top of page

Stoked | Highest Hill in Marlborough

In early autumn, I climbed the loftiest hill in the Marlborough Sounds, Mount Stokes, with a modest altitude of 1203 metres. This involved driving for 4 hours via an interminable, winding road skirting the shoreline of Pelorus Sound. The road-trip here is, perhaps, the most dangerous part of my expedition.

Once at the scenic reserve, I parked my car and headed into the bush. A smatter of rain had me anxious about the dodgy weather forecast, but I pressed on in blind optimism. The spur track was moderately-angled with no significant difficulty. Gnarly old silver and mountain beech presided over a rooted, muddy path - a typical New Zealand trail.

Emerging from the bush-line, after some two hours’ grunt, I wrapped up in polar-fleece and donned my raincoat. The temperature plummeted as I traversed along the tussock slopes to the summit trig. Clouds enveloped the mountain in a world of monochrome.

I erected my tiny tent, and crawled inside, but there was no hiding from the vicious south wind. Or the wicked woodhen, who frequent the stunted beech forest, clinging to the edge of this remote tussock plateau.

In the morning, I awoke to a bluebird day. Spectacular 360-degree views were on offer, including the coastline of Wellington in the North Island. I saw the Cook Strait ferry slip into Tory Channel; the residential sprawl of Picton’s outlying suburbs; the stark profile of Tappy and Mt Alarm dominating the southern horizon. After all the rain, the cold, the zero visibility, the sleep deprivation ... it was worth the supreme effort to get here.

I was stoked.



Shooting into the direct sunlight poses problems. Firstly, you must mitigate lens flare. Either point your lens away from the sun, or use a lens hood. Remove all filters. In this shot, I waited for the sun to pass behind cloud strata, so it was partially blocked.

Secondly, the sky tends to get over-exposed, while any foreground objects become black silhouettes. For this image, I bracketed 3 exposures, which I fused together in Photoshop. This is my preferred method to tame the high dynamic range, as it doesn't smack of that infamous 'HDR look.'

Camera Settings: Canon EOS 5D MkIII | 28mm | f/22 | 1, 2 & 4 seconds | ISO 100


To really get a feel for the trials and triumphs of the tramping photographer... this photography mission on YouTube, and turn up the sound: EPISODE FIVE | Wild Camping on Mt Stokes.

Or follow along with Ray as he processes his best images in Photoshop. Enroll in his landscape masterclass, LOCATIONZ where you can fast-track your own photography journey, saving years of mucking around.

Keywords: landscape photography south island nz, new zealand landscape photography, wilderness camping, wild camping nz, wilderness camping nz, freedom camping nz, wild camping south island nz, free camping new zealand, marlborough, mount stokes, nelson

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page