Mountains have been captivating photographers ever since the early cameras were invented. Renowned photographers like Ansel Adams spent a considerable amount of their time capturing landscapes that highlighted the beauty of them, however, capturing an image that might do the scene justice isn’t always straightforward. Follow these simple tips to help you next time you are looking to photograph mountain scenery.
Scout The Location
There is no doubt about it, 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 possibly can about the location, the weather and the direction and intensity of the light, although that research is only the start. Once at the location you often have to scout the location to find the best viewpoint. This means you need to allow yourself enough time to so that you are able to visit the location and still have an opportunity to go back if you need to.
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 as the low sun enhances shadows and saturates the colours. But that doesn’t mean you can’t photograph at other times of the day. You just need to consider 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.
Consider The Foreground
Often, when photographing mountains, your immediate foreground is clear because you are some distance away from the mountain range that you are capturing. This means your foreground becomes incredibly 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 also lead the viewers’ eyes into the distance and the mountain range.
Bad Weather Adds Mood
There’s nothing enjoyable about being caught in the cold and wet out in the wilderness. However, bad weather can lead to incredibly stunning and moody photographs of mountains. If you are brave enough to head out, you can capture photos that really are incredibly unique and powerful. Stormy dark clouds are great backdrops for mountain ranges, whilst fog can add a completely different element to your photos. Always remember that mountains are dangerous places where the weather can change dramatically without notice, so always make sure you are well prepared and most importantly stay safe.
Experiment In Portrait Mode
The majority of time you will be photographing in landscape mode, although 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.
Consider Your Horizon
Whatever the landscape that you are photographing, where you place your horizon can have a huge impact on the photo. If you have an interesting foreground, place your horizon further up in the image so that the viewer sees more of the foreground. If your mountain range is being supported by a dramatic sky, place your horizon lower so that you show more of the sky. The majority of time you need to avoid putting your horizon in the middle of the photo.
Add A Person
One of the big challenges when 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 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 a much more of an interesting story rather than a generic landscape.
Get The Technical Elements Right
You have done your research, scouted the location, worked out the best time to take the picture and composed it in your mind. Now you need to ensure that the final result is technically perfect. The last thing you would want is for your image to be let down because it’s not sharp.
- Close the aperture to increase the depth of field. Generally you will be looking at f8 – f16
- When using long exposure, ensure you lock up the mirror on your camera 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, simply set your camera mode to timer (usually 2 or 3 sec)
- A polarization filter can be invaluable as it can remove reflections (especially useful when photographing near snow or ice and also water) and can also really enhance the blues in the sky which contrast well against mountain ranges
Mountains make wonderful subjects to photograph, and if done well can stand out in any portfolio. Just follow these simple tips and you will be well on your way.
Now it’s your turn. Share your awesome mountain photos below.
Photo Credits: Kav Dadfar (All rights reserved). Dreamstime