You want to know how you can get that extra little bit out of your pictures while you are out on an adventure with your friends? I have some tips for you that will help you take better pictures. If you prefer to watch the tips on YouTube, feel free to head over to my channel and watch the tips that I have recorded.
1.) Use great light – embrace sunrise and sunset or Shoot bad weather
What separates a good picture from a great one? More often than not this different is great light. Light makes the difference between a dull looking image and something special.
In the mountains we most of the time only use the natural light that is available. The best light is usually during the first and last hours of daylight. So make sure you are ready to shoot when sunrise and sunset happen. Get up early. Make sure you know where you want to go. Take your headlight and get to the place while it is still dark. And then earn your reward when the first rays of sunlight illuminate the world around you and the low standing source of light paints the landscape with colorful light and dark shadows. And the same light can be found at the end of the day. So make sure you stay late – and do not forget your headlamp to get back safely when the night comes.
What I do like personally about sunrise is the solitude. Sunsets are usually observed by more people. But when you have to get up early, you are often the only one enjoying those special moments in the mountains.
2.) Embrace bad weather
Besides great light, there is something else: Bad weather. Aren’t we all guilty of leaving our camera packed away, once the weather conditions seem not to be perfect? But while doing this, we miss great opportunities. Maybe wide landscape shots do not work during fog. But have you tried to take pictures of details? While the bad sight might cover a lot of distracting stuff in the background, some aspects might be emphasized.
And as people tend to stay at home during bad weather, mountains during fog, rain, and snowfall might be not as familiar as shots of perfect weather conditions. Give it a try. You might be surprised to which results it can lead.
And when the clouds are towering high about the mountains just before a thunderstorm rolls in, this gives unique moments to shoot. But always know where to hide once lighting strikes around you. You really want to be high up in the mountains without appropriate shelter once the thunderstorm moves in.
3.) Get people in your shots
Wide and untouched landscapes are fantastic. Who does not like shots without a single person in the frame. Suggesting to the viewer that the picture was taken in the solitude of the mountains. But have you ever considered to spice up those images with a well-placed person? This can serve multiple purposes.
It does give some scale to the viewer. Especially in mountain landscapes, a human can transport that perception of how small you feel when you are out there on your adventures. And if the people your are photographing wear a colorful outfit, they can spice up your shots by quite a bit. We all know the effect of those yellow jacket models in the dark and moody landscape of celebrated Instagram photographers. Maybe they overdo it from time to time. But a bright blue, red or yellow spot can really enhance the grey and white landscape of the mountains.
If a person is in the shot that is not clearly identifiable – maybe because he or she is too small or turned away from the photographer – the viewer can imagine he would be right there. Give your viewer the opportunity to go on a journey to the places you have been.
And when we look into the face of a person we can see the emotion, focus, dedication, tiredness – in short: faces tell stories as we are trained to read them.
And of course, people can show off the skill of the sport they perform for great action shots. But be aware that grey or black clothes are often difficult to photograph, as they blend in with the surroundings. Encourage the people you are on an adventure with, to wear colorful outfits.
4.) Get wide – and get close – tell a story
Vary your perspective. Mix impressive landscape with details and portraits to tell a story of your trip. Maybe some of those shots are on their own not as impressive – but put together as a series, they tell the story of your adventure. Getting up early, putting on your hiking boots, packing your backpack, starting into a beautiful sunrise. Capture a shot of the mountain hut or your tent you are staying overnight. And make sure to get it up close on one shot and embedded in the surroundings in another one. And of course, take those perfect landscape shots in between if you can. The more content you got, the easier it is to tell the story of your adventure.
I see myself not only as a person that is chasing the perfect shot – that was the case when I focused on photographing animals and plants – I want to be a storyteller. I want to deliver pictures that show the adventure we had. Capturing epic scenery, people, emotions, gear and interactions in appealing pictures – success and failure – that’s what great stories are made of.
Make sure to get pictures of everyone who is involved. Not always just one or two people, if in reality, you were a larger group. And the people in a shot are more often than not the first who really love the shot. So this is a shortcut to get other people to appreciate your work. And who does not like that?
5.) Have your camera ready at all time
The best pictures are often showing those fleeting moments. You do not see them coming, and they are gone moments later. If you have to get the camera out of your backpack first, you will miss lots of those moments. There are two main reasons why I try to avoid carrying my camera stuffed away in my backpack.
The first reason is merely to battle our urge to do the convenient thing. If you first have to put the backpack down, find the camera, pull it out and make it ready to shoot, you will always consider whether it is worth this effort. And in a lot of situations you will answer this question with no – and not take the picture. But when you do have it ready to shoot, you capture all those little moments and find some fantastic shots among them.
The second reason is to save time. When you are on tour with a group, you will be left behind, when you need to much time with your pictures. Or you will just miss that special moment.
So what can you do to have your camera ready at all times? I see two possibilities:
The first one is a belt pouch. The bag holds and protects the camera while you are on your way. When it comes to capturing a picture, you just pull the camera out of the belt pouch, and you are ready to shoot. The advantage of this approach is that it applies to every kind of device that is capable of taking pictures. No matter whether it is your smartphone, a point-and-shoot camera or an expensive DSLR.
The second one is my personal favorite. Carry the camera right at the shoulder strap of your backpack. How to do this? Use the Peak Design Capture Pro (or a similar piece of gear). This gadget consists of two parts: A base that is attached to the backpack strap and an Arca Swiss compatible quick release plate, that is connected to the camera. The quick release plate slides into the base and is locked there. When you want to pull it out, you just press a little red button on the base, you release it, and you are ready to shoot. This approach requires your camera to have a thread to attach the screw of the quick release plate.
6.) Don’t get on the nerves of your buddies
Nothing is more annoying than having a photographer in a group that is always lagging behind and forces the group to wait for him or her. I personally like to tell the people I am on tour with to not wait for me. When I take a picture, I do it as quickly as possible and then put in the energy to catch up with the others. Or I put in the effort up front and try to get ahead of the others.
Of course, this requires you to be in good shape and willing to push your limits. But you will take the better pictures when your peers are not fed up with you. Once they know you deliver great photos after the tour for them to use, they might be even willing to help you create exactly the shot you have in your mind – also if this means some slowing down or taking a detour – and they will undoubtedly look a lot happier.
So these are my 6 tips on how to improve your adventure photography. Do you have any suggestions to add? Then place them in the comments below. I am looking forward to what are your secrets to getting better pictures.