Succeeding When Everything Sucks in Landscape Photography

You got up early in the morning, you hiked up a steep mountain to photograph a sunrise vista, you are exhausted, and then, you can’t see anything, as there is just tight fog instead of a vista. Is there a way to succeed if there were some more and even bigger problems?

I don’t only mean this hypothetically, by the way. In my latest video on YouTube, I showed you a landscape photography adventure here in the Austrian Alps, where I experienced something like that in real. And that there was just fog instead of a vista wasn’t even my biggest problem. I never thought that I could struggle on so many different points on just one photo day. But finally, I succeeded and got some photographs I’m really happy about. What happened and how did I succeed in the end?

An Exhausted Start

Due to a knee injury, I wasn’t able to hike all too much in 2021. I did just little walks, and in autumn, I tried my first steeper walks. My last real hike was around one year ago. I’m so grateful that I’m able to hike again, at least from point of view of my knee. But the fact is I’m currently totally out of shape. I will fix that in summer, but it nearly broke me on this day. Having a heavy backpack on my shoulders was something I calculated, but then, the problem happened.

Are Snowshoes Just for Softies?

I prepared everything I needed for my expedition the evening before, including my snowshoes. They are very important here in the Alps in winter. There is no way to walk around without snowshoes in deeper snow. You would sink in with each step, and you would be exhausted and finished after just a few minutes of walking around. I own quite good snowshoes that are lightweight and can even easily be fixed onto my backpack. But the best snowshoes are worthless when you forget to load them into your car after you have prepared them at home. You guessed it already: I forgot them.

The first part up the mountain was okay, as there was no snow. I knew already that there would be snow in higher layers, but I had two options: giving up and driving home, maybe having a coffee and dreaming about landscape photography, or I could hike up anyway and try my best. As I’m more a landscape photographer than a coffee drinker, I decided on the latter.

The first part without snow was easy to walk, but then there came the snow, and the combination of forgotten snowshoes and being out of training is extra bad if you have a heavy backpack on your shoulders with a Sony a7R IV and heavy G Master lenses. I had a heavy discussion with my inner temptation, but finally, I conquered it.

When You Think It Can’t Get Worse

On my way up, I realized that the ground fog went up higher than I thought and the chances of having a clear view down to the valley weren't good. But I planned to be up around an hour before sunrise, which would give me plenty of time to think about composition on the one hand, but on the other hand, I also hoped that this would be enough time that the fog resolved or at least pushed down due to the high pressure I saw on the weather maps.

Each step up, there was a fight, but finally, I did it. But you know: whenever you think it can’t get worse, life can surprise you.

Guess what I also forgot: no, it was not my camera, which I was grateful for. It was my tripod. I planned to photograph a sunrise vista. Due to a lot of trees in the foreground, I saw a high chance for needing focus stacking, and I didn’t have a tripod with me. A photographer's nightmare came true.

Was It Still Possible to Succeed?

You are always able to take any capture. You just need to point anywhere and focus. You will get an okay shot, you could even post it on your social networks. But is a masterpiece possible, a fine art photograph, you would like to print and hang up on your wall? There is no guarantee, but it is not impossible, as you can see in my video. The only thing you can do in such a precarious situation is to not give up.

I found some compositions, but without a tripod, it was really difficult to fine-tune them, to expose at the right time with the sunlight, and to manage the depth of field, as focus stacking was simply not possible. But difficult and impossible are still two things. In this particular case, it was maybe even an advantage that I’d forgotten my tripod. 

To see the whole adventure, watch the above-linked video, where you will also find lots of tips about landscape photography. And feel free to leave a comment below on what was the most difficult situation you have ever experienced in your photography.

Christian Irmler's picture

Christian Irmler is a passioned landscape photographer from Austria who comes from a line of artists.
He engages already his whole life with the compositions of the paintings of his family. In 1990 he began with photography and started to implement all his knowledge from painting into his photography.

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