There are a number of difficulties that complicate high altitude photography. In no particular order they include:
- Working in a hostile environment: cold, tired and at altitude when one’s mental faculties may be dulled.
- Very bright light that may make it difficult to view the back screen to check your image; and those using a compact may find it hard to see or frame an image on the back screen (note for those who ski or are interested in photography at altitude: buy a compact with a viewfinder).
- Managing extreme contrast.
- Wind, dust, snow singly or in combination are not camera or sensor friendly.
- Manipulating a camera while wearing gloves is tricky. Best option is a thin liner glove and an outer that can be removed.
- Striking the right balance between having an accessible camera, but also keeping it safe can be an impossible task
- Judging exposure and getting colour temperature right considering all the above is difficult.
Finally if you are in a group, or with a guide, with an objective to reach you will not be popular if you insist on stopping every few minutes and slowly and methodically lining up a shot. You will not be tolerated for long!
The problem I struggle with most is colour temperature, or perhaps I should rephrase that and refer specifically to the blue (almost pale mauve) toning of dark shadows within snow scenes. Correcting that without affecting the sky can be tricky. There are of course ways around this that I employ using layers, masks and selections, and those techniques will be familiar to most of you reading this, but sometimes the image still does not look quite right or natural. The easy option is to desaturate. I’m happy to do that because Black and White is a medium that copes well with high contrast, which I love, and is often highly appropriate for Mountain-Scapes. The image in B&W often has a timeless quality to it.
So here today is an image from the summit of the Dom, a Swiss mountain that has featured in three previous posts: click here to see the first of the three and navigate from there if interested. Above is the colour version that I am not entirely happy with, and below the B&W version.
Please click on the image to see a higher quality enlargement.
This is the view down onto the glacier above the village of Saas Fee where there is year-round skiing. As is so often typical of mornings in the Valais Alps close to the Italian border, fluffy cumulus clouds were starting to appear in the distance over Italy and they always add interest to the sky.
This is the ultimate bird’s eye view at about 9am on a perfect morning. The mountain mid-ground on the right side is the Allalinhorn. Click here to see images from an ascent of that mountain in July this year.