There is nothing quite as exhilarating and rewarding as getting back to nature and photographing mountain scenery. Mountains are dramatic, inspiring and provide great photography potential. Whilst you will need to be careful, mountains can be much more accessible and rewarding for the landscape photographer than you realise. Here are some top tips to get you started and hopefully capture those stunning scenes.
Find Accessible locations
This iconic mountain is the Matterhorn in Switzerland and probably recognised all over the world for its distinctive shape. I would love to have claimed great hardship in capturing this image but I was sat sipping a Cappuccino outside a restaurant at the time. This area like many in European mountain regions is peppered with cable cars making them very accessible to photographers.
Use a Telephoto Lens
As with the previous example of the Matterhorn, this image was shot using a telephoto lens. In the Matterhorn example it helped bring the mountain closer to me so requiring less effort on my part. This image from the Torres del Paine area of Patagonia was shot using a 300mm lens to crop in close and make the mountain loom large in the viewfinder. Using a telephoto lens helps emphasise the size of the mountain and make it appear more dramatic. Fill the frame for maximum impact.
Weather Adds Drama
Mountains are a great place to experience extremes of weather and whilst this means taking extra care, it can also mean great photo opportunities. I like showery weather best (especially in winter) as this means plenty of changing conditions with dramatic light. Showers that might only last for a few minutes give you many chances to catch that wonderful clearing storm light. In this shot from one of the many ridges in the English Lake District a passing snow shower allows the sun to break through. A few minutes earlier the sky was black and the snow swirling everywhere. Sit it out but be prepared and you will be handsomely rewarded.
Shoot down as well as up
Another aspect to mountain photography that's often forgotten is to shoot down from the tops of mountains into valleys, or towards other mountains. Yes this requires a greater level of fitness in reaching the top of the mountain but the images look completely different. The view in the previous image is one example of shooting down from the mountain.
Get your Feet Muddy but Stay Safe
My final tip is to get your feet muddy. If you stand at the foot of the hills, or shoot from the side of the road you will almost certainly be making compromises. Get yourself into gear and walk into the hills, remembering though that you need to be safe:
- Try to go with another person so that if you hit problems you can help each other
- Always have a mobile phone with you. Sometimes you won't get a signal but frequently you get a very good signal. There have been examples recently of Alpine climbers being rescued because they sent a message to someone back home
- Always have a map and compass and/or GPS and know how to use them
- Wear/carry the right equipment. It's not just about taking photographs so take food, warm/waterproof clothing and sturdy footwear
- Try to learn outdoor hill walking skills or go with someone who is experienced
If you stay safe and follow these tips you will enjoy your mountain photography.