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Share your Photography Tips

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Share your Photography Tips

Postby ianamclennan » Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:34 pm

For a lot of people, photography is an integral part of climbing. It's how we look back on our trips years later and how we share our passion with friends and family. Yet so often when I'm looking at photos with friends I hear them say things like "The picture really doesn't do it justice." or "It looked way bigger in real life." I've learned a lot of things over the years that have helped me improve the quality of my pictures. I thought I would share a couple of my own tricks but I would really like to hear other peoples' tips for great pictures in the mountains. Here's a couple tricks I use:

1. Don't cut peoples' legs off. Sometimes photos of people from the waist up in front of beautiful scenery can look like corny vacation photos, or worse, photoshopped. If you photograph people head to toe in their environment you can see their point of contact with the earth. It makes photos look less vacation and more documentary.
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2. Rule of Thirds. It's an oldie but a goodie. Usually we're a little too into the mountains and forget about the sky. Most often a composition with 95% mountains and a little sky won't be balanced. If you put the horizon roughly a third of the way down the frame you'll get a much more pleasing composition.
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That's what works for me. Please share your tips for great mountain photos.

Also, if you dig my photos you can see some more at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ianamclennan/sets/72157631545949975/
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby Josh Lewis » Sat Mar 16, 2013 2:56 am

Mount Whitney at Night taken with a 60 second shutter speed.

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Use a timer before taking any long shutter speed photos. For night shots if you don't have a tripod, make one. I use my camera case, rocks, railings, or whatever objects that both stabilize the camera and position it as good as possible. ISO is good for increasing light, but don't increase it too much if you are using a moderate to low quality camera. I've never owned a high quality camera so I've never been able to set it high with good results.

Assassin Spire during Winter from Mount Baker.

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In art class I learned a few things about perspective and how important it is when capturing an image. I don't use it to make my photos unrealistic. In real life my eyes catch the crispy glow of winters splendor in contrasting lights. So I do my best to capture what angle my eyes and imagination see in full details.

Ultra Contrast on Eldorado Peak from Hidden Lake Peaks.

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A big part of photography is timing. Chasing after the conditions when you know the mountain looks best. Personally I believe that mountains look best just before a storm when the dark clouds cast a dreary sky but create a beautiful glow on the mountains face. For others some might watch out for the sunset for just the right moment when the snow is glowing hot pink with red all around on the horizons edge.

Hiking Above the Clouds on Mount Rainier.

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While your objective for being out in the mountains may be to be in nature, get away from the crowds, or see lofty landscapes you still have the people factor. People like to imagine themselves being in a particular setting. What better way than to capture them in the right distance where the landscape around them sticks out and shows them in scale of the reality.
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby radson » Sat Mar 16, 2013 4:29 am

I think the biggest camera tip is to have your camera accessible i.e dont have it on your backpack.

Also im now a huge fan of the $1 lens cap with elastic cord thingy that fits around the barrel of your lens. Never will have another bloody dropped lens cap.
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby ianamclennan » Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:11 am

I think it was Chase Jarvis who said "The best camera is the one you have with you." It's not always easy in the mountains but there are a lot of creative solutions like the DSLR chest harness.
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby Josh Lewis » Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:11 am

ianamclennan wrote:I think it was Chase Jarvis who said "The best camera is the one you have with you."


While that is certainly a good attitude, not all cameras work great. I've once borrowed a camera that was so terrible that it didn't matter who was taking the picture... it would always turn out horrible! (blurry, over saturated, bad contrast)
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby lcarreau » Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:34 am

Josh Lewis wrote:"... it would always turn out horrible! ... over saturated ..."


I've learned NOT to be so HARD on yourself if you DO take a bad picture. There's always "Photoshop" when you get home, you can BEEF UP the photo a
little bit but (hopefully) not too much, otherwise it might become over-saturated like the JOSH man says ... or you can return to the mountains and take
more pictures.

Of course, there are some folks who NEVER return from the mountains, and gotta wonder if these folks have all their eggs placed in the same basket.

Anyways, (hopefully) there will always be a NEXT TIME to improve upon the photos that you took the LAST TIME ... kinda like the Rolling Stones ditty from 1965 ...


Last edited by lcarreau on Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby Mountain Bandit » Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:35 am

Amen to the accessible camera tips. Although from time to time I've been heard to curse at my camera pack hanging off my chest on a technical climb or just on a hard slog during a mountain approach, I reckon I have taken probably half of my best photos at oportunistic moments.........

Following on.....

