Shooting Mountains

We had a tremendous amount of rain this past week here in SoCal. The good news is that the mountains got ALOT of snow from all the water. Where I live, there is a bluff that overlooks most of the valley and has the San Gabriel Mountains in the background. It’s a popular place to shoot the snow capped mountains after rains like this week.

When you shoot something that far away, you can get all kinds of atmospheric issues. You get haze, color shifts, shake and sometimes, a heat “haze” effect. So to do this long distance shoot well, you need to shoot in the early AM when things are calm and cool. A tripod can help but my personal experience says to me that IF you are shooting with a VR or IS (some kind of vibration/shake reduction) technology, your tripod can actually add to the problems.

Point and shoots are really overwhelmed by this type of shot but still can pull off nice pictures within reason. I would highly recommend a DSLR of some kind and a reasonable length telephoto like a 200mm. In my case below, I was shooting with a 70-200mm VR Nikon lens by hand. One of the critical items to address is to shoot at a very low ISO to keep the noise down and fine detail up. I was shooting at ISO 200 and a high F stop of F10 for max sharpness. I also kept the shutter speed up to 1/500 which along with the VR technology gives me very sharp images even by hand.

At this point lets decide on what you plan to do with the images. If this is just a click and leave, then you need to be aperture priority and let the camera work out the rest with the ISO set by hand. But, if you want to do a pano where you stitch several images together, you need to be in full manual. The reason is that if left to it’s own devices, the camera will change the settings for each picture. This can plan havoc when trying to blend the stitched images, not impossible but harder than it needs to be. In full manual, you get exactly the same exposure and tones each time you press the shutter. Much easier to blend all together when you get home.

I also turn on the view finder grids so I keep the horizon in the proper place while swinging the camera around for each image. Dont forget that you can shoot both landscape or vertical when stitching. The pano multiplies the overall pixel resolution count so you can pick up a wealth of detail by shooting zoomed in and multiple pictures to build out a normal sized image after you crop it down.

Once you have the pictures, you will probably find them somewhat flat and blueish which comes from shooting RAW ( you are shooting RAW for this, never JPEG) and that when shooting to a mountain against the blue sky, everything seems to pick up the slight blue tint. Time for post in your favorite editor.

I tend to run a highpass filter to sharpen up the image and do a basic levels adjustment to get to a more neutral point in my colors. Then I decide if I want to amplify certain tones or go for a certain look.

The first image is right out of the camera with only the basic camera correction adjustments applied since I was shooting RAW.

The second image is after my post processing

The final image is here, adjusted and cropped to the final look

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This entry was posted in editing, editing software, lenses, photography, technique and tagged , , , , , .

One Comment

  1. Crystal January 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    This is absolutely amazing!

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