Mountains have been captivating people for thousands of years. Shrouded in myth, legend and history, they wonderful subjects to photograph. Renowned photographers like Ansel Adams spent much of their time capturing the beauty of them. But capturing an image that might do the scene justice isn’t always straightforward. So here are 8 tips for photographing mountains.
Research the location
The first step for any successful shoot is planning and research. So if you want to capture great photos of mountains, you will need to do your research before you even leave home. That means understanding everything you can about the location. You should also know about the external elements. Things like the weather forecast and the direction and intensity of the light. But that research is only the start. Once there you often have to scout the location to find the best viewpoint. This means you need to allow yourself enough time to be able to get to the viewpoint and move around if needs be. You might need to go to different spots for the best view.
Catch the best light
It’s no secret that a big element of any sort of landscape photography is the lighting. Early mornings and late afternoons offer the best light. The low sun enhances shadows and textures. But that doesn’t mean you can’t photograph at other times of the day. Especially in mountain photography, stormy or moody skies can give you dramatic photos. The most important element to consider is the direction and intensity of the light. But try to avoid photographing landscapes in the midday sun. The harsh light can make a scene seem flat and uninteresting.
Think about the foreground
When photographing mountains you are usually some distance away. So your immediate foreground might be clear. This means your foreground becomes important to your image. You need to avoid having too much “dead space” in the photo. So try to find something that can add a point of interest to the foreground. Not only will it enhance the photo, but it will lead the viewer’s eyes into the distance and the mountain range.
Don’t afraid to shoot in bad weather
There’s nothing enjoyable about being in the cold and wet out in the wilderness. But, as mentioned above bad weather can lead to stunning photographs of mountains. If you are brave enough to head out in these conditions, you can capture photos that are unique and powerful. Stormy dark clouds are great backdrops for mountain ranges. Whilst fog and mist can add a completely different element to your photos. But always remember that mountains are dangerous places. The weather can change dramatically without notice. So always make sure you are well prepared and most importantly stay safe.
Shoot in portrait mode
The majority of the time you will be photographing landscapes horizontally. But sometimes mountains look great when photographed in portrait mode. But your foreground (or the sky) becomes even more important when photographing in portrait mode. So make sure that you are paying close attention to these parts of the composition. The other added benefit of photographing in portrait mode is that you will have a better chance of selling the photo for a front cover.
Consider your horizon line
Whatever the landscape is that you are photographing, your horizon can have a huge impact on the photo. If you have an interesting foreground, place your horizon further up in the image. This will allow the viewer to see more of the foreground. If your mountain range is being supported by a dramatic sky, place your horizon lower. Showing off more of that sky. The majority of the time you need to avoid putting your horizon in the middle of the photo. This can have a negative impact on your photo.
Add a person
One of the big challenges of photographing mountains is conveying the sense of scale. The best way to achieve this is to add a person to the composition. The viewer will find it much easier to interpret the scene and get a sense of scale when there is a person in the photo. The other advantage of introducing a person in the photo is that it can make the image tell more of a story rather. This can help make your photos more unique.
Choose the right settings
You have done your research, scouted the location and worked out the best time to take the photo. You have composed it in your mind and you are now ready to take then photo. Now you need to ensure that the final result is technically perfect. The last thing you would want is for your image to let you down because, for example, it’s not sharp. So here are some technical tips for photographing landscapes.
- Close the aperture to increase the depth of field. Generally, you will be looking at f/8 – f/16
- When using a long exposure, ensure you lock up the mirror on your camera. This is to avoid vibrations which will blur the image
- For long exposures, you will need a tripod. It is also a good idea to use a remote release cable to avoid camera shake. If you don’t have one, set your camera mode to the timer (usually 2 seconds)
- A polarizer can be invaluable as it can remove reflections. It is especially useful when photographing near snow, ice and also water. It can also enhance the blues in the sky which contrast well against mountain ranges
Mountains make wonderful subjects to photograph. If done well they can stand out in any portfolio. Follow these simple tips and you will be well on your way to photographing mountains beautifully.
Kav Dadfar is a travel photographer and author of almost 300 articles on photography. He has years of experience shooting assignments with his images having been used by some of the biggest brands in the world.
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