Digital Photography Basics for Hiking

Leading LinesI can remember this great hike on Mount Charleston in Nevada.  We had been hiking since sunrise and it was getting around 10 or 11 in the morning.  We came up over a rise and there was this beautiful expanse. There were mountains off in the distance, a valley below us and all under a deep blue cloudless sky.  I had to get my camera out and capture this moment.

After I got back home, I couldn’t wait to look at all the fantastic pictures that I had taken, especially the magnificent landscape.  Well, I looked at all of my pictures and I couldn’t find that great shot.  I finally figured out that the picture I had taken was there, it was just not what I had expected to see.  I wish that I had someone give me some digital photography basics before I went on that hike.  Has this happened to you?

Since that time, I have taken a few photography courses and my photography has improved greatly.  Here are 5 easy to learn digital photography basics to help you.

  1. The Rule of Thirds: This is easier than it sounds.  Look through the view finder of your camera and divide the frame into 9 even squares.  (If you draw lines, it should look like a tic-tac-toe board)  Then place the horizon of your landscape onto one of the horizontal lines.  Basically there should be either 2/3rds sky or 2/3rds land in the shot.  Most people (and I include myself in this) Center the subject in the frame.  To create a better picture, “off center” it by moving it up or down in the viewfinder.  Believe or not, this simple act will create a better shot.
  2. Are You Leading Me On? This is probably one of the easiest digital photography basics to learn. If you are hiking on a trail and it is out in front of you in a straight line, you can use that to your advantage.  You can center the trail in the frame and have it go off into the distance.  This is called a leading line.  When someone looks at your picture, it forces the viewer’s eye to follow the trail through the frame.
  3. Let Me Reflect on That: Reflections are a great way to add another dimension to your photographs.  If you are hiking around a lake and there are mountains in the background, look at the reflection in the lake and see if you can get the entire reflection in the picture with the mountains.  This can add a depth to the picture.Reflection
  4. The Golden Hours: Many photographers talk about “the golden hours”.  These are the times around dusk and dawn when the light is more yellow.  It creates almost a magical drape over the landscape.  The shadows can be long, but that creates more character in the photograph.  In the middle of the day, the light can be very harsh and the contrast between shadows and sunlight can be very stark.
  5. Use a Tripod: Okay, I know all of you are saying “weight!”  Yes, I know that tripods can be add to your load.  So, maybe find a nice flat rock and rest your camera on it.  There are some shots that you will need to steady your camera.  Another idea might be to bring a small tripod, like 10” tall and you can place it against a tree or rest it on the ground or a rock.  That should help with the weight issue.
  6. Bonus Digital Photography Basics: I know I said 5, but here are 2 more for free

  7. Frame it up: If you are looking out over a landscape and you are at the tree line, use that to your advantage.  Use the tree limbs to frame the picture of the scenery beyond.  This will help create depth to the picture.  You have a foreground and a background.
  8. Change Your Point of View: If the picture looks bland by taking it head on, get up on a rock and take the picture looking down.  You can get on the ground and take the picture from the trail.   Frame the PictureYou can even just rotate the camera slightly.  By just changing your point of view, can change the entire feel and look of your photograph.

Well, those are the easiest digital photography basics that I could think of.  They don’t require any special skills, or a special camera.   I promise you that if you practice these, your pictures will improve tremendously.

Want to know how to take spectacular landscape photos? Here is a guide to help you on your way:

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