Photo by Xsandra via iStock
I don't know about you, but my favorite landscapes involve mountains.
There's something so majestic about soaring mountain peaks. And when combined with other landscape elements - rivers, canyons, wildflowers, and so forth - it's a recipe for a drop-dead gorgeous shot.
If you're ready to take your mountain landscapes to the next level, give the following simple and easy mountain photography tips a try.
Mountain Photography Tip: Wide-Angle is Great, But Not Always Great
Photo by Anubhav Saxena on Unsplash
I'll be the first to say that I often use a wide-angle lens for landscape photography.
The wide angle of view allows me to capture more of the scene in a single shot, thereby giving the viewer the "lay of the land," so to speak.
Wide-angle lenses are especially advantageous when you're near the mountains, as far-off features look quite small in a wide-angle shot.
Furthermore, if there's foreground interest, as shown above, a wide-angle lens gives you the ability to incorporate that interest into the photo of the mountain.
But, there is a time and a place for ditching your wide-angle lens and opting for a longer one.
Telephoto landscapes can be quite breathtaking, if for no other reason than they view you get is completely different from what you see with your own eyes.
Opting for something in the 200mm range or longer gives you a chance to create a deliciously intimate landscape shot that highlights a specific feature, like the very peak of a mountain.
If you want the best collection of mountain photography, switch things up and shoot wide-angle and telephoto shots each time you stop to shoot.
Throw in some shots with a standard lens (i.e., 35-50mm) too, just for good measure!
Mountain Photography Tip: Use a Graduated ND Filter
Without a Graduated ND filter. Image Credit: Adam Brzoza
One of the predominant problems you encounter when photographing mountains is that the landscape can be quite dark compared to the sky, as shown above.
Most cameras - not even high-end professional rigs like my Nikon Z7 - can accommodate such a huge dynamic range in a single shot.
To help the camera out, you can use a graduated ND filter.
As I explain in this article, graduated ND filters are dark on top and light on bottom. This serves to limit the brightness of the sky without doing so on the landscape below.
With a NiSi Hard Graduated ND Filter. Image Credit: Adam Brzoza
The result of this is that your mountain photos have a much more even exposure, as shown above.
Not only do you get the nice details of the mountain and the foreground, but you also retain the details in the sky.
Now, not all graduated ND filters are the same...
There are different strengths of filters, from 3-stops to 10-stops and above. The more stops the filter is, the darker it is.
There are also hard-edged ND filters, which have an abrupt transition from the filtered top to the unfiltered bottom. These grads are best for landscapes with a definite horizon, like a shot looking out at the ocean.
For mountains, though, you need that transition to be gradual, which is why a soft-edge grad is the better choice. You can see the difference between a hard-edge and a soft-edge grad below:
There are all kinds of options for ND grads out there, but I use NiSi and have done so for quite some time.
Not only are these things well-built and durable, but they don't affect the color of the image so you get true-to-color results.
Likewise, I appreciate the fac that NiSi filters have an Optical Nano Coating that maintains color neutrality, even with longer exposure times (which can sometimes lead to color casts in the image).
The Nano Coating also helps bead water and repel oils from your skin so you can spend more time shooting and less time cleaning your filter.
Sure, you can bracket exposures and try to fix exposure problems in post-processing, but if you ask me, using filters in the field is more fun and gets you better results to boot!
Mountain Photography Tip: It Takes Longer Than You Think to Get a Great Shot
Photo by joakimbkk via iStock
Getting high-quality landscape photos of any kind requires a measured approach with time spent ahead of time planning your trip and tons of patience in the field.
All the gorgeous images you see on the internet aren't just by happenstance - by and large, the outstanding photos you come across that are eye-poppingly beautiful were hours, days, and weeks in the making thanks to a thorough planning process.
You need to scout locations, examine how the sun interacts with the scene, find the ideal vantage points for the best shot, and so forth.
Photo by tawatchaiprakobkit via iStock
Then, once you're out there with your gear, you need to take the time to get things set up properly, get the exposure just right, adjust your filters, check for sharpness, and so on.
There's an element of sitting and waiting as well.
While the light might be fantastic right now, five minutes from now it might be even more spectacular.
Of course, there's time required to examine, cull, and process your images after the fact.
So, getting beautiful mountain photography is a process, and not a short one, either!
Mountain Photography Tip: Simple is Often Better
Photo by borchee via iStock
Landscapes are often ripe with beauty, but sometimes all those details can translate into an image feeling a bit cluttered.
To get around this, focus your attention on finding ways to simplify the composition.
Using a telephoto lens is certainly one way you can do that, but there are other ways, too.
For example, you against the norm and use a shallow depth of field to bring a foreground element into sharp focus while the mountains in the shot are beautifully blurred.
Another idea is to use leading lines to help drive the viewer's eyes where you want them to go.
In the example above, the winding road brings our attention from left to right in the photo.
Not only does this help guide us through the shot, but it also give this mountain photo more dimension and depth.
With that, you have a few quick and easy mountain photography tips to help you get better results.
Give each one a try and see how they can help you capture those beautiful mountain moments!