How to Take Mountain Photographs
Simon Kirwan shares some tips for budding mountain snappers! Check
out The Lightbox
for more amazing mountain shots from his travels to the Himalayas, the
Alps, and even North Wales!
Mountains are by nature photogenic, but it is not always easy to capture
their scenic grandeur in a photograph. The first requirement is to use
decent equipment - simple point-and-shoot cameras, either using film or
digital, can yield good results, but for most purposes, a good quality
35mm camera with a selection of lenses is necessary.
use a 24mm or 50mm lens on an Olympus OM1 (still going strong after 27
years!), or a 35mm-80mm zoom on a Canon EOS300, usually at its widest
setting. Wide angle lenses are necessary to include the large physical
area occupied by mountain scenes, and impart a sense of scale and space.
It is a good idea to include some foreground detail like figures or buildings
to emphasise the scale of the scene.
generally shoot film, and get Kodak Picture CD processing, which gives
me the best of both digital and traditional worlds, in that I get a set
of prints, negatives for archival, and a set of superb Kodak scans suitable
for use on my web site with little adjustment. These can also be used
to produce photo-quality prints from the PC.
primary consideration affecting the quality of any photograph is lighting,
even more so when shooting landscapes. The lighting on a particular scene
can change dramatically depending on several factors - the weather, time
of day, season of the year, and location of the scene.
speaking, lighting for mountain photography is better early or late in
the day, and from autumn through to spring, when the sun is low in the
sky, producing side-lighting which emphasises the shape of the mountain.
During the middle of the day, and particularly in summer, the sun tends
to be very overhead, and produces lighting which flattens the contours
of the landscape.
Sunlight on a crisp
winters day, with snow on the peaks, often produces the most satisfying
results - the air is cold and clear, intensifying the blue of the sky,
and definition of the landscape is at its most pronounced. In summer,
heat produces a dust and photochemical haze in the atmosphere, reducing
definition, and causing the sky to appear grey and colourless, even in
|It is also important
to remember that the light moves around the points of the compass from dawn
to dusk, rising in the east, passing through south in the middle of the
day, and setting in the west.
Light illuminates different facets of a mountain at differing times of
day, so that an east-facing mountain will receive light in the morning,
west-facing will be lit in the afternoon, and south-facing will receive
light all day. Often a shot from a desired viewpoint must be timed to
suit the timing when the light will be at its most advantageous - side-lighting
generally yields better results than flat over-the-shoulder lighting.
Finally, don't leave
the camera behind because the weather is bad - often the best results
occur when the light suddenly breaks through clouds after rain, glinting
off wet rock. Cloud formations often provide interest and drama to otherwise
mediocre views, so don't just wait for a perfect summer's day, get out
there and start shooting!
Simon Kirwan - The Lightbox 2001