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A Mountaineer's Viewpoint - Yan Zhang's Winning Image and His Alpine Photography

Published by Yvette Depaepe, the 3rd of October 2022


1x member Yan Zhang has recently been selected as the winner of 2022 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year (Landscape), which is the most prestigious nature photography competition in the region.


His winning image Breaking Dawn reveals a rare and unique beauty in the extreme alpine environment in Tasman Glacier, New Zealand.

'Breaking Dawn'

Judges’ comments:There is a magical sparkle in this technically excellent image. The bright stars are echoed in the glittering snow, and the landscape offers a natural arabesque that walks our eye through the valley.


“How I Undertake the Alpine Photography”

I started mountain photography from 2014, when I was greatly inspired by Pat Barrett’s book True South, where I was deeply attracted by so many beautiful photographs of the Southern Alps of New Zealand, that the author took during his mountain trips.

Then I participated in a mountaineering training course in Mount Cook, New Zealand, and started to climb some New Zealand’s alpine mountains. I want to make landscape photographs of high mountains from a mountaineer’s viewpoint.

However, different from the ordinary mountaineers’ snapshots, I want my images capturing those magic moments that most mountaineers have not seen before.

I For the climbing, I need rope, crampons, an ice axe, snowstake and other climbing equipment. For the photography, I need my camera, lenses and a reliable tripod. My pack in the mountain is always quite heavy, for instance, 20+ kg. I take as little camera gear as possible – my very reliable Nikon D850, with 14-24 and 24-70mm lenses, and a few packs of batteries.

When I took photos on the glaciers, cliffs or ridges, I was secured by a rope and my guide would also assess any potential risk at the location, such avalanche, rock falls, or crevasses. Over the years, I have established a very trustful bound with my mountain guide, which is very critical for undertaking a successful alpine photography trip.


Yan taking photos from the glacier Icefalls (2017) 


Usually, I have two goals on these trips. Whenever possible, I want to climb some peaks as well as take photos.
I need luck with the weather to achieve both.
For example, there’s a peak called Mount Aspiring (3033 metres) in the South Island of New Zealand and it's quite a technical climb.
I’ve tried twice. The first time, the guide and I were stranded in a hut by two successive storms for five days.
The second time, we got to within 200 metres of the peak – one hour of climbing – but a storm was rolling in and we had to retreat. 
In 2019, to extend my experience, I went to Nepal for long hiking and along the way I successfully climbed to the East Peak of Luboche (6119 metres).


Yan climbing the Himalaya, Nepal (2019)


My latest alpine trip was just completed at Mount Cook in September. Then I’ll be going to a territorial park in Yukon, Canada, in November to see it in winter. Also, next year, I hope to spend 10 days with a guide I’ve known before in Patagonia, in South America.


Yan climbing the Plateau Glacier (2022)


Excellent work! Congratulations!
Accept my congratulations Yan. Excellent photo work, wonderful achievement.
Thanks Yvette for publishing this.
my pleasure, Yan !
Love the stars in the sky and on the snow as well. Congrats
Congratulations with this well deserved prestigious award, Yan. Cheers, Yvette