Add characters to the scene to make the photos more exciting

The Simple Guide to Photographing Big Mountains, Part 5 is now available.

A Basic Guide to Photographing Big Mountains, Part 1
The Right Light in Part 2
Part 3: Writing Advice

  1. Star Pictures
    Adding People to the Scene in Part 5

Taking pictures of individuals in a mountainous setting might be a fantastic way to wrap off your journey or tale. People help the spectator feel a connection to the scene by giving the mountains scale. A stunning mountain landscape may be improved upon by including humans in the picture. Here are some suggestions for include people in landscape shots.

Chilean Patagonia, Cerro Castillo National Reserve, and Peón Glacier
24-105mm Canon 5d Mark II lens, 1/500 sec., f/14, ISO 50

The first thing I usually look for when shooting people in a landscape are backdrops. Since a strong backdrop helps a person stand out in the environment, the background is nearly more significant than the individuals themselves. If your backdrop is not properly chosen, the figure will get obscured by the patterns and textures there.

I often seek for three different backgrounds: smooth surfaces, lights against darks, and lights against darks. I attempt to place the model against a dark backdrop when the subject I am shooting is in the sun. If I want to take a silhouette photo of someone who is in the shadow, I will position the subject in front of a bright backdrop. Smooth surfaces like snow, sand, lakes, seas, clouds, etc. provide excellent backdrops.

I had my companion take a picture atop a rock in front of these craggy peaks when we were on a climbing expedition in Chile. He was in the shade to his right when I first set up the photo. Then I observed that the shadows thrown by the peaks formed a beautiful arch. I was able to carefully position my model in the ideal patch of light so that he would stand out in the composition since I knew he would fit in there.

Chilean Patagonia, the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, and climbing
24-105mm Canon 5d Mark II lens, 1/125 sec., f/14, ISO 100

Body Alignment
Body posture is one of the most crucial factors in taking beautiful pictures of people. Correcting your model’s body posture outside is a very delicate technique, but it may significantly improve the final shot. I usually want to see a modest distance between the torso and arms and between the model’s legs when she is standing stationary. Make sure you can still see at least a portion of your model’s face while having them turn their head toward the action or topic (mountains, light, etc.). The secret to posing models is to capture such details without making them seem staged. Everybody in your shot should seem and move organically.

I took a high-altitude shot of my pal on Lobuche East while climbing in the Himalaya. His body posture is the result of three factors. His face is entirely visible and has a pleasant look, first. He is also staring across the frame, where I left a lot of room; if he were looking to the right side of the frame, the picture would seem quite crowded. Second, his arms and legs are somewhat apart from one another. The gap between his left foot and right knee is crucial to the overall posture of his body, as is the modest space close to his right arm, which displays separation. The body posture would not have been as obvious if these objects had been in close proximity to one another. The dynamic movement of the bodily posture is the third component. He is clearly in the midst of a step, especially given the area around his foot. This provides the impression that he is ascending rather than just standing there to the spectator.

Himalayan climber Lobuche East, Nepal
24-105mm Canon 5d Mark III lens, 1/800 sec., f/10, ISO 400

The distinction between persons in your images who are silhouetted and those who are not should be taken into account. There are many response distinctions in addition to the apparent aesthetic differences. Take a look at the first image of the two hikers in front of Crestone Needle in Colorado. This publishable image depicts two individuals trekking in Colorado and conveys a tale. View the second image of the two hikers in front of Ama Dablam in Nepal. It is also a publishable image that tells a comparable tale.

The spectator gets the impression that they are watching these women’s mountain experience in the first picture, which is where the distinction lies. Although it is a pleasant moment, the spectator eventually gets the impression that they are watching someone else’s trip. The anonymous characters in the second image adopt a more utopian appearance. The spectator may imagine themselves in the shoes of the hikers. Even if they have never visited these specific mountains, viewers may still relate to the sensations and sentiments that come with trekking in a beautiful location.

