Mountains are arguably the most iconic subjects in landscape photography.
As a photographer, getting an opportunity to photograph mountains can be highly rewarding, and almost meditative. Capturing mighty snow-capped peaks in all their glory can be a uniquely exhilarating experience.
If you are serious about giving mountain landscape photography a go, this article will give you a few essential tips to kickstart your journey.
You’ll learn the importance of planning your shoot, what camera gear to use, the best composition ideas and much more. Let’s get into it.
How to Take Stunning Mountain Landscape Photos
The answer to this question might not be straightforward. Photographing nature by itself is fraught with unique challenges.
Although there is no predefined road to a successful snap, there are a couple of considerations to keep in mind while examining a scene. We shall break down, in detail, why each of these tips is crucial in getting the right shot. Remember, mountain landscapes are all about the subject, the setting, and your ability to define them clearly.
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Mountain Landscape Photography Tips
In this section, let’s look at the importance of planning, how lighting plays a key role in mountain landscape photography, why composition matters, and how using the right gear can make a massive difference in the quality of your photographs.
1. Plan and Scout Your Location
When you are shooting landscapes, you do not want to be spending precious time looking for the right spot or finding the right angle on the day you are taking the photograph. This is an overlooked step, by many photographers, but scouting out the location in advance and taking a few trial snaps can go a long way in being able to capture the perfect shot.
Visualize your final shots, check the surroundings for more scenery, and account for the change in light. When taking pictures of mountains, there is a common misconception that you always need to climb and trek to get good shots.
This is untrue; you can capture some of the most marvelous vistas from the base of a mountain. If you are an experienced trekker, however, the array of possibilities is certainly much larger.
When scouting a location is not possible, I recommend you to use Instagram or a quick image search on Google to see what other photographers have done in that area, and what are the possible angles.
Popular spots will likely get crowded, during the weekend or during holiday season. So not only I suggest to plan your shot, but arrive early on location to get the better spot.
2. The Golden Hour
Whether it is portraits or sunset and sunrise landscapes, the beautiful lighting that you get during the ‘golden hour’ is unmatched. Naturally, when you are shooting mountain landscapes, this lighting can help you deliver breathtaking photos. However, the mountains may well block the light, thereby reducing the ‘golden hour’ period, or, at times, even eliminating it entirely!
The golden hour is the period of the day after sunrise and right before sunset when the sun is low at the horizon and the light gets that reddish color that makes everything around you look stunning.
It’s not only about beautiful colors, but during this time of the day, the light also casts long shadows and produces dramatic contrasts.
To take landscape photos during the golden hour you’ll can adopt two strategies:
- If you shoot handheld, raise your ISO to have a correct exposure
- In case you use a tripod, use a long exposure (slow shutter-speed) and keep your ISO at 100 for maximum sharpness
3. Be Original With Your Composition
One of the easiest ways to showcase the true depth of your photography is through well-composed images. Although the right composition of a photograph may be a subjective topic, there are still certain pointers everyone can follow to get good results.
For mountain landscapes, one of the best ways to showcase a stunning peak is by leaving a section of the frame blank. The usage of negative space can highlight your subject and make it stand out.
You can also introduce the “human element” in the distance to give a sense of scale.
Introducing water bodies in the composition is also an amazing option, when possible. The reflective element of water bodies has the potential to lend a surreal painting-like feel to your picture.
4. Use the Right Gear for Mountain Landscape Photography
Carrying a lot of gear can prove to be taxing. Nobody wants to lug around a huge camera and tripod setup. It is important to choose a lighter tripod for easier maneuverability.
The lenses you carry are also vital when taking different shots. You should carry a telephoto lens to shoot peaks. However, you should not select a huge telephoto lens for the expedition, as it defeats the purpose of using lighter gear. Instead, use a teleconverter on your longest lens.
Other items such as a strong backpack with padded shoulder support, walking sticks, food and water, sunglasses, and warm clothing are essential. These factors help you stay in top physical condition when taking your shot.
5. Use Exposure Bracketing
With exposure bracketing you can achieve the perfect exposure in your photos. Light conditions change rapidly in the mountains and the wide range of elements in the scene, from the foreground to background is big.
This makes it tricky to find the right exposure across the whole composition. Exposure bracketing is a common practice among mountain landscape photographers to fix this. Using a tripod, you’ll take multiple shots without moving your camera.
At each shot, you’ll set the exposure for different areas of the landscape. For example, one exposure for the sky, one for the background and one for the foreground. Usually, 3 to 5 shots is enough. This way you’ll capture the entire dynamic range of the scene. You’ll then need to blend the images together in Photoshop, Lightroom, or using your favorite software.
6. Post-Process Your Mountain Photos
First of all I must say you have to shoot in RAW.
When it comes to landscape photography – and mountain photography is no exception, post-processing your pictures in Lightroom is a common and much needed step to guarantee great results.
Sometimes you might find yourself shooting in lower light conditions, such as the golden hour, and you don’t want to increase the ISO too much to avoid introducing noise and lowering the image quality. You’ll get away with a darker image, but that’s totally fine, and that’s why you should always shoot in RAW format. This will help the file retain more color information and the recovering of dark areas in Lightroom (or your software of choice) will be easier.
Mountains are some of the most beautiful sights in the world, and capturing them on camera has been an exciting activity for novices and professionals alike.
Mountain landscape photography is nothing less than art.
If you wish to start taking mountain landscapes, these tips are designed to help you. Apply these pointers to get the best out of your shots, but most importantly, do not forget to look around and soak in the view! Standing before a lofty peak and capturing its glory is a rare honor and an unforgettable experience.
Over to you know. Will you use a telephoto lens to frame the peak of a mountain or opt for a wider angle lens and capture the entire scene? Let me know in the comments below.
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Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.