Thank you so much for your suggestions!
Just wanted to report back on what places I visited on this trip. I flew into Auckland and was quite jet lagged, but the good thing is I didn't stay in my hotel room and fall asleep! Booked a trip that same afternoon to Piha beach and Karekare waterfalls. Both places were spectacular, especially with the amount of rain the region had received at that time. Karekare falls was really awesome! It amazes me that not a lot of locals know about this waterfall, which is certainly quite a ways away from the city. One tip though: If you have just landed after a long haul flight, I will not recommend a drive to Karekare, especially if you are severely jet lagged. Our guide was quite knowledgeable about the history and the geology of these two areas. Photography wise, the light was just right to photograph Karekare, but by the time we reached Piha the clouds had settled in and it wasn't worth photographing either the beach or any of the other surroundings. As I was with a group, there was no question of staying for or beyond sunset.
Next day, we just took the ferry to Waiheke island. It was a cloudy and rainy morning, so not much to report on about that. However, once we reached Waiheke, the clouds disappeared and it became quite sunny. There was still some colour left in the trees, which was quite surprising to me. I forget the name of the beach that we spent some time at. The light was just right to get some cool portrait shots before we headed back to the bus. Rounded out the day by having dinner at Red Thai, a very nice restaurant.
Day 3 was a whirlwind! We took a day trip to Waitomo caves, followed by spending a few hours in Rotorua (the outdoor Polynesian Spa was definitely the highlight of the trip). It was rainy and miserable. From the spa we headed to Te Puia to take in some history about the Maori culture and then to Whakarewharewa geyser and mud pools. By the time we returned it was storming. That was in short a highlight of the stay in Auckland.
Auckland to Sydney. Sydney surpassed all my expectations, even though 98% of the time it was raining! Obviously I spent a great deal of time photographing the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Walked around the Darling Harbour area, which was very diverse. My biggest peeve on this trip was the rain; it seemed like it was following us right from the time we set foot in Auckland and never let up till we left Sydney. Some other things I did in Sydney: Took a trip on the ferry to Watson Bay from Circular Quay and then hiked up to The Gap and got a TON of pictures of the crashing waves and the cliffs that drop straight down into the ocean. Again, rain was the biggest spoilsport. Next day did a part of the Bondi to Coogee walk, which was VERY interesting. I couldn't take many pictures because of the rain again! I did manage to get a couple of decent shots when the rain let up for about half an hour or so. The surfers were out and nothing seemed to stop them from surfing those rough waters. Perhaps next time around the weather will be better and I'd certainly love to do the entire walk from Bondi to Coogee. Did a tour of the Opera House, but our guide mentioned that we weren't allowed to take pictures of the Concert Hall, which is by far the best concert hall I've ever seen! On the last day I did visit the zoo and its hard not to miss the koala's.
In summary, it was a very good first trip to both NZ and Australia and certainly won't be my last one. There is just so much that both countries have to offer in terms of tourism and from what I've heard from the locals in NZ my next trip down there will certainly be to the South Island.
Once again, thanks to everyone for your suggestions! I certainly appreciate the time and effort you put in to respond to my message!