advice for getting good summit photos

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advice for getting good summit photos

Postby John McCoy » Sun Apr 01, 2012 11:55 am

I have a canon powershot SX30 IS. it is a point and shoot just below a dslr. i was just looking for tips on how to get good summit pics, some of the pics on this site are amazing!! I figure i should use the landscape mode for taking pics but didnt know if there were any other adjustments to use to get the best pics.

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Re: advice for getting good summit photos

Postby Bill Cummings » Sun Apr 01, 2012 12:34 pm

In lieu of lots & lots of recommendations I could make (and that you will no doubt get from others) I'll recommend this (older, pre-digital) book that helped me a lot. Easy to work through, fairly short, mostly just essential info:

Also, be sure to get and read a copy of Galen Rowell's Mountain Light. The pictures are outstanding; the text is invaluable (but sort of advanced):

Not knowing what your expertise level is, the most basic hints I would give are:
-Make sure you hold your camera absolutely still when shooting (everyone knows this; few actually do it).
-Use the highest resolution (largest file size) you can on your camera.
-Use your camera's custom settings to optimize (usually increase) contrast, saturation, & sharpness.
-Use polarizer and ND grad filters liberally in mountain settings.
-Take many (pictures); save few. (Use a high-capacity memory card; view all your images when you get home and then save only the ones that really impress you.)
-The camera is only a tool. The real secret to good photography comes through studying and applying composition, light, and emotion.
Bill "Blind Willie" Cummings

"God loves you just the way you are. But He loves you way too much to let you stay that way." --"Junebug"
"You can't argue with the truth when it comes up and bites you on the buttocks." --Peter Lang

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Re: advice for getting good summit photos

Postby d_baker » Sun Apr 01, 2012 2:20 pm

John McCoy wrote: i was just looking for tips on how to get good summit pics

Get to the summit very early or very late for better lighting.
And as the previous poster mentioned, take a lot of pictures! The more you take, the more you have to choose from for favorites.
Experiment as well, with different kinds of shots (composition).

Good luck with getting your summit shots!

(Note: I'm a point & shooter too, and certainly not a photographer like some on this site.)

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Re: advice for getting good summit photos

Postby Dex » Sun Apr 01, 2012 2:21 pm

Good topic. I think it is very difficult to capture the size of the mountains and the distances traveled.

If you are on top of Missouri and try for a shot back to the 'cabin' area it doesn't convey much.

Often times I've sent what I though was a mediocre photo of the mountains and people like it. I think the photo just doesn't match up to my memory.

The only little advise I can offer is about framing (if you aren't going for a panorama or something grand) - try to get something close by on the right or left side of the frame. That could be a tree trunk, branch, rock outcrop, your ice axe or trekking poles.

If you are taking pictures of people on the top - put them to one side and looking down on them a bit.

The photos of people I like best are when they are not aware you are taking a photo of them.
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Re: advice for getting good summit photos

Postby kimo » Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:17 pm

d_baker wrote:(Note: I'm a point & shooter too, and certainly not a photographer like some on this site.)

Baloney. You are a photographer who just happens to have a point and shoot. Photographer is a state of mind.

To the OP: plan for the light. Most of us plan to be on the summit by late morning when the light is high, harsh, and often washed out. Instead, plan to be on the summit within an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. I like sunset because I feel the light is warmer and tends to linger a while longer before fading away. I'm also lazy and would rather sleep in and then walk out in the dark. But late day summits require good weather.

Here is an image taken yesterday at 5:12 PM looking east. It includes the previous suggestions of a nearby object in the frame on a late-day summit for nice warm lighting.


Also, don't overlook post-processing. The image a camera captures usually needs some pop. I squeeze some dynamic range out of the image by capturing in RAW format and post-processing in my editor of choice. If you believe your images appear flat or washed out, some saturation, brightness, contrast, and fill adjustments using a tool like Photoshop Elements might work for you. And Lightroom 4 has been released at only $150 new, an absolute bargain for a high-quality editor and organizer.

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Re: advice for getting good summit photos

Postby JayMiller » Tue Apr 03, 2012 12:17 pm

One of the biggest mistakes amateur photographers (and this includes me many times) is that they are not taking a picture of anything. You see a beautiful scene and you snap a picture. The problem is that the scene you are seeing is 150 degrees wide by 150 degrees high. The camera then crops the picture and the final outcome is not what you thought you saw. So two suggestions, 1) really look at what is in the view finder or display and 2) make sure you know what you are taking a picture of. For a picture to be effective, it must have a point of interest. Notice in Kimo’s picture, the point of interest is the cairn. It gives the rest of the picture perspective and interest. Bu the way, nice Kimo.
My Philosophy on Life: If you wake up alive and well ... Shut the heck up.

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Re: advice for getting good summit photos

Postby CO Native » Tue Apr 03, 2012 12:49 pm

One hint I was given and like to pass on is to take summit photos of people from a distance and zoom in on them. This helps make the mountains in the background larger.

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Re: advice for getting good summit photos

Postby eastend711 » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:39 pm

I want to emphasize the importance of taking many pictures of the same thing. You can zoom in/out a tiny bit to get different variations, change the focus/depth of field for certain shots, and change your metering. Sometimes I take 10 shots of the same thing, but only 1 ends up being just what I wanted.

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Re: advice for getting good summit photos

Postby vonmackle » Sun Apr 15, 2012 8:08 am

My advice would be to read as much about photography as you can. If you have a decent library near you, check out what they have to offer. Read and re-read your camera manual. You can also check out which has a lot of great info. Also, look at pictures you've taken before and try to figure out what your camera settings and lighting conditions were for both the photos you really liked and the photos that were not-so-premium, and determine what caused these results.
"To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable." -Ludwig van Beethoven


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Re: advice for getting good summit photos

Postby skibum4life » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:36 am

A couple of simple tips and tricks I have picked up (that some have touched on earlier) have definitely made some 'ok' pics into ones that stand out. One thing is to to plan for good lighting. I love sunrise hikes, and lets be honest, it is pretty darn beautiful in any direction, which makes it hard to screw up a photo. For mid-day pics, when the sun is super bright, I try to get the sun behind an object and work with the rays coming out behind it. Have somebody standing on the summit, then walk 40 ft down away from the sun angle, and use the ridge to cast a glow on the person. Also, make sure to have a focus point in the pic. Everyone has seen a thousand summit photos of just miles of valleys and clouds. Simply squat down behind a cairn or rock bunker and point down a rocky ridge and boom you have great depth (like the pic above). Be creative and photos will be awesome

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