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. 

Want to see one of your photos featured on Intelligent Travel? Tag your Instagram photos with #NatGeoTravelPic.


  1. Kitty Hetheriton
    San Diego, Ca
    June 17, 2015, 11:48 pm

    I so love New Zealand, my cousin lives there in Auckland. One problem, i’m afraid to fly, so i may never see it in person. So pictures are the only way i’ll see it. Thank for such great ones, please keep taking them. It’s the only way i’ll see the world. O i don’t drive either, slummed down in chair, sigh. Did try it, once. But would give almost anything to go on a Space Ship, to see our Earth from up there, in the Heavens, oh yeah would do that. Thanks again, stay safe.

  2. Mathijs
    March 31, 2015, 4:14 am

    For a NZ landscape picture this one is not very good. You can make a much better picture once you climb up the mountain towards the hut after the 5000 stairs and shoot the whole valley. For a pro (he’s a photographer right), this is laughable.

  3. Judith Siess
    United States
    March 27, 2015, 4:26 pm

    I took almost that exact shot of my husband.