The sun beams light through the turquoise colored sky, casting sparkles throughout the snow-covered landscape. As you gaze at the elevation afoot, your peripherals are filled with the richness of green pines. The only sound present is the occasional skier descending down the mountain. The swooshing rhythm of snow-to-ski friction is like music to your ears. Beyond that, you are surrounded by a comforting silence, as if you are not alone at all. When a gust of brisk air reaches the space, the warmth of the sun keeps your fingertips comfortable long enough to reach into your pocket and snap a few pictures. The moment is too special to let it pass without documentation. You want to freeze it in time as a memory to look back on, reminding you of how the mountains make you feel.
Does this sound at all familiar? Skiing alone, or with friends, moved by the beauty that surrounds you. Or maybe your buddy just landed a trick he’s been practicing all season, and you want to videotape his achievement. Whatever the case, it’s no secret that the mountain brings joy, sparks excitement and feeds a passion many of us share. And if you’re anything like me, you love taking pictures and videos no matter where you are. But to get the most out of the finished products, there are a few things to keep in mind before you click that camera button. After all, there is no worse feeling than getting home to find out that all of your pictures are blown out with exposure, not entirely focused and completely opposite of what you had hoped. Take these tips with you on your next ski trip, and leave with the memories of a hundred stunning pictures.
Adjust White Balance
When you’re out in the mountains, the expansive vision of snow seems to dominant your perspective. It’ll fill your image/video with white, so you’ll want to make sure that it will actually turn out white after you snap a picture or record a video. Snow can sometimes look grey or blue, so remember to adjust your camera’s white balance setting to snow before you do anything else. But if your camera doesn’t have that feature, don’t fret… You can manually adjust your camera’s settings as well. Dial up your exposure to make the snow appear as white as it actually is. But be careful not to turn it up too much, as this could drown out other aspects of the image.
A great image will include an object in the foreground, or the part of view that is closest to the photographer. The purpose is twofold; you will create significance and contrast. When you are photographing an epic mountain range directly across from you, the organic lines of the mountain peaks first grab your attention. But to make those edges more apparent and dimensional, catching a skier in the foreground of the image will show perspective of how magnificent those mountains really are. The sense of scale created with this tip will take your images from ordinary, to great. And the same goes for video. Try taping a skier at an angle with the mountain range behind him/her. The perspective will elevate the shot and tell a story of where you are.
Rule of Thirds
Generally, you’ll want to follow some order to how you photograph your landscape. The rule of thirds states that you should break an image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The theory states that the human eye gravitates to the intersection points and that the image should be laid out along the lines or intersection points for the most attractive result. So for a relevant example, you should position your horizon in the top third horizontal section of your frame, keep your background in the middle third and your subject in the bottom third. Following a rough guideline of this rule will improve your photographs naturally and keep you ahead of the game. Most cameras have a feature that will digitally show lines on your screen to help you get in the flow of this quickly.
If possible, try taking your photographs and videos around the golden hour for the best results. The golden hour describes the first hour of light after sunrise and the last hour of light before sunset. It’s also known as the “magic hour” for reasons that are obvious once you experiment with this time frame. Following this rule will mitigate any potential lighting mistakes and help create a beautiful mood in the image, especially as an amateur photographer. Plus, sun flares and warm-colored hues will enhance your images, adding more interest and pigments. If you can’t get out at either of these times, try investing in a UV filter for your camera/iPhone. Shooting midday can create unwanted shadows and over-exposed images. UV filters work to block UV light and remove blue casts from images on a sunny day.
Be Careful of Shadows
Unnatural shadows in your image can be disappointing to come home to, especially after anticipating the best photographs of your life. To catch the landscape in all its glory, the sun must be behind your back, lighting the mountains in front of you. But the sun can unfortunately create weird shadows of the pine trees and skiers in view. At the right angle, sometimes this can look cool. But more likely than not, you can expect to see a plethora of goofy looking grey streaks, strewn across your image. If you prefer not to spend hours painstakingly removing shadows from your images after a long day of skiing, try switching positions to a place with less shadows. Depending on the angle of the sun, there will be a sweet spot for a clear, shadow less image.
At the end of the day, you shouldn’t be stressing about the outcome of your photographs and videos. The most important tip is that you have fun, enjoy your surroundings and capture things that stand out to you, not anyone else.
Voilà! Your intro course to mountain photography has commenced and you are now ready to produce images and videos that slay. Try these tips next time on the mountain and compare your new work to your previous work. With time and practice, you too can master mountain photography.