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Photograph by Jon Griffith

Take Better Photos in the Mountains – Part 1

Like many “pros” out there, I’m a self-taught photographer—after all photography itself is not that complicated. Over the years I’ve become a lot more efficient at capturing the outdoors, but my style has never changed. Everyone has their own style, and that’s not something that should be force fed. But underneath every personal taste there are always going to be universal “laws” and tricks that photographers use to make great images. Some may seem basic, and others a bit alien but hopefully there is something in here for everyone because at the end of the day these are just tips to shoot what I want to shoot, and you have to adapt them to your vision and your adventure.

Rule of Thirds

This is possibly the least exciting thing to start with, but it is also the most important. The Rule of Thirds dictates that you should try and break up your images into rough thirds—did you ever take a landscape photo with the horizon at mid height (a natural thing to do) only to get home and think it was lacking? Well the Rule of Thirds says that the sky should have only taken up a third of the photo, the background the middle third, and the foreground the lower third. Nowadays digital cameras can help you out a bit and you can select to always see a “thirds grid view”on your view finder—try it it will make all the difference. It will also help you keep that horizon straight.

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The Rule of Nine often helps to keep lines of interest in your image—try and balance the opposite part of the image with something interesting as well. In this case the sun in the top left and while the climber is in the bottom right. Photograph by Jon Griffith

As you’ll see in the examples here, it’s important not to be too rigid about it—I’ve purposely included images that don’t follow the exact Rule of Thirds just to show that it’s good to allow yourself a bit of artistic license.

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An almost perfect Rule of Thirds: The lower third shows the subject and foreground, the middle third takes in the mountain backdrop, and the upper third takes in the sky; Photograph by Jon Griffith


I’m a stickler for keeping images pin sharp and for that you need to find the sweet spot of your lens. Every lens is going to be different but a simple Google search will tell you what aperture you should be shooting at to get the sharpest images. Don’t get too caught up in this though- the differences are minor. Just try and avoid shooting at either end of the aperture range and you’ll be fine. The image below shows varying F-Stops using a Canon 24-105 F4-22 L lens.

This is part one in our weekly tutorial with climber/photographer Jonathan Griffith on how to take better photos in the mountains. Come back next Tuesday for the next installment.