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Where to Begin with Outdoor Photography

A guide by Adrian Trendall

As a photographer and mountain guide, my office is in the outdoors. Based in Glen Brittle at the foot of the Black Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye, I’m spoilt for choice with a wide variety of walking, scrambling, and climbing within walking distance, to say nothing of a beautiful beach and the sea.

Skye is a paradise for photographers, but most concentrate on the top touristy sites. My specialism is outdoor photography in the mountains, a genre that can be divided into mountainscapes and people in the outdoors. Photography in the mountains is physically hard work with a big pack, and ascent is often done in the dark to be in place for sunrise or sunset.

It can be hard work, but the potential rewards are great so how do you go about getting some cracking outdoor photos? Here are a few top tips to get started;

1. Safety

Your personal safety and that of anyone you are with should be paramount. Know the mountain environment, have relevant experience, and operate safely within the parameters of your skills, the weather, and conditions.

Don’t start off having epics in the mountains, begin with low-level photography, graduate to hills and then the mountains to help build your experience and skills.

2. Know Your Kit

This applies to your clothing and photography equipment. The mountains can be a harsh environment, especially in the winter. My favourite kit is the Keela Pinnacle and Solo jackets which provide weatherproofing and insulation.

Don’t get too fixated by camera gear, any modern camera will be capable of great shots. Much more important is the mind and eyes behind it – whatever gear you use, know its strengths and weaknesses.

3. Plan Ahead

Do your research, carry out recces, and keep your eyes open. I keep meticulous diaries of everything I do in the mountains and note down places to revisit and when I think the light might be best.

4. Keep Gear Accessible

It’s no use taking a camera and not having it handy for when that short-lived photo opportunity arises. I’ll often carry my camera in a pouch on my chest to make sure no shots are missed.

5. Stay Flexible

Always be ready to change plans on the fly. Nature doesn’t know you are out to get your award-winning photo, so you must adapt and thrive to deal with the changing weather and conditions.

6. Tripod

A tripod offers the best chance to improve your photography, though it might add weight and bulk to your pack, the advantages more than make up for this.

A tripod allows for slower shutter speeds, using a lower ISO setting, and an aperture which allows for more depth of field all of which add to the potential to take technically better photos.

Another huge advantage is that a tripod slows down your whole photography process, enables you to focus on what matters and carefully compose your composition.

7. Composition

The ‘rule of thirds’ is where you divide your image into three horizontally and vertically and place the main subject matter at the intersection of these lines.

8. Get the Light Right

You can have a fantastic composition, a wonderful subject matter, but if the light is dull and boring then the photo won’t work.

There’s no getting around it, but to get the best photos, you often need to be awake early to ascend to a summit for sunrise. Sunrise and sunsets often offer the best light for photography.

9. Be Lucky

The more time you spend in the outdoors, the luckier you’ll get.

Increased time in the hills means more chance of a lucky break of you being in the right place at the right time and all the stars align.

So, it’s time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and capture your experiences with photographs to match your memories.

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