I’m often asked how I’ve managed to capture certain photographs. My response is usually “blind luck” or “right place, right time”.  There are also photographs in my portfolio that I’ve spent hours or even days waiting to get, with countless scouting missions beforehand.  So I’ve decided to start a series called Behind the Shot to share some of my stories and techniques.

Hooker Valley
Early morning light on Mt Sefton along the Hooker Valley trail. Aoraki (Mt Cook) National Park, New Zealand.

 

Date: 10th May 2008
Destination: New Zealand

It pays to have patience in this country, just when you’ve almost given up with the weather, it comes up trumps!

When you’re told by lots of New Zealanders and travellers alike that it’s rare to see the top of Aoraki (Mt Cook) you don’t have high hopes. We arrived in Mt Cook village to rain and mist and couldn’t see a single mountain. Driving out on the Hooker Valley road, we knew we were in for a good few days of miserable camping at White Horse Hill. We explored the area and did a few of the surrounding walks to scout for possible shots should the weather break. On our 4th day, we awoke to a crisp morning with blue skies overhead and mist shrouding all of the surrounding mountains. It was the first time that we’d had a chance to see that we were camping in the shadow of giants!

Mt Sefton starting to peep through the cloud.

 

As the top of Mt Sefton came into view, we packed up my camera equipment and set off up the Hooker Valley trail. It was one of those shoots that leaves you buzzing, a once in a lifetime capture where all the mist started to peel back to reveal more of the mountain range and trail ahead.

On our way up the trail.

 

As I set up my camera I quickly realised that I wasn’t going to get more than a quarter of the scene in front of me in one shot. I had plenty of time to frame up and fire off some exposures using a 0.6 ND grad to hold back the sky and snow capped peaks while I waited for the mist to clear to a point that I was happy with. I took 5 shots in a wide panorama to get the whole scene in which I then stitched together later in photoshop. There’s no added elements or fake mist and other than stitching the 5 shots together, there was minimal post processing. I can honestly say that I felt very humbled standing there that morning, it was well worth the wait!

Valley to Mt Cook
Early morning light on the Hooker Valley trail. Aoraki (Mt Cook) National Park, New Zealand.

 

We carried on up the trail and were rewarded with a view of Mt Cook and the Hooker Glacier but it didn’t take long for the mist and clouds to start forming again and the top of New Zealand’s highest peak was gone.

Lenticular Cloud
A lenticular cloud surrounds the top of Aoraki (Mt Cook) while the rest of the mountain is shrouded. New Zealand.

 

Starting to lose sight of the mountains again

 

White horse hill campsite

 

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