There are few experiences as exhilarating as trekking in a mountainous landscape. A few years ago I did a three week long trek in the Himalayas, walking a circuit of about 300 km. As you can imagine, it was a huge experience, both physically and emotionally.
You would think it would be easy to come back with stunning photographs from a trip like this – but the camera doesn’t know that you’ve trekked for miles in the pre-dawn dark to a viewpoint to photograph a mountain range at sunrise, and it won’t infuse your image with any more emotion than a picture of your high street at home.
As in any type of landscape photography, one of the most important things to consider is the light.
Front light (i.e. light that comes from behind you and falls flat onto the mountain that you’re looking at) will not reveal the three-dimensional shape of the mountain as successfully as side light will.
In this photo of the morning moon above a mountain peak, the combination of front light and a long telephoto lens has made the mountain look almost two-dimensional.
Compare this with the second photo here, where the light is coming from about ten o’clock to my position – somewhere between side light and back light. The texture and shape of the mountains is much more apparent.
Sometimes it’s hard to show the sheer scale of the mountainous landscapes in your photographs. Including some foreground objects such as trees can help with this, and also help to give depth to your image. In this third photo, the small village with its tiny houses and trees help to give an idea of the vastness of the surrounding landscape.
If you don’t mind people in your landscape photos, then a trekker or two can certainly add a sense of scale, as in this fourth photo.
If you’re photographing mountains with a lot of snow, you will probably need to add some exposure using your exposure compensation dial, so that the brightness of the snow doesn’t fool the camera’s meter into underexposure.
A polarising filter can add drama by deepening blue skies, but be careful not to overuse a polariser when you’re at high altitudes, as you may end up with a rather unnatural blue to your sky.
One of my favourite ways to photograph a mountain is to find a viewpoint where you can see it reflected in water – not always possible of course, but fantastic if you can find it! If you’re lucky enough to be there when there is no wind, you can get a mirror-like reflection which doubles the impact of the mountain.