In 2006, a buddy and I planned a hiking trip to Montana’s Glacier National Park. The first day on the trail I bent over to pick up something and my Sony point-and-shoot digital camera fell out of my rain-shell pocket bounced on a rock and fell to the ground. The lens mechanism jammed and the camera was a loss. That Sony was my first digital camera, and at the time, an expensive purchase. We drove into Kalispell that evening to replace it – I wasn’t going to go the rest of the trip without a camera. That was when I knew I was hooked on landscape photography. The next year I went to Africa and upgraded to a Nikon DSLR. Continuing my fascination with Landscape Photography, and animals and airplanes and people…OK, I may have a problem.
Trying to capture that perfect shot is always a challenge. I’ve been fortunate to hike and explore in many amazing places, but not every trip rewarded me with a great shot. Over the years I have watched my photographs improve, partly due to better equipment and partly due to learning from past mistakes. I thought I would share a few lessons I have learned.
The first is to protect your equipment. Have a good strap on your camera and use it – don’t drop your camera on a rock. Have a backpack or other bag to transport your camera and lenses. I use a regular Osprey Stratos 36 – amazing pack, but another post – on the trail to carry my hiking supplies and camera equipment. I typically carry one camera body and one or two lenses. When you take your camera out, take your pack off, the same when stowing it.
The second tip is to take a moment and survey the scenery with your eyes. It is easy to get tunnel vision looking through a view finder. I came home from a trip a few years ago and was looking through my buddy’s pictures – he had an amazing view of Yosemite Valley that I had missed because I had not taken a moment to survey the entire view. The second part of this is to put the camera away and enjoy the beauty before you sometimes.
The third tip is to take advantage of sunset and sunrises. They truly are the golden hours when it comes to landscape photography. The photo of Kintla Lake was about an hour before sunset. The mosquitoes were trying to eat us alive, but the photographs were worth it!
The last tip is about camera settings. First, shoot wide, you can always crop the photo down later, but you can’t add back what you missed. I will often shoot a series across the horizon and then pick the best when I edit. Use the highest f/stop you can for the situation as you want maximum depth of field. I carry a small 6″ tripod when hiking – it is light and transports easily, but often I will use a rock or log if I don’t want to get out the tripod.
We hike and explore the outdoors to enjoy, not solely to take photographs. Enjoy the journey, explore, take your time. My favorite images are often from unexpected locations.