Mountains radiate a very special atmosphere: Towering high above the landscape, often barren and unreal, they invite us hikers to linger on them and enjoy the panorama and the vastness. At least briefly: even at the height of summer, it often gets sensitively cold in the mountains, and a cutting wind almost always blows as well.
Hiking offers a great opportunity to pack the big camera or even just the slightly smaller equipment and take impressive mountain photos. But unlike “normal” landscape photography, less (e.g. equipment) is often more here (e.g. remaining fitness for the descent). In this post, you’ll learn what to take to the mountain and what might be better left at home – and how to get the most out of mountain photography.
The photography packing list for the mountain: little, but the right stuff
Let’s face it: quite often beyond 1,000 meters of ascent, hardly anyone wants to run with a 10kg medium format camera and five lenses. If you want to use a DSLR, limit yourself to one or two lenses in the wide-angle range: this is the best way to capture the wide panoramas. If possible, splash water protection or protective filters are also useful in the often harsh conditions on the mountain.
Tripod: yes or no? For mountain photography during the day, you don’t really need one, since most of the time you’re hiking in the light. But if you’re planning an overnight stay and want to take mountain photos with a glittering starry sky or motifs at sunrise or in the blue hour? Then you can’t really do without a tripod – the lighter, the better.
A small side note: If you have a smartphone with a good camera, that’s a legitimate choice for mountain photography, by the way – even as a pro. After all, every gram you have to lug around counts, and with the rapid developments in “computational” photography, high-contrast situations often look amazingly good and realistic in a digitally calculated HDR photo. So you can confidently leave the “big” camera in the shelter. Or just pack a smaller (e.g. mirrorless) camera.
Finally, we would like to encourage you to pack not only for beautiful pictures, but also for your safety. Bad weather often catches you on the mountain, and sometimes the supposedly “golden” hour is just gray, rainy and stormy. Remember to keep yourself hydrated and fed and, if you’re hiking alone, let someone know where you are beforehand.
In search of motifs: from the detail on the path to the great mountain panorama
The breathtaking panorama high on the summit is also just one part of mountain photography. Albeit a particularly uplifting one! Nevertheless, we would like to urge you not to lose sight of the path on your way there. After all, mountains are waiting with special, often autochthonous flora and fauna – from mountain flowers to alpine salamanders or chamois.
All this is worth capturing in colorful photos – perhaps also under the question: How does the landscape change from the starting point to the summit? Take photos of the path, of small details (check out our tips for macro photography), and if your fellow hikers are willing to be photographed, then of them as well. After all, you can always sort them out – whereas you certainly won’t repeat the sweaty climb for a missed photo.