The people might be silhouetted to give the spectator a closer connection to the picture. Contrary to popular belief, it’s still vital to take pictures of people in both natural and artificial light. Just be mindful of the numerous ways in which viewers may relate to your photos.

Sangre de Cristos, Colorado’s Crestone Needlehikers
17-40mm Canon 5d Mark III lens, 1/640 sec., f/13, ISO 400

Sensation of Size
Scale is one of the finest justifications for include humans in your mountain photography. If you’re anything like me, you’ve definitely captured a stunning mountain picture and afterwards had to tell someone, “I swear, it was much bigger in person.” Giving the spectator a sense of scale by including a human in the landscape, even a little one, may be quite effective. The spectator will be able to judge the size of the mountains more accurately since they will have something to measure the peaks against. Take a look at the images below. Each one has little figurines that assist illustrate the majesty of the mountains behind them. You can see how much more potent these visuals are when humans are there by imagining them without the figures.

Himalaya, Nepal, and Ama Dablam
70-200mm Canon 5D Mark III Lens, 1/250 sec. at f/16, ISO 640

Chilean Patagonia, Cerro Castillo National Reserve, and Patagonia Climber
24-105mm Canon 5d Mark II lens, 1/320 sec. @ f/16, ISO 250

Argentine Patagonia, Cerro Torre, Los Glaciers National Park
1/25th at f/14 ISO 100 Canon 5d Mark II 70-200mm Lens

A excellent method to capture “people” in the mountains is by using tents. Anyone who has ever backpacked may identify with the sight of a lit tent with rocky peaks in the background. People will relate emotionally with photographs of tents for the same reasons I did with silhouettes previously. If the tents were taken out of the shots below, you would still have beautiful pictures of the mountains. People may experience the feelings of camping among gorgeous peaks by using the tents. The blue hour, when there is still enough light for the scenery but it is enough dark to make your tent shine, is the greatest time to take pictures of tents. Have a buddy sit in the tent with a flashlight to create the lighting look. Have them move it all about, being sure not to remain in one spot for too long. This will illuminate the tent evenly throughout. Use a warm-colored tent, if one is available, to contrast the night’s blue light and enhance your photos. Evening out the light takes a little skill, but the effects are stunning.

Cholaste Camp, Nepal’s Himalayas
30-second exposure at f/13, ISO 400, Canon 5d Mark III 24-105mm lens

Bottom line: By including a human in a stunning mountainous setting, you add that additional aspect that truly elevates your picture. I almost had an allergy to having people in my images when I first started taking photos. I always made an effort to remove persons from my pictures. I worked hard to include people in my images as I developed as a photographer and learned the importance of people in pictures. People will be able to relate to your photographs more readily, which will increase their value to periodicals and business customers.

There are many different methods to take amazing pictures, and I’m not suggesting that every great picture has to include a human. However, have the possibility in the back of your mind, and if the chance presents itself, try including a person in the picture to see how it affects the mood of your picture. Both of these Yosemite National Park images would look great without any humans in them. With the addition of the humans, these images take on a new dimension and provide a memorable picture that depicts an adventure and the interplay between man and environment.

California’s Yosemite National Park has the Half Dome Diving Board.
1/15th at f/16, ISO 50, Canon 5d Mark II 17-40mm Lens

Final Reflections
The mountains are a unique setting. The experience is waiting for you, whether you’re in the high Himalayan peaks, the granite spires of Patagonia, the vibrant Rocky Mountains, or the mountains in your own neighborhood. The mountains serve as both a place for us photographers to develop and hone our profession and a home away from home. Be careful, have fun, and savor these beautiful locations!

Visit Grant Ordelheide’s website, Facebook, and Instagram to see more of his photography.

Northern Italy’s Dolomites and Sorapiss Fall
1/60 sec. @ f/14, ISO 100, Canon 50d 17-40mm