An epic journey to Mount Everest with Stephen Alvarez and Lumia

In the latest installment of our assignment to shoot the Natural Wonders of the World with Lumia, National Geographic photographer Stephen Alvarez went to Nepal to capture the majestic beauty and extreme contrasts of Mount Everest, using the Lumia 930 and Lumia 1520.

Following in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest (8748m) 61 years ago, Stephen Alvarez embarked on an epic journey, trekking up to 5600 meters (18 500 feet), in intensely cold and challenging conditions.

During the 14-day high-altitude trek through snowstorms and freezing temperatures, the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 930 proved to be unstoppable, producing some pretty spectacular shots of one of the most dramatic and beautiful landscapes in the world.

I sat down with Stephen Alvarez to talk through some of the images he captured, and to get some photography tips. So sit back and enjoy the magnificent shots, and learn from the pro!

The Everest gallery narrated by Stephen Alvarez

"There is a saying in photography; bad weather can make good pictures. Trouble is you have to get your camera out in horrible conditions. Harsh weather is not a problem for the Lumia smartphones. Snow, ice and cold did not effect them.

However, snow, ice and cold do effect me, so when shooting in these conditions I usually wear a thin pair of wool gloves that let me handle the camera, but still protect my fingers. The Lumias work well when you are wearing gloves. Mine have a special coating for use with smartphones, but also most normal gloves will work with Lumia phones."

Everest Base Camp Trail along the Imja Khola, Easter Region, Nepal. Shot with a Lumia 1520.

Evening sky in Lobuche, Eastern Region, Nepal. Shot with a Lumia 1520.

"Photographs are all about light so you have to shoot when the light looks best. Generally that will be in the early morning around sunrise and right as the sun goes down. So I will go out at those times even if the weather looks cloudy.

You don’t always need sunshine. Sometimes just a little break in the clouds or some color from the setting sun is enough. So don’t get discouraged when the weather isn’t perfect. Also clouds can add lots of mood to a photo. What makes this image for me is that low cloud on the left that helps separate the mountain from the foreground."

"I love landscapes and one of my favorite things to do when shooting a landscape is to put someone in it. A person in your landscape gives a sense of scale, and gives the viewer someone to identify with. Often getting someone into the picture means conning your family and friends into getting up early with you like for this sunrise shot in Khumjung. So travel with willing partners!"

Khumjung, Easter Region, Nepal. Shot with a Lumia 1520.

Khumjung, Easter Region, Nepal. Shot with a Lumia 1520.

"Some scenes are just too big to take in just one shot. To capture a really wide scene like the entire Everest and Lhotse massif, I will sometimes shoot panoramas created from multiple pictures.

In the past I have done it in post-production in front of my computer, but Lumias will make a panorama for you. Just select the Nokia Panorama app from the lenses menu and off you go. It is a lot easier than doing it in post-production and the results can be stunning."

"I played with this scene a lot. The light was great and John Burcham, my assistant for the shoot, was happy to stand up there admiring Lhotse while I worked out an image I liked.

Ultimately I chose this image I shot from a pretty low angle. It emphases the boulder and the similarity of the rock on top with the towering expanse of the peak in the distance. Plus by shooting from Iow angle, I put the person right up against the clouds and snow. I encourage people to try a lot of different angles and see which one gives them the image they want."

Kala Patthar, Nepal. Shot with a Lumia 1520.

Gorakshep, Easter Region, Nepal. Shot with a Lumia 1520.

"Sometimes it takes persistence to make your photography stand out. I'd been up Kala Patthar twice already to shoot a picture of Mount Everest. But I always had been up at the traditional good time to go - in the morning.

The pictures I made were fine, but they didn’t have enough mystery for me. So we climbed Kala Patthar again, but this time in the evening, when the weather is less stable. It was really cold and really harsh but the clouds below made the picture.

I'm not saying that you have to climb an 18,500' mountain three times to make good pictures, but persistence pays off. If you notice something looks good in the morning, you might want to find out what it looks like in the evening. Your pictures could be better then.

Really the most important part of being a photographer is having a good camera in your hand when the picture happens whether that is a sunset on Everest or a special moment with your friends on vacation. If it’s a Lumia in your hand, you know you are using the best."

See more of these magnificent photographers and follow Stephen Alvarez's journey through the Natural Wonders of the World here.

About Stephen Alvarez

Photographer and filmmaker Stephen Alvarez produces global stories about exploration, adventure, and culture. Alvarez has been a National Geographic photographer since 1995. He has published over a dozen stories with the magazine, including the discovery of an ancient Incan mummy in Peru, the deepest cave in the world near the Black Sea, a jungle expedition through Central America’s longest cave, the whitewater world of New Britain’s caves, the stone forest of Madagascar, a sailing expedition with the Polynesian Voyaging Society aboard the Hokule’a, and the world below Paris from the Opera to the sewers. Alvarez has photographed the moai of Easter Island under the Milky Way, and the panoramic capitals of Europe.

His images have won awards in Pictures of the Year International and Communications Arts. His story on the Maya and their religious rituals was exhibited at Visa pour L’Image in Perpignan, France. Alvarez has produced stories with National Public Radio, including a story on underground Paris that won a 2012 White House News Photographers Association award.

Appearances and lectures include NPR, PBS, and CBS Sunday Morning, as well as the Annenberg Space for Photography, the Shakerag Workshops, National Geographic Live, the Atlanta Photojournalism Festival, the Banff Mountain Centre. Alvarez is also a founding member of The Photo Society.

Stephen lives with his family in Sewanee, Tennessee.

About John Burcham

"I want to be challenged, and I'm not afraid of a little manual labor," says Arizona-based photographer John Burcham. In Burcham's photographic niche, he often gets his wish. Whether it is schlepping in the Arctic's subzero temperatures or fleshing out the photographic details in the midst of grinding chainsaws and falling trees, Burcham meshes a photojournalist sense of story with a studio photographer's obsession for detail.

Burcham's photography career started at his college newspaper while he was earning his degree in architecture from Virginia Tech. His passion for adventure sports led him to a successful photographic career in the outdoor industry. Companies such as Patagonia and Mountain Hardware have sent him to the most inhospitable and seldom visited landscapes to capture moments in exploration and adventure.

Many major clients, including National Geographic, the New York Times, Popular Mechanics, the History Channel, and American Airlines have used him for assignment work.

John is based out of Arizona where he lives with his wife, daughter and son.