Mountain Top Photography Tips

Mountain Top Photography:  15 tips to get nice pictures.

Landscape photography has many form of expression.  When you are at more than 10,000 feet in altitude, things are different though.  At these higher altitude, the landscape is definitely different and as a photographer nothing really look the same.  Here are my best 15 best mountain top photography tips.

This picture is from Haleakala on Maui.  The top of Haleakala is at 10,023 feet above sea level.  This volcano is in “normal” phase by the USGS Volcano Warning Scheme for the United States.  A Normal status is use for volcanoes in a non-eruptive phase.  No eruption occurred since 500 years.   All Hawaiian Islands are the results of volcanic activities.

This picture is of the middle of the depression, aka caldera, of Haleakala.  We can see in the middle of the depression multiple small volcanic cones.  This depression is 2 miles width and walls reached up to 2,600 feet.  Every morning a few dozen early bird photographer get on top before sunrise.  Usually we look down at the cloud which is peculiar to say the least.

27102014-4O9C2823Here are my top Mountain Top Photography Tips:26102014-4O9C2766

  • At 10,000 feet, the atmosphere is thinner.  Any form of exercise is more demanding.  Even though it is exciting to be there, you should consider taking your time and move slowly;
  • Temperature is lower.  At sunrise, air temperature could be in the freezing range.  Bring extra layers of clothes;
  • Batteries drain fast at a lower temperature than at normal room temperature.  Bring extra batteries and keep them warm inside your jacket.  When your battery is dead swap it with a warmer one;
  • You want to take the sunrise or sunset at Haleakala?  Get there early to take the best spot;
  • Clean your lenses and filters before heading there.  It is stunning how our fingers are less effective at freezing temperature;
  • Choose your shooting location wisely.  Will another photographer stand in the way later on?  Open your camera bag and let your camera and lens acclimate to the lower temperature;
  • Make sure you have a microfiber cloth with you should your lenses become foggy.  The colder/drier air of the mountain top is not a problem.  However bringing back your camera bag in the car might create some issues;
  • Bring a tripod and make sure, before heading up, that it is clean and working properly.  You are likely to take picture at lower shutter speed and a tripod is a necessity;
  • Consider bringing a Neutral Density Gradual Filter.  The light intensity of the sky and surrounding ground areas will demand it.  A slower shutter speed combined with clouds that are moving fast means that HDR photography is a challenge.
  • A Neutral Density Filter for long exposure photography could create dramatic pictures with moving clouds in the scene;
  • Light is changing very fast, shoot multiple pictures while the light is changing and get the progression from blue hour to golden hour;
  • Get out of Auto White Balance.  Choose a Cloudy White balance for warmer tone in your picture.
  • Do not forget to look behind you!  At some point in time, just before the sun rise, the sky behind you will take on great colors and the dynamic range is less extreme.
  • Since the air is thinner, a Polarizer is less important than at ground level. However, it can create really deep blue sky.  Avoid the polarizer with wide angle lenses when shooting in landscape mode.  The effect of the polarizer varies a lot and the resulting picture will look strange.
  • Consider a longer lens to get the sun big in the picture, in preparation for that shot use a tool like the Photographer Ephemeris to figure out where the sun will rise or set and where to position yourself to have other interesting elements in the shot.

Consult these 7 additional tips on Landscape Photography in the Mountains.

Milky way while on Mauna Kea on Big Island

27102014-4O9C2814Sunrise at Haleakala is really magical.  Haleakala means House of the Sun and it would be the home of the Grandmother of Maui which was a demigod.

Tell me about your own experiences shooting picture on mountain top.  Did I forget something I should add to these Mountain Top Photography tips?  Your input is more than welcome.