How to Photograph Mountains
Written 8 years ago by Mark Evans
There’s nothing like the feeling of being up in the mountains, the fresh mountain air, wide open spaces and gorgeous vistas. Getting away from it all by getting out and about in the hills can do wonders for stress levels, there’s just something so calming about being in those surroundings so it’s little wonder that these places are also a photographers paradise. What could be better? Chilling out while taking some great photos! Here’s some tips on taking pictures in the mountains.
Get up early or Stay Late
I’ve had my fair share of early starts in order to catch the best light, and without a doubt, when you do manage to get it right, it makes that early start all worthwhile, then you can go back to bed when you’re done! If the best light for your scene is when the sun is setting you might have to stay later on in the day. This is obviously the preferred time for most photographers compared with getting up early, but sometimes the setting sun wont be in the best position for your scene. The warmest most diffuse light is usually at sun set and sunrise, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take photos at any other time; try photographing at different times in the day to see what effect it has on the mood of your images.
Know What the Weather is Doing
It might be nice and sunny at your place, but up in the mountains is a different story. The weather can change very quickly from sun to snow in a short space of time, so before you set off, make sure to check the forecast for the area you’re heading to, and if its looking a little dodgy, then be prepared by taking warm clothing and don’t forget your mobile! Take something to shield your camera from the worst as well.
Add Some Movement
Moving objects can add a lot to a mountain scene, conveying things like the blowing wind can really make a shot. Up in the hills, clouds tend to race across the tops, so capturing this motion can look quite striking, likewise with blowing trees, and grasses, having them blur a little gives your viewer a bit more input on what it was like at the time. Moving water in a mountain scene is a classic. Having a fluffy babbling brook in your shot can look great; try using a Neutral Density filter to allow you to extend your shutter speed.
Use People for Scale
Looking at a mountain scene, if there’s not much going on in the middle then its sometimes hard to judge how huge the mountains are. Including a human element like hikers in your shot can give it a sense of scale, and helps emphasise the enormity of the mountains in the background.
Find the Angle
Its quite easy to just take shots from your standard tripod height, but this can lead to the same perspective in each shot you take. Try varying your view on the scene, get down amongst the grasses for a bugs perspective, or if you’re including a stream in your shot, try taking your shot from within the stream (if its safe to do so) for something a bit different.
To Polarise or Not to Polarise
Polarisers are great when you want to cut down reflections and deepen the colours of your shot, including the sky. However, it’s worth noting that the higher you climb, the more pronounced the effect is on the sky. When shooting with a polariser at high altitudes its not uncommon to produce a black sky, so to avoid this, don’t use one, or just turn it so the polarisation is less.
It never fails to amaze me how great the scenery and opportunities for taking a stunning image can be when you’re just wandering around in the mountains, and while its good to scout a scene beforehand and plan it a bit, some of the best shots I’ve taken came about when I’ve literally stumbled across something amazing, so it’s good to have your camera at the ready, even when you’re not expecting it. A great place for walking, including some of the nicest mountain scenery I’ve come across has been in the Lake District in England, but wherever I go, nothing seems to compare to the sheer remoteness and beauty of the Southern Alps in New Zealand. If you’ve got a chance to visit these places I would highly recommend it, they’re a photographers paradise.
This article was part of the Landscape Photography Series.
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