Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mountain Photography - hints and help!

from stu in the USA office
March 2, 1011

In the coming months our members will be heading head off on climbs and treks to Cho Oyu, Broad Peak, K2, Spantik, Satopanth, Ama Dablam, Aconcagua and more. When they come home they'll all enjoy sharing images with other members of the trips, with family & friends. For some it may even be more serious with quality photos needed for slide shows, talks, sponsors, fundraisers and magazines.

It can be a real challenge to even have a functioning camera when it is -20°C.  You have it accessible and be able to manipulate the tiny knobs and dials with your thick gloves - all the while on steep terrain!  Keeping the camera accessible with battery power and a clean lens takes often all you can muster in difficult conditions and a great deal of planning, practice and forethought is required to just reach this stage.

C2 on Spantik © chris szymiec
 Given the bewildering array of options available on the market today it begins with a lot of questions for most of us. What camera, what lens (or lenses!) and what filters? Where and how to carry it? Given that you can even turn your favorite digital camera on and take a photo, what more do you need to know to get the best images possible? What aperture, shutter speed, ISO, lens and white balance? How do these things affect the depth of field, sharpness and exposure of my image? How to frame, focus and pan? Flash, fill flash or no flash? Raw or JPG or both? Moons, stars and night time exposures? When you get home...then what? Sizing, resolution, sharpening, stitching panoramas, high dynamic range image processing and more to consider!

To understand and master the process of getting and showing great images requires practice and research and will continue to do so with the ever changing marketplace of technology. Fortunately the gear today is great and with a little effort you can get yourself on the path to taking great photos that you'll be proud to share when you get home!
Ama Dablam C2 © stu remensnyder

Where to begin? To help you out we have some great articles and links for you to look over...enjoy.

FTA AlumniOne of our Ama Dablam '05 alumni Brad Jackson has been taking ripping good pics from the mountains for quite a few years and claims as one of his favorite articles on taking great pics in the harsh conditions of the cold, high or cold & high mountains to be an article by Alexandre Buisse. Here is the link to a very extensive tutorial!

Another of Brad's favorite sites focuses on the technical aspects of the camera and is very easy to understand. It is by Jon Griffiths and can be found at:

Brad also like 10 tips for better photos from Jake Norton at:

Brad has a series of his own excellent set recommendations and general reflections at:

Veronika Bartova has been on quite a few trips with Field Touring and has great images of Satopanth, Tharpu Chuli,  Spantik, Snow Lake Trek and Cho Oyu and we can't wait to see her pictures of the upcoming Khumbu Peaks and High Passes in October (spaces still available!). Here are the links to the image galleries from her 5 times with FTA!
Satopanth 2009
Tharpu Chuli 2008
Cho Oyu 2007
Spantik 2006
Snowlake 2005
Veronika has a really nice eye for composition and making the viewer be transported into her images

Many of our alumni have outstanding images from trips and if there is a particular trip you are interested in please contact us at and we'll pass you on to some of the best!

FTA's Resident Expert
FTA founder Dave Hancock has been taking images for more than 2 decades in the mountains and on adventure. He offers his own high valuable tips at the following link on the FTA site. In the series he walks you though some of the basics of exposure, night photography and more.  We'll be adding to his series so come back often!

Be sure to click to see the full image and the stunning stars and fire trails
in "Bonfire in the Outback" by dave hancock. High ISO for this one!

Its not about your camera
For a truly exhaustive resource on gear, techniques and more have a look at Ken Rockwell's site

He has an article called "Its Not About Your Camera" which is a great read and a reminder that we can take great pics or bad pics with nearly any type of gear.

camera in a plastic baggie keeps the lens snow free!

FTA Gallery
We have a select set of images from trips and treks on our site and more coming all the time. If you are an FTA alum and have pics you think would be nice additions let us know!

I have tossed a few in below for some ideas and fodder for conversation!

To get "Ribas Hut on Cotopaxi" Brad Boehringer
had to get out of the warm hut and suffer a bit!

Long exposures can really sap the battery power but they yield often such unexpected results!

having your camera ready for the right moment is key!

A momento of Merv's summit rappel on Ama Dablam  - nothing wrong with asking people to pose!
Climbing to C2 on Ama Dablam with a few thousand feet of air below
high f-stop to get the sun star... i could have gone a few more even!

a little punch in saturation can have a tremendous impact

If you have a great image, article or link lets us know!

Enjoy all of the articles and happy photo hunting!