What is it about mountains? When you are in the midst of a majestic mountain, the dramatic peaks soaring above you, the rough, craggy edges dangerously protruding, and foliage of all different shades competing for attention all around you, there is an atmosphere that you can’t quite even put your finger on.
Mountains give you a fantastic sense of wonder, and awe, that you don’t tend to experience anywhere else – at least not in the same way.
So how do you transfer that sense of dimension, height, scale and definition into a photograph? Well, if you have tried this before, you will be well aware that this is tricky.
The two-dimensional image of a photograph can easily flatten a mountain, immediately taking away that feeling it gives you to look upon a high mountain. Furthermore, the foliage can become muddled, and the definition lost.
It’s easy to point out where you can go wrong with shooting a mountain, but how can you put it right?
Time of Day
The time of day that you photograph your mountain at can greatly affect your results. A sunset or sunrise for example can be the best time to capture the shadows and highlights, which will add definition to your photograph. During the mid day sun, or even worse, on a cloudy day, the different elements may not be very well picked out, which means that you will lose that sense of perspective. It is up to you to experiment with your particular mountain at various times of day, however, to discover what produces the best results.
This brings me on to my next point, which is to be prepared to experiment to get it just right. In the day of digital, this is something that you can do with ease. Rewind a few years and this was a much more difficult task – you would have to purchase film; take the pictures, not knowing whether or not you had got the shot you wanted; get the film developed and look at each one with baited breath – only to find that some dust had found its way on to the lens, rendering them all useless. Nowadays you can take literally hundreds of pictures, and you can usually see them instantly on your screen. Whilst this does not give an accurate representation of what the picture will look like blown up and printed, it at least gives you some idea of whether or not your shot is working.
One of the most important things about photographing mountains is to somehow capture that sense of perspective. The way that mountain peaks loom over you is more than just an image, it gives you a feeling. Being able to recreate this in a two-dimensional image is one of the trickiest parts. One thing that can help is where you take the photograph from. For example, if you take a picture looking straight on at a mountain, this is unlikely to bring out its drama, but if you take it from the foot looking up to the peak, or from one peak looking down a valley and across to another peak, this is preferable. Again – experimentation is key.
Before you go out to your mountain, it is also a good idea to take a look at how other photographers have captured mountains. This is because this will give you inspiration as to how to take the photograph yourself, and ideas about where to stand to get your shot, what to look out for, what time of day you want to shoot your mountain at, etc.
Above all, practice makes perfect, and once you have tried a few times, and you understand what works for you, this will allow you to progress to the next level.