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Simple Tips to Improve Your Travel Photography – Photographing Mountains, Hills and Valleys

Mountain_Eiger_KavDadfar

There really aren’t many scenes that can match the sheer awe of a snowcapped mountain in a landscape image; but capturing an image that might do the scene justice isn’t always straightforward.

Here are some simple tips to help you next time you are looking to photograph mountains, hills and valleys in your travel photography:

Be Patient

Photography can be incredibly frustrating at times, especially when the weather goes against you; and very rarely will you get to a location and have everything in place to make a great photo. Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for the right moment when the clouds disperse or the fog lifts. The weather in the mountains, and even hills, can change incredibly quickly so make sure you are aware of weather forecasts before you set off and always tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back.

Valleys_Wales_KavDadfar

It was 9.30pm and after I had waited almost an hour, the sun finally broke through the clouds.

Lighting is Key

In landscape photography, often just the lighting can make all the difference between a good shot and a great shot. Early morning and late afternoon light gives the scene a wonderful golden glow and emphasizes shadows. Think about which direction the light is coming from and be prepared to come back another time to the same location to catch the best light.

Light_Mountains_KavDadfar

The late afternoon light illuminates the Eiger beautifully.

Think About the Foreground

Just because you are photographing a mountain in the distance doesn’t mean you can forget about the foreground; good landscape images usually also contain something interesting close to the camera. So next time you are photographing into the distance, have a think about how you could incorporate a tree, a stream, some people or animals, or even some rocks to give your image more depth and also a sense of scale.

Scotland_KavDadfar

An interesting foreground can make your photo look more appealing and also guide the viewer’s eyes into the distance.

Place Your Horizon Carefully

Your horizon is one of the most important parts of the photo. Think about the rule of thirds and avoid putting your horizon in the middle. If the scene has an interesting foreground or an uninteresting sky (i.e. white clouds) place your horizon high. Alternatively, if you have interesting cloud formations or light you could place your horizon lower to show more of the sky.

Horizon_Mountains_KavDadfar

If the sky isn’t interesting place place your horizon higher.

Think Vertical

Naturally most landscape shots are taken in landscape format (horizontal); however don’t be afraid to experiment photographing in portrait (vertical). This works especially well if you want to isolate a narrower view of the scene and lead the viewer into the distance. But remember, your foreground is possibly even more vital as you might be showing more of it.

Mountains_Switzerland_KavDadfar

The ski lines in the snow and the two very small people add a bit of interest to the foreground.

Adapt to the Weather

Stormy skies, rain, mist and even fog can all contribute to making a photo look even more dramatic. So if you find yourself not getting sunshine and blue skies, don’t despair; instead think of how you could adapt the image to match the mood in the scene. Don’t forget to be patient; you never know, a beautiful blue sky could only be a few minutes away.

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The clouds help to frame the top of the mountain in this photo.

There are few images that wow an audience like a beautiful mountainous landscape, but it takes skill, hard work, and perseverance to capture unique and beautiful shots of mountainous areas. Just remember to be patient, follow the tips above, and you’ll be on your way. Please remember – always stay safe!

Now it’s your turn. Share your photos, thoughts and tips below.

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Kav Dadfar
Kav Dadfar

is a professional travel photographer, writer and photo tour leader based in the UK. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images and Robert Harding World Imagery and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and many others. Kav is also the co-founder of That Wild Idea, a company specializing in photography workshops and tours both in the UK and around the world. Find out more at That Wild Idea.