Sadly, there is no linear relation between the effort to get a photo and the quality of it. However, if there was, mountain landscape photography would be of the highest quality. In this article, I will share five tips to upping your photography quality in the mountains.
In my latest video, I hike up a mountain in the Lofoten archipelago in Norway. The hike itself is not long, but the height gain is rough, as you go from sea level to 543 meters. Along the way to the top, I share a bunch of thoughts on how I approach my photos.
The landscape photography community seems to be divided on whether or not to use human objects in their photos. Some people like their photos to be completely clean of human presence, while others use it in all their photos. Personally, I am a little in-between. I like to place and use human objects in my photos to either display scale or create a sense of adventure. By using a human, the viewer has something relatable in the photo. In that way, there is a chance, the viewer feels more attached to the photo, gets a better idea of the scale of the location, and maybe gets that adventurous feeling. It does not have to be a human, but could also be a house, given there is a house in the specific scene you are photographing.
Unless you travel with someone else, you will need a way to press the shutter. It can be done with remote control, but many remotes disconnect after only a few meters. I like to use an intervalometer. You can get them as a wire-trigger or you can use the built-in intervalometer, which many newer cameras have. I use the Sony a7R III, and after a firmware update, I now have an intervalometer in my camera. It is one of my favorite tools in my camera. Just put in the necessary settings and walk into the scene. You might end up with several photos, but in this day and age, you can just delete the ones you do not need.
Zoom In or Zoom Out?
When it comes to framing your photos, it is typical to use a wide-angle lens in landscape photography. Generally, the wide-angle look is terrible at conveying the scale of the location. Therefore, I have become very fond of using longer focal lengths. By using longer focal lengths, I can exclude a lot I do not need in the scene and get a more focused and simple composition. In the below example, you can see how I cut off the top of the mountains. By not including the sky, the photo becomes simpler, yet more powerful.
Use the Light
As in all other photography, it is important to use the light to your advantage when photographing in the mountains. Photographing in broad daylight rarely yields anything positive. Go for the times of day when the sun is lower towards the horizon. As you can see in the above photo, it does not have to be in the golden hour, but having myself and the grass backlit with sunbeams coming in from the upper right corner adds a lot to the photo. Also, be aware of how the mountains in the background stand out. You can either have the mountain lit,partlially lit to draw the eye towards it, or have it silhouetted against a bright background. In the example below, I have the rocks in the foreground lit from the side, creating a visual flow into the scene and me standing on the outcrop.
In both examples above, the sun creates a rim light on my right side, separating me from the background. I cannot stress how important that is. In the daylight example, I wear black clothing on a simple bright background (the water), which makes me stand out a lot in the landscape. In the above example, the background water is more or less the same tone as my jacket. Here, it is up to the rim light to make that separation from the background. In this case, I could have worn a brighter or different color jacket. Look for a plain, simple background, rim lighting, or use contrasty clothing to make yourself stand out. Separation is also important between the mountains in your photo. By having this separation, the different elements stand out, but it also helps emphasize the depth of the photo, as you can see in the first photo of the article and the example below.
Check out the video above to see more pictures from the hike. Do you have more tips to improve your mountain landscape photography? Let me hear down in the comments.