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5 Landscape Photography Tips for Photographing Mountains

After graduating from photography school, I spent a large amount of my 20s photographing the town scapes of New York. In my 30s, after I relocated to upstate New York, I discovered a whole new muse-the landscape. What’s so nouveau in regards to the landscape? You’ll only appreciate this after residing in a cramped, fifth floor walk-up apartment-with views topped only by brick walls-for years.

Anyone who visited photography school understands “the golden hour”-that gorgeous time right before sunset or soon after sunrise. It’s definitely the best time to shoot landscape photography. Everything-and I mean everything-is gorgeous as of this hour.

When I transferred to the Adirondacks, I sought inspiration in the area’s numerous mountains and lakes. Though I’d attended various photography schools, studied with assorted photographers, and shot a good deal of (non-mountainous) landscape photography previously, nothing prepared me for photographing mountains.

mountains and lake landscape

“The South Side of Lake Cathrine” captured by Mitch Johanson (Click image to find out more from Johanson)

I’ve since met other photographers in the area who concur that the terrain poses unique and significant challenges that affect not only neophytes, like myself at the time, but additionally more seasoned area photographers.

I was relieved to find out this. After all, the thought had occurred to me that my urban environs had deflowered me within the most vulgar of how. Or that my years attending photography schools, and the long hours of inhaling photographic chemicals, left me so ill-equipped that I couldn’t even properly have a simple nature photograph.

But it wasn’t photography school, nor my a long time in an urban environment. It was that photographing certain aspects of nature might be even more mysterious and baffling as opposed to human element, which I had, at the very least to some degree, arrive at readily understand. So, below are great tips and tricks that I’ve learned while wrestling with your subjects.

1. Know Where You Are

I’m not referring to bringing a compass along with you wherever you go, unless of course, you have a habit of becoming lost, in which particular case it might be worthwhile. But, in addition, you must learn your lighting and position. Remember before when we were discussing “the golden hour”? Well, one thing you’ll soon discover when photographing mountains is that there often isn’t a golden hour, or if there is, it could be diminished greatly-very disappointing when you’ve spent hours waiting for a particular shot.

golden hour landscape photography

“Walk on By” captured by Mark Broughton (Click image to view more from Broughton)

2. Shadows Haunt You

It’s the shadows of nature I’m discussing here. Until you’re out within the middle of nature, you don’t realize how shadows can-and will-get inside the way of your shot. Think about light and shadows as well as the way they play upon each other; if you’re not trying to find a highly shadowed shot, this will be a problem.

When I first did start to photograph mountains, I’d build my shots so my back was to the sun. But if you’re knowledgeable about pine trees, you’ll know that’s when their shadows get particularly frisky. You can work for this, however, by starting near a creek or lake, that can decrease the volume of shadows within the picture.

snowy mountain

“Over the Mountains” captured by ‘Wizam’ (Click image to see more from Wizam)

3. You’re Not a Mule Horse, You’re a Human

If you’re employed to hiking very long periods of terrain with heavy packs on your back, then perhaps you can skip this place. But individuals who range from average to flabby, take into consideration that we aren’t mule horses, and not within the best of shape. It’s better to accept this before hand, because in the process of trying to find your shots, you’ll climb many a steep and arduous mountain, and consequently, it’s advisable to leave the heavy tripod at home.

After several trips carrying my full-weight tripod, I thought it was time to give myself a gift-a travel tripod. Invest in one. It’s worth every penny.

high contrast landscape photography

“Cascading Shadows” captured by ‘Nikon Ian’ (Click image to determine more from Ian)

4. For the Love of Contrast

There is no even keel when it comes to lighting the landscape evenly inside the mountains. A bright sky might just be sitting above a number of mountains which are totally in shadow. With most cameras, the dynamic range is too low to capture the detail of both. To overcome this issue, you will likely want to buy a graduated neutral density filter, which will allow you to do such things as darken the sun, so that you'll be able to get more precise detail within the mountain ridge and sky you’re photographing.

5. Nature’s Not Always Quiet

In fact, it might be pretty darn busy, that may pose a difficulty when you’re trying to find a good foreground element. This is something you are able to’t bypass, like a good foreground element not only captures your viewer’s eye but in addition gives the shot depth. In nature, this may be a serious challenge; the terrain is full of hundreds of different elements (talk about the shadows point above), competing on your attention. It could be difficult to create a shot where you actually have something within the foreground.

There’s tough way to get around this one. You’re probably just going to have to search for a while to find a foreground element. But the search will likely be worth it inside end.

I know I said five, but there’s another point I want to mention, and that’s that whenever photographing within the mountains, understand that you’ll need to go very wide to secure a complete and well-composed shot.

About the Author:
Thank goodness for my background and experience with photography school. This article was written by Travis Silver

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