GHT Blog

Picture Perfect Nepal – A beginner’s guide to mountain photography

April 26, 2016

Most people meet Nepal for the first time through someone else’s stunning mountain photography. Many are those who have wandered the Great Himalaya Trails in search for the perfect shot to capture the essence of this fascinatingly diverse country, be it through the impossibly high peaks, the spiritual mountain culture or the unending natural beauty. Those gorgeous images you see don’t come easily. Unpredictable weather patterns, harsh climates and the sheer effort it takes to just get to the location you want to shoot are some of the challenges awaiting the aspiring mountain photographer in Nepal.

Someone who knows quite a bit about the trials of mountain photography is Bhaktapur native Mohan Duwal, a web-designer and developer by trade but photographer by design.
When he’s not taking photos of his favorite subject; his cuter than cute daughter, Mohan heads out on the Great Himalaya Trails to capture one of his favorite scenes. Nature. And Nepal, as you know, has its fair share of it. (Check out Mohan’s Instagram feed and online photo gallary).

To get you prepped for your photographic journey of Nepal, Mohan has served us his top 5 handy tips on shooting in the Himalayas.

1. Location, location, location

mountain photography nepalNepal is a special place on this earth and everything around us is a masterpiece waiting to be captured through our lens – from lifestyle to nature, culture and people, landscape and wildlife and much, much more. Personally I like to shoot in the mountains and especially along the circuit treks like Annapurna Circuit and Manaslu Circuit. The trails start around 300m and reach up to 5400m which gives fantastic theme variety. You’ll get a chance to see different types of flora and fauna, waterfalls, beautiful mountains and meet with many different cultures along the way.

2. Carry light gear

Choosing the right gear is an important factor. Remember you’ll be trekking for many hours a day to get that perfect shot so you don’t want to be weighed down by unnecessary equipment. Try to avoid unwanted heavy gear and make sure you carry light accessories like 3-4 batteries, ND filter/Polarizing filter and a light tripod. I go for a 16-35mm lens for wide angle shots, 55mm prime lens for portraits and a 55-300mm lens for close range landscapes. At the moment I have a Sony A7r (full frame) camera and a cheap, lightweight tripod.

3. Chase storms not blue skies

mountain photographyIn the Himalayas a scene can change dramatically at any given moment due to the weather. Therefore, picking the right time to shoot is crucial. Many beginners think a sunny day is the best time to head out with the camera – but an overcast day with the looming threat of rain may present you with a better opportunity to create a moody image with ominous overtones. Look for storms, wind, mist, dramatic cloud formations, sun shining through dark skies, rainbows, sunsets and sunrises and work with these variations in the weather rather than just waiting for the next sunny blue sky day.

4. Composition is key

mountain photography nepalGood composition is key for taking good photographs, yet it’s something very difficult to define. While shooting in the mountains, or any other landscape really, always spend time looking for a good foreground element and maintain focus from foreground to background. Work to get the sharpest possible image. You have to go very wide to capture the entire scene and look for small vignettes within the larger scene to find new perspective as well. So both wide and close-up lenses are important.

5. Keep yourself motivated

mountain photography nepalShooting in the Himalayas is challenging, both physically and mentally. You need to be physically fit, alert and patient. If you’re not used to the altitude you may feel lethargic and may opt to stay in the lodge to rest rather than go out to explore your surroundings. Altitude sickness is also something to factor in if you’re headed into the high mountain region so be aware of how you’re feeling and know how to pre-empt altitude sickness before it takes hold. These are things I had to battle with in the early days when I started with mountain photography but soon learned to control, which is important, especially if you are shooting on assignment and may not have the luxury of rest days.
Furthermore, the weather is fickle in the mountains and patience is important, especially when waiting for the perfect conditions for the shoot or mood you want to capture. Stay positive, have fun and be flexible if the perfect setting isn’t presenting itself.

mountain photography mohan duwal

Photographer Mohan Duwal in front of the camera for a change.

For some inspiration check out the #MyGHT photo feed with images from all over the Great Himalaya Trails shared by professional photographers and enthusiastic amateurs alike. All with the same goal of showing off picture perfect Nepal. Go on, get out there. 

(All images in this article are taken by Mohan Duwal. From top: Landscape shot on the Manaslu Circuit / Early morning view of Mt Nilgiri shot from Jomsom in Mustang / Riding on the edge in Upper Mustang / Beautiful smiles from local girl in Syangboche, Khumjung)

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