Gimli chasing the Uruk-hai that were taking Merry and Pippin to Saruman were also filmed nearby.
Gollum Goes Fishing - Mangawhero Falls
The scene in which Gollum chases a fish in the river was filmed near the Mangawhero Falls. The location is at the slopes of Mount Ruapehu where many other scenes were filmed.
Ithilien - Oliphaunts - Twelve Mile Delta
The scene where Frodo, Sam and Gollum spot two Oliphaunts is filmed in the Twelve Mile Delta near Queenstown. The preceding scene in which Sam and Gollum disagree on how to prepare coneys for a meal is also filmed nearby.
Sandyman's Old Mill - Hobbiton Movie Set
Not much later, Gandalf and Frodo pass Sandyman's Old Mill in Gandalf’s cart and continue their way over the double-arched bridge.
Isengard - Near Glenorchy
A scale model of Isengard was superimposed onto this landscape.
Samwise Gamgee's Home - Hobbiton Movie Set
The trilogy ends with Sam returning from The Grey Havens and reuniting with his family back in Hobbiton. In the final shot, the camera zooms in to the yellow door of his house.
Orc Mound - Mavora Lakes Rd
In The Two Towers, we see Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli finding the burnt Uruk-hai and Orcs who had been carrying Merry and Pippin towards Isengard. The area is not too far from North Mavora Lake.
The Green Dragon - Hobbiton Movie Set
After the quest Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin quietly enjoy their ale in The Green Dragon. The interior of The Green Dragon was shot in a studio in Wellington. A fully functional replica has been constructed at The Hobbiton Movie Set.
Dunharrow - Mt Victoria
The former quarry at the top end of Ellice Street in Wellington was one of the sites used as the Rohirrim camp at Dunharrow.
Rohirrim Refugees - Deer Park Heights
Scenes, where the Rohan refugees travel from Edoras to Helms Deep, were filmed at the Deer Park Heights. Their battle with the Wargs and Orcs was also filmed here. This photo was taken further away, but the backdrop with The Remarkables is very recognizable.
The Battle Of The Last Alliance - Whakapapa
In the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring, you see a brief shot of Gil-galad fighting Orcs in the Battle of the Last Alliance. The background seen from this viewpoint can be recognized, but my photo is taken from a different angle.