How to take Stunning Photos of Himalayan Landscape

There are few places as beautiful and magical as the Himalayas, be it the rugged and barren landscape of Ladakh or the lush mountains of Himachal, Uttarakhand and the North-Eastern States.

Hanle, Ladakh

Hanle, Ladakh

Prashar, Himachal Pradesh

Prashar, Himachal Pradesh

There is something in the Himalayas for everyone, including the beach lovers, who have the option of enjoying the salty waves of the cold Himalayan lakes, masquerading as a sea, several thousand feet above sea level!

Pangong Tso Lake, Ladakh

Pangong Tso Lake, Ladakh

Even though there is beauty everywhere you look in the Himalayas, photographing that beauty can be difficult and at times we end up with images which look nothing like what we actually saw and experienced in the hills.

Kumaon, Uttarakhand

Kumaon, Uttarakhand

Having said that, it isn’t all that difficult to photograph the Himalayas in a beautiful manner and show to your friends how it actually looked and felt like, when you were there.

You just have to put a little bit of conscious effort into your photography. And even if you’re taking photographs with a smartphone, you can still come back with stunning photographs, much like this image I shot with my mobile phone in Ladakh.

Along the road to Diskit, Nubra Valley, Ladakh

Along the road to Diskit, Nubra Valley, Ladakh

So here are 5 simple tips to help you make the most out of your trip and help produce some stunning Himalayan landscape images you can be proud of.

The composition makes or breaks the image: That’s right. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a DSLR or a smartphone, getting the composition right is essential. If everything is arranged aesthetically in your photograph, then it will look pleasing to the eye, even if it is a little dull or has plenty of noise.

So work on improving your composition. A simple way to do that is to follow the rule of thirds i.e. think of four lines dividing the image into nine equal parts (like in the image below.)

Generally the landscape i.e. mountains, valleys etc. covers the bottom two-thirds of the image and the sky, covers the top one third or less. In case you want to highlight the sky in case of sunrise, sunset, dramatic clouds etc. then the sky takes up the top two-thirds of the image, while the landscape takes up the bottom one-third.

Sindhu Darshan Point, Ladakh

Sindhu Darshan Point, Ladakh

If you have any interesting foreground subjects in the image, like my friends in the image above, then you place them on or near one or two of the intersecting points and try and place the background subject/interest point eg. sun, clouds or mountain peak on the opposite intersecting point to produce a balanced image.

Even though it sounds fairly complicated. It isn’t. Especially since even in case of mobile phones, you can switch on the grid overlay, which will help you get the composition right.

Apart from this, watch images from other photographers and try and see how they have composed it and compose your images similarly.

The composition is the hardest part of photography, and it is also the thing that makes the most difference. So if you can start putting effort into composing your images right, you will see a dramatic improvement in your photography.

Do photography early in the morning and late in the evening: That’s right, the next essential step to improving your photography is to wake up early in the morning, preferably before sunrise, so that you can not only photograph the sunrise, but also the moments leading up to it, a period referred to as the Blue Hour in photography (twilight time leading to sunrise and time after the sunset, when the sun is below the horizon.)

This is the time when dramatic colours appear in the sky and it is often more colourful than the actual sunrise or sunset when the sun usually overpowers majority of the landscape and the colour in the sky.

Blue Hour at Pangong Tso, Ladakh

Blue Hour at Pangong Tso, Ladakh

Even if you cannot wake up early in the morning and miss not only the blue hour but also the sunrise, do not worry. Early morning sunlight is beautiful, directional and less harsh than the mid-day sun and helps produce stunning images. Same also holds true for evening, the time leading up to sunset.

Pangong Tso after sunrise

Pangong Tso after sunrise

Buy a tripod: That is right. Even if you have a mobile phone, you need a tripod! A tripod is essential not only for low light photography but also for self-portraits that go beyond the normal selfies and place you in the landscape.

Here is one such photograph I took with the help of a tripod in Suru Valley when I used to do photography with a point and shoot camera, which any decent mobile phone camera can outshine today.

Suru Valley

Suru Valley

There are fairly cheap tripods available for mobile phones like this one here, that are fairly compact and easy to carry. You can also buy a tripod holder for mobile phone and attach it to a full-size tripod for more versatility.

Add subjects in the foreground or middleground, but don’t make the image entirely about them: Majority of the novice and even amateur photographers make the mistake of either making the photograph entirely about landscape or put so much emphasis on people or their rides, that it is next to impossible to decipher, whether it is a landscape image or a portrait!

Striking a balance between ensuring your loved ones or your precious vehicle are present in the image and yet, do not overpower it, is essential to producing a dynamic image. Because a landscape image devoid of any forms of life isn’t as dynamic as the one containing it.

This is where the rule of thirds and composition comes into play. And by putting in a little bit of effort, you can come back with striking images like these.

Mercedes AMG G55 in More Plains, Ladakh

Mercedes AMG G55 in More Plains, Ladakh

Correct lighting and contrast after taking a photograph: Even though cameras have gotten better over time, they still can’t see and decipher the world, as well as our eyes can. The striking contrast between various zones of an image can often fool the cameras into producing under or overexposed images. Add to that, at times images can appear dull and lifeless.

Hence it is crucial to do a little bit of tweaking of the exposure, contrast and saturation in the images to ensure they appear as close to what you saw at that time. You can do this on your computer or smartphones using various free and paid apps. However, please keep in mind, it is fairly easy to go overboard and end up with an image that looks artificial.

So make sure to tweak the image in such a manner that it looks as close to what you saw and felt while you were photographing it.

In the end, if you’re making a conscious effort to improve your photography by learning and practicing, you will see see improvement in the quality of the images you come back with.

Even though what I have discussed above is fairly basic, it is something all photographers continually work on. No matter how long they have been doing photography and whether they are amatures or professionals.

So just go out there, keep these simple things in mind and keep shooting those beautiful Himalayan vistas as a way to forever etch in memory your beautiful journey to the hills…

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