Plan Ahead and Anticipate the Lighting
Planning ahead is always important, regardless of whether you are shooting mountains or some other type of landscape. There are two reasons that I think planning is especially important for mountain photography:
1) You may need to do a lot of hiking and expending a lot of energy (and taking time) to get from one place to another. Planning ahead can help you to be in the right spot at the right time without wandering around spending a lot of time and energy trying to find the shot that you want. Tools like Google Earth can be helpful for planning and scouting.
2) Lighting can be very challenging in the mountains. Peaks can block the sun and valleys can be in deep shadow, so planning ahead can help to anticipate the conditions and the lighting. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a helpful tool for planning based on lighting, and of course, watching the weather forecast is important as well.
2.Understand that Golden Hour Could Be Very Short, or Non-Existent
Typically with landscape photography the best time is right around sunrise and sunset. But in the mountains you may find that, depending on your location, the peaks could block the sun and shorten, or even eliminate, the golden hour. This won’t be the case in every situation, but be aware that waiting for the golden hour may leave you without the shot that you were after.
3. Include Foreground Interest in Your Composition
Foreground interest is an import part of composition for landscape and nature photography, and perhaps it is never more evident than in photos of mountain peaks. If the peak or peaks are the focal point of the shot you don’t want the foreground to dominate the composition, but you do want to have some interest that will pull viewers in. In some cases you can use a foreground element with leading lines that will direct the viewer’s eye to the mountain peak.
4. Change Your Perspective
Mountainous areas obviously include a great deal of variety in topography, and changing your perspective even just a little bit can have a dramatic effect on the end result. Rather than limiting yourself to one spot, try hiking or some light climbing to get to a different elevation that will give you an alternative perspective of the same scene. In many cases the most interesting and unique photos will come from different perspectives. This is especially true when you are shooting at a popular location that has already been photographed countless times before.
5. Include People for Scale
With most landscape photos you are probably trying to eliminate people from your composition in any way possible. However, sometimes it can be a good idea to include a person, or a group of people, in your shots to help give a perspective on the scale of the landscape. You certainly don’t need to do this with every shot, but look for the right opportunities.Mountains and bodies of water go very well together. Lakes, waterfalls, and streams can all be perfect elements to include in your compositions.
6. Bracket Your Shots
Because the lighting and shadows can be quite tricky in the mountains, bracketing your photos can be a good practice. This means that you would take multiple shots of the same scene (usually with your camera on a tripod) exposing one shot for the lightest part of the scene, like the sky, and exposing another shot for the darkest area in the scene, like the shadows of the valley. The exposures can then be blended manually in Photoshop, or you can use them to create an HDR image in Lightroom, Photomatix, or some other HDR software. Sometimes two different exposures is enough, and in other cases where there is a greater variance from light to dark you may want to take 3, 5, or 7 shots.