It is no wonder digital photographers are drawn to the mountains. Humans seem to connect with these landscapes on a primal level, probably because they were often a source of shelter and food for tens of thousands of years. Plus, culture has celebrated the mountains in song, poetry and paint and from the earliest days of photography. Photographing mountains is also a practical task. You can’t admire them if you don’t know and use the techniques that capture them at their best. That is the purpose of this two-part PhotographyTalk.com article. The first five techniques or guidelines can be found in Part 1, while the last five are below.
Do your homework.
As part of your planning for your digital photography trip into the mountains, learn which directions the mountains face, so you can determine what time of the day you want to shoot them. Search the Internet for other photographers’ images of the same mountains, so you know from which direction they look best in relation to the light.
Bad weather…good photos!
In the mountains, the weather will change, often dramatically; but once again that is no time to hide your camera in your bag. The roiling clouds, fog, sleet, snow and rain all add much to mountain photos that otherwise look like too many others you’ve seen. Be prepared for the weather and include a plastic covering for your camera, so you can use it if it is precipitating rain or snow. (Read the PhotographyTalk.com article, Photography Equipment Review—Storm Jacket Camera Covers, for another alternative if you expect to take many trips into the mountains.)
If you forget weather protection for your camera, then throw it over your shoulder inside your coat, so it’s easy to bring to your eye, but still secure. Even if you have a temporary or manufactured cover for your camera, it’s best to wipe the camera and lens clean with a dry cloth at the end of the day. Then, put it in on a table or the bedroll in your tent, so any moisture on the camera can evaporate.
Save your battery power.
It should be obvious to include extra batteries as part of your gear, but you must also protect them and make sure they last as long as possible. Remove the batteries from the camera at night and store them in a warm place, rolled in a jacket or at the foot of your sleeping bag. Be very conservative about looking at your LCD during your shoot. In fact, disable your LCD and operate it manually, so you check less often. Finally, don’t be tempted to review all the photos you shot during the day, since that robs battery life.
Pack a small, lightweight tripod.
Many photographers will carry a full-size tripod on their mountain trips, but experienced photographers know that a tabletop tripod that folds into a small piece of gear and doesn’t weigh much is the better choice. Some of these tripods are so small that they can be carried in a pocket and others have flexible legs, which can be particularly useful on rugged or uneven terrain.
Look beyond the mountains.
Shooting spectacular mountain photography may be your goal, but don’t be so captivated by them that you forget to look for other interesting nature images. The ecosystem changes as you climb to higher altitudes: different plants, animals, geology, etc. The mountains will still be there when you round the next bend of the trail, so spend some time looking for the smallest examples of natural beauty often lying at your feet. Think of ways to combine the small details with the enormous mountains for startling images of contrast. These will be far more interesting than more mountain photos.