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05-07-2019, 07:48 AM   #1
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Landscape photos of mountains and valleys from hilltops

Hello landscape photography enthusiasts,

I would like to know what are the best practices for shooting landscape + valley photos from hilltops. I am currently living in Austria next to the Alps, so I took my K-5 with the Pentax-M 28mm f/3.5 out last time I went hiking. When I reached the top, the view was amazing, so I took couple of photos but all of them were badly lacking contrast, were suffering from glow in the entire picture and the overall dynamic range just could not fit. Regardless of post-processing, I was not able to get reallisticaly looking photo out. I am blaming the fact it was around mid-day and it was sunny. I did not have lens hood (which I have now ordered) but even photos away from the sun were just lousy. I tried underexposing in order to gain higher dynamic range in the postprocessing but still the contrast was low, the glow was there and overshoots in both dark and light.

- What are the essentials one has to obey at all times?
- What are your key do's and dont's?
- Is it true that mountains can only be shot in the morning or in the evening?
- Is ND filter a must on a sunny day?
- How do you address (the almost everpresent) haze in these photos?

Thank you for your input!

05-07-2019, 08:29 AM - 3 Likes   #2
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A few tips:
1) wait for better atmospheric conditions -- both high humidity and dust reduce contrast
2) keep the sun well out of the frame and use a good lens hood
3) there's more contrast when the sun is lower in the sky and to the left or right of the camera than when the sun is high, to the front, or behind the camera
4) a polarizing filter can help with haze and increase contrast between land and sky
5) clean lenses and filters help

Note these are all tips, not essentials because there are always some scenes that actually look better with a glowing, hazy, noon-day sun treatment.
05-07-2019, 10:21 AM - 7 Likes   #3
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Depends. Sometimes, haze / mist in the mountains is sought after.


Last edited by biz-engineer; 05-07-2019 at 11:09 PM.
05-07-2019, 10:52 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
A few tips:
1) wait for better atmospheric conditions -- both high humidity and dust reduce contrast
2) keep the sun well out of the frame and use a good lens hood
3) there's more contrast when the sun is lower in the sky and to the left or right of the camera than when the sun is high, to the front, or behind the camera
4) a polarizing filter can help with haze and increase contrast between land and sky
5) clean lenses and filters help

Note these are all tips, not essentials because there are always some scenes that actually look better with a glowing, hazy, noon-day sun treatment.
Bill,
These above cover the majority of "tips" for improving your image quality!

In the absence of a lens hood, you can use your hand or a hat to block sunrays from directly striking the front of the lens - just watch that you don't get those items in the field of view of your image :-) .. Glad to hear that you have ordered a lens hood for your 28mm lens.

Another tip is to look for images that put the sun at your back, find a tree to stand under (as long as you are below the tree-line) to provide shade (a "natural" lens hood). By looking behind you, there is a chance of discovering an image that is as good or better than the iconic one you set out to capture at the beginning of your hike. Walk around and scope out potential photo opportunities.

The best time to shoot Mountain-scapes ... is when you are there! ;-) We can't always choose the time of day when we are shooting from the mountain tops, but if you can, try to avoid mid-day.
If you can't beat it, get creative and use the haze, or sun flare to add some interest to your images. That old Lemon vs Lemonade quote comes to mind.


An ND filter doesn't change the light as a Polarizer does. It does extend the length of your exposure so you can get sweeping soft cloud formations which can add drama to an image.

If you hike with a tripod ... or find a convenient rock nearby - try taking bracketed exposures and then merge them to create an HDR landscape image. This might help to create that dynamic range you are missing.


Last edited by R. Wethereyet; 05-07-2019 at 11:03 AM. Reason: added more thoughts
05-07-2019, 03:14 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by billdotjr Quote
I would like to know what are the best practices for shooting landscape
Its all about light. Most successful landscape photographs have the light traveling across the landscape to best reveal the contours of the land. A studio photographer has the luxury of being able to move his light source relative to the subject--the landscape photographer not so much. Instead, you use camera position and time of day.

I suggest you find some good landscape photographs to analyze. Ask yourself about the position of the light source.
05-08-2019, 12:58 AM   #6
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Thank you all for the tips. Can you please elaborate on the polarizing filter, there are quite few types...
05-08-2019, 04:40 AM   #7
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Bill, can you post some sample pics for diagnosis of your shooting style and equipment?

05-08-2019, 05:49 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by billdotjr Quote
Can you please elaborate on the polarizing filter, there are quite few types...
Really there are two types of which I'm aware: circular and linear
These articles should help -
All about Polarizers - Linear and Circular
How to Use a Polarizing Filter

05-08-2019, 09:29 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by billdotjr Quote
...- How do you address (the almost everpresent) haze in these photos?...
Try to work with the weather. Haze can be caused by humidity, dust, fires, and even trees (they release terpenes into the air). My closest mountains (the Catskills in southern NY) are frequently hazy during the summer so I know that spring and fall are more likely to give clear days. Cool summer mornings tend to be less hazy than hot afternoons. A light breeze can clear away haze/fog.

When the weather doesn't cooperate, learn to work around it. Include foreground elements in your photo composition on hazy days. Pockets of fog in valleys can make an interesting photo from above.

Processing software can reduce a light haze. Lightroom's dehaze slider is a quick but imprecise way to do it. When the dehaze slider can't fully do the job, you can try increasing contrast, increasing saturation, converting to B&W, reducing the black point, etc.
05-08-2019, 01:07 PM   #10
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Heureka!

"So if you are wondering how some photographers manage to get rich colors in their photographs, particularly when it comes to the sky, foliage and distant subjects, you will find that in many cases, they heavily rely on polarizing filters." from How to Use a Polarizing Filter
05-08-2019, 01:11 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by billdotjr Quote
Heureka!

"So if you are wondering how some photographers manage to get rich colors in their photographs, particularly when it comes to the sky, foliage and distant subjects, you will find that in many cases, they heavily rely on polarizing filters." from How to Use a Polarizing Filter

BINGO! :-D ... or should I say "SHA-BANG!!"
05-08-2019, 09:28 PM   #12
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All these folks have made good comments. I like a circ pol filter when I need it. The light is best coming from 45-120 degrees to your position to make shadows, highlight ridges, and add dimension to clouds.

JB
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