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Photographing Majestic Mountains

Sunny snow-capped mountains are refreshingly beautiful, but due to atmospheric haze, it can be a real challenge to photograph them or any kind of mountains without washing them out especially if the foreground is darker. I almost always use a split neutral density filter (with 2 stops) with the dark half over the mountains and sky to get help balance the light exposure. I did not use the filter for the faded top photo, but it is clear that I used it for the shot below because the mountains and clouds are well defined.

no polarizer - faded mts - park county, colorado

polarizer used - craggs trail looking west

I set the aperture to f/18 or higher if I want to include an object in the foreground, such as tree branches, to get them and the mountains in focus. If I don't want to include anything in the immediate foreground, I'll set the aperture somewhere around f/11 or f/13 to get the land in front of the mountains in focus also. I generally keep the speed below 1/100 second to get richer color.

maroon bells changing light

maroon bells changing light

It can be fun working with a partly cloudy sky while photographing mountains, because the constantly changing lighting brings out different slopes and features. When we hiked to Maroon Bells, the clouds were moving rapidly and I was able to get eight photos of the same area within about ten minutes that look quite different from each other. If you take many photos while the light is changing, you will have a good variety of shots to choose from.

rocky mtn national park mountain range

I prefer having clouds serve as added interest in the sky. Storm clouds are particularly appealing and can be swept into interesting forms as they pass over mountain ranges.

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