Sunrise/sunset: Wherever you are camped, go the the effort to poke you head out of the tent at sunset and sunrise. Some of my best shots I have ever taken have been at these time - often scenery looks the most amazing then.
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Look back: Yes it is always exciting looking ahead at what you have not yet seen but don't forget to look back once in a while - there is nothing like a good pic showing where you have been (especially if there if fresh overnight snow!!).
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Silhouette: Although these pictures often don't show much, it is often the simple outline of climbers/hikers against often unknown terrain (it is often too dark to see in the photo) that can look amazing.
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Clouds: Clouds can often ruin a good view and photo opportunity but sometimes the prescence of clouds add to an excellent photograph. Photos on rare moments when clouds partially clear can often be hard to capture so have you camera handy!!
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Resting: Action shots are always good to see but don't forget to take shots of people resting. An image capturing the body language of someone's sore body after a 14+ hour climb can often better encapsulate the touphness of a climb than in action shots (I'm still pushing for Red Bull Sponsorship......)
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby Mark Doiron » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:13 pm

Wait for the light. This image of High Dune and the Crestones came after a 30 minute wait in very boring lighting ...
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This one after about a 15 minute wait ...
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This one after four previous trips to the Grand Canyon, all without any clouds to decorate the sky and shade the canyon ...
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Dramatic shots have texture, so plan your shooting around it. If you don't know what that means, learn ...
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Consider unusual angles for the shot. Try something different (here's the only shot most people would have taken ... http://www.summitpost.org/blue-light-co ... 5/c-226112) ...
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Simplicity sometimes is best*. That's Venus and Jupiter in the sky ...
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*LOL: Not for getting attention on SP, however, where a simple image like the one above appears as just a black thumbnail and is rarely clicked on.

Keep your eyes open for dramatic lighting effects, and shoot them when they occur. Light can change very rapidly, so get the shot first, then maybe get a better shot with more control second.
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For the inevitable hero shot, include the surrounding terrain in the image. Don't put the "heroes" up high and just show sky behind them. Better to have the photographer up high, and the subjects slightly lower ...
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby Alpinist » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:49 pm

I can't tell you how many times I tried to frame a picture perfectly only to discover later that I was zoomed in too far. It's better to zoom out a little than risk clipping your target. You can always crop the photo later.
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby Alpinist » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:10 pm

Some of the best flower shots are taken with a macro lens and shallow depth of field. Gives it a nice pop!

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As compared with a much less interesting shot taken without a macro lens...

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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby Buz Groshong » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:37 pm

radson wrote:I think the biggest camera tip is to have your camera accessible i.e dont have it on your backpack.


The corollary to that is "get a camera that you can keep accessible." DSLRs might take great pictures, but they are difficult to keep accessible. Get a high end point and shoot with some zoom capability and possibly weather resistance. You can keep it accessible all of the time and save the DSLR for the times when it can more easily and safely be kept accessible.
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby radson » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:16 am

Buz, depends on your definition of difficult and the priority one takes on photography but there are plenty of devices now that can keep your dSLR accessibile while climbing. Cotton Carrier and Clik come to mind.
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby Buz Groshong » Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:36 pm

radson wrote:Buz, depends on your definition of difficult and the priority one takes on photography but there are plenty of devices now that can keep your dSLR accessibile while climbing. Cotton Carrier and Clik come to mind.


I have to agree with you about the "priority" angle. I also don't doubt that there are devices that can make a DSLR more accessible, but it can still be a bit cumbersome and can interfere with climbing (especially depending on one's climbing ability - or lack thereof). There are also many very good photographs taken with point and shoot cameras - those photographs are especially better than the photographs not taken.
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby rgg » Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:30 pm

While I sometimes would like to have a DSLR, I only have a compact camera, because I really want to keep down the weight of what I have to carry in the mountains. In what seems like a distant past now, I had a heavy camera and a lot of additional gear, but since I went digital I've only got a lightweight one.

I'm about to buy another one, my fourth. I'm always looking for a bit more than just point and shoot: sometimes I want more control, for example with sunset/sunrise or with macro photography. So, I fiddle around with ISO settings, underexposure, auto focusing with spot measurement versus other methods and so on.

Before the digital age I did some of that too, but only much later would I get to see where I failed. Now I see it right away, and can try to take a better picture. Before, my sunset pictures never came out right, but now I learned how to do it properly: underexpose massively!
I also found out that you can underexpose by pointing the camera at the lightest point in the sky, press the shutter half way down so the camera measures how much light there is, then point the camera to what you really want to take a picture of and press further. The drawback is that this only works when the lightest point and whatever you want to photograph are both far away, and the lightest point must be lighter than the image as a whole to get underexposure. If that's not the case, you have to figure out how to set the camera underexposure itself.
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Re: Share your Photography Tips

Postby radson » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:36 am

Absolutely Buz. Each to their own and a good photographer will take great pics with a P&S or a hulking dSLR and yes totally agree with anything better than nothingI just like my ol' Nikon dSLRS. They seem to work flawlessly in cold temps, big buttons, lower noise and love getting some bokeh using a fast lens.

It's all a trade-off and I personally just accept the weight. I have lighter boots, packs, clothes and several kilos of myself when climbing so a heavier camera is acceptable in my view. Freely admit it can look very ungainly :pImage
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