Since the beginning of time, humans have been drawn to the mountains. Naturally, if you’re a photographer and have a taste for adventure, the mountains seem like the best place to go shoot. Dramatic landscapes, beautiful colors, and natural majesty of the great outdoors is the perfect recipe for compelling imagery. However, we must prepare properly and to be aware of the dangers in these places because a mistake in the mountains could be fatal. If you take the time to research and know the variables that Mother Nature presents there is no reason your shoot won’t go as planned.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Ninety-nine out of a hundred times the reason why bad things happen on the mountain are incorrect preparation. I can’t stress enough how many times I’ve had to help people on the mountain that didn’t prepare for all the possibilities. Preparation is everything from understanding how your photography gear works with your mountain gear, knowing the expected weather from multiple sources, going over and packing all your gear the night before, preparing your body for a long hard hike on the mountain, and knowing the trail conditions. All these little details are going to be what makes a great photoshoot on the mountain go smoothly.
Choosing Gear Wisely
As photographers, we like to be prepared for all scenarios on a shoot which includes bringing all the extra gear we can manage plus some. This ideology doesn’t work on the mountain unless you’re prepared to lug all that weight on the trail to possibly not use it at all. I’ve adopted a two-lens rule when I’m on the trail, usually a zoom and a light prime this keeps everything easy and minimal so I’m not using all my energy just getting to where I want to go. Along with that I only carry a light tripod with one or two filters (ND and circular polarizer) to round out my kit besides the plethora of extra batteries I carry (thanks Sony). Then to hold it all I use a hiking specific bag to ensure that the weight is distributed properly amongst my shoulder and hips.
Embrace the Suck
Last but not least, you have to embrace the suck of the trail. There have been mornings where I haven’t had any sleep and arrive at the trailhead at 2 a.m. to push hard miles in the dark just to be a specific place for sunrise. There are times where you’ll feel like your legs just can’t go any further and in moments like these you “embrace the suck.” Meaning we all know it hurts and putting miles on the mountain is physically and mentally draining, but in the end, it’s worth every second.
In the end, if you plan and prepare properly you will always find a sense of comfort regardless of the environment. The main goal should always be to get off the mountain breathing and with a great story. Then if all things were in your favor great pictures to go along with that story.