Instagram of the Month: Mount Cook

Johan Lolos (on Instagram @LeBackpacker) has been roaming the globe with a pack on his back and a camera at the ready since 2013.

He’s currently making his way across New Zealand, and sharing photographs from his escapades on Instagram.

Here’s a peek into how he got this winning shot of a hiker in Mount Cook National Park:

Tyler Metcalfe: You’re from Belgium. What were you doing in New Zealand in the first place? 

Johan Lolos: I’m in the midst of traveling around the world. After a year spent in Australia, I’m now based in New Zealand. I’ve been in-country for six months and I’m planning to stay six more, until my working holiday visa expires.

When I arrived last October, it was my first time to this incredible country. Now I can say I know it pretty well, especially after completing a three-month road trip. I’m currently based in Wanaka, on New Zealand’s South Island, where I’m working with the local tourism board as a photographer.

Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand and held sacred by the Ngāi Tahu, the principal Māori tribe of the country’s southern region. What drew you there? 

I did the Hooker Valley track four months before this trip, but the weather was terrible and I couldn’t see any of the surrounding mountains. So I knew I would have to come back!

What was your vision for this particular shot?

The track is a very popular half-day walk in New Zealand, so it’s very common to encounter people along the way. The dramatic clouds above Mount Cook and the hiker in the foreground lend the picture a feeling of vastness.

What kind of camera were you using? 

I took this with a mirrorless Sony a7R at 29mm f/9, ISO 160, and 1/250s.

Do you have any tips for other travelers bound for this area?

The day before I took this shot, I hiked to Mueller Hut—a very remote cabin with a breathtaking view of Hooker Valley and Mount Cook—with a couple of friends and stayed overnight. The three-hour hike to the hut is steep and difficult, but the photo opportunities at sunrise and sunset are definitely worth the effort.

It’s also possible to camp at a place called the White Horse Hill Campground, where the trail begins. I opted against it on this trip, but plan to go back to this area to shoot the stars in a few months, and will make sure to spend the night in my tent.

Tyler Metcalfe (on Instagram @TylerMetcalfe) is an associate photo producer on Nat Geo Travel’s digital team and manages the @NatGeoTravel Instagram account. 

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