/ NEW ARTICLE: A Guide to Mountain Climbing Photography

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UKC Articles - on 04 Feb 2010
[Shooting from a lower position exacerbates the impression of exposure. Though to be fair, that traverse was truly scary., 1 kb]The blessing of mountain climbing photography is also its curse. Because it is so difficult to get there in the first place, because the climbing itself takes up so much effort and concentration, one has to make all sorts of compromises with the photography, and often bring back pictures that are disappointing, at least when compared to the experience that has just been lived. Virtually all the climbers I know bring a small point-and-shoot camera (digital or film) and use it only during long breaks and on the summit. But it doesn't have to be. DSLRs have gotten good enough that they can be brought on a technical climbing expedition, all the way to the summit. Here is how.

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=2413
wee jamie on 04 Feb 2010
In reply to UKC Articles: Brilliant article, many thanks. I'm still not convinced about HDR - the quality of light/tones seems unrealistic to me. That's not to say I don't find the image wonderful, I just find it harder to relate to as a photograph of a mountain. I love the idea of getting detail in deep shadows as well as bright snow though - something I find very difficult to achieve. Your pictures are works of art!
In reply to UKC Articles: Nice articles - amazing photos.

One question, which I may have missed in the article, are cameras robust enough now to insulate the moisture inside the space in the camera from freezing? If not, how do you overcome this if the camera bag is outside of the rucsac?

Thanks

GBPCG
Alexandre Buisse - on 04 Feb 2010
In reply to wee jamie: It takes some effort, but the entire point of my other HDR article was to say that you can get HDR images which are virtually indistinguishable from what a normal exposure of the same scene with a lower contrast would have looked like (i.e. the tonemapping is not detectable). It is also much closer to what our eye and brain sees.

@grumpybearpantsclimbinggoat: I'm not completely sure I am understanding the question, but DSLRs have gotten very good at handling adverse weather conditions, even when they are not advertised as weather sealed. My only concern is with heavy rain, but unless you are really careless, low volumes of moisture such as found inside a camera bag are not a concern, even when temperatures get well below freezing.
In reply to UKC Articles: Great article, lots to think about.
In reply to UKC Articles: Great article - some good tips there, thanks. I feel inspired to lug my DSLR into the mountains!
Scott_M@c - on 04 Feb 2010
In reply to Nick Smith - UKC:

What a great article!
fimm on 04 Feb 2010
In reply to UKC Articles:

Excellent article, really detailed, love the photos.
Tom Hutton - on 04 Feb 2010
In reply to UKC Articles:
Great Article

I'd like to support the idea of a D90 for climbing photography. I use a D300 for most of my work but was fnding it heavy and bulky for climbing so had a go with a quality compact for a while. The results are ok but only ok, and I didn't really enjoy using it that much. I then saw a review of the D90 and realised how much smaller and lighter than the D300 it is. So much so that it will fit into a smaller and lighter bag - a big bonus. I bought one and have used it a few times and am really enjoying it although I still have some work to do on the best carrying method.

ndp - on 04 Feb 2010
In reply to UKC Articles: Rarely see better than these. Breath taking no less, nearly like been there.
Alexandre Buisse - on 04 Feb 2010
In reply to Tom Hutton: yes, the D90 really hits the right spot between weight and features, in my opinion. Significantly lighter and smaller than a D300, yet similar sensor and almost all of the essential controls and features. Now if only they could put the FX sensor of the D3x in the D90 body...
I have also been lent a micro-4/3 camera by Olympus (E-P1) and I am very impressed by it so far. It's still lacking a few important things, but is hard to beat for the weight. I have a feeling that micro-4/3 will really change a lot of things for mountaineering photography!

@ndp: you should see the large prints :)
Meejahor - on 05 Feb 2010
Superb article. Thank you for the time and effort you put in to writing it, and thank you for sharing your beautiful, original and inspiring photographs.
David Dear - on 06 Feb 2010
In reply to UKC Articles: Excellent and interesting article, Alexandre, with fantastic images. A few things occurred to me whilst reading it:

1) I'm interested that you only took 2 batteries with you. I went to the Trans-Himalaya recently, with nothing like the extreme cold that you had in Peru, and I got through nearly 5, fully charged, batteries for the Lumix G1 in three weeks. Did you have a solar charger or did you have a power supply?

2) Good advice re.carrying system, I've been using the Crumpler shoulder bag recently, which has a leg strap as well (which I've never used). This has room for a camera attached with zoom, and compartments for spare battery, memory card, filter etc.

3) I'm surprised you recommend a UV filter, as digital sensors, unlike film, do not need it. The sensors already compensate for the UV wavelengths, and in fact it is probable that they work better without blocking those wavelengths. It is may be better to use a clear protection filter, ie. scratch proof Tiffen clear filter (expensive). However, I would recommend, in certain circumstances a Polarising filter, you can always 'set' it at the beginning of the day (or previous day).

Good point about taking portable Hard Drive for downloading, I'm looking into it!

Really enjoyed the article and your photos, thanks

Dave

In reply to UKC Articles: Brilliant and thought provoking article, illustrated with some superb photographs. Inspiring - thanks for sharing it with us.
Andy S - on 08 Feb 2010
In reply to Alexandra: what's your view on Active D-Lighting?
Alexandre Buisse - on 08 Feb 2010
In reply to Dave Dear:
> (In reply to UKC Articles) Excellent and interesting article, Alexandre, with fantastic images. A few things occurred to me whilst reading it:
>
> 1) I'm interested that you only took 2 batteries with you. I went to the Trans-Himalaya recently, with nothing like the extreme cold that you had in Peru, and I got through nearly 5, fully charged, batteries for the Lumix G1 in three weeks. Did you have a solar charger or did you have a power supply?

I had neither. The longest I have been out without access to power supply was 10 days, and 2 full charges were more than enough. One reason for that is that DSLR batteries tend to last much longer than compact ones, or even micro-4/3, especially since you don't have to use the LCD screen to frame. I am also very careful about my power consumption and rarely review the photos on the screen after taking them (only checking the histogram/sharpness if I have a reason to be worried).


> 2) Good advice re.carrying system, I've been using the Crumpler shoulder bag recently, which has a leg strap as well (which I've never used). This has room for a camera attached with zoom, and compartments for spare battery, memory card, filter etc.

Different people will like different systems, but whenever climbing is involved, I feel that belt systems are really the way to go.


> 3) I'm surprised you recommend a UV filter, as digital sensors, unlike film, do not need it. The sensors already compensate for the UV wavelengths, and in fact it is probable that they work better without blocking those wavelengths. It is may be better to use a clear protection filter, ie. scratch proof Tiffen clear filter (expensive). However, I would recommend, in certain circumstances a Polarising filter, you can always 'set' it at the beginning of the day (or previous day).

I basically use my UV filter as a clear protection filter, not for its UV capacities. I tend to disagree about polarising filters, they are more of a pain than an advantage in most cases, and you need to always pay attention to what angle they are rotated to.


> Good point about taking portable Hard Drive for downloading, I'm looking into it!

I can really recommend the Hyperdrive disks, they are much better than pretty much everything else.


> Really enjoyed the article and your photos, thanks

Glad it was useful.
Alexandre Buisse - on 08 Feb 2010
In reply to Andy S:
> (In reply to Alexandra) what's your view on Active D-Lighting?

Not much, as I shoot raw, so ADL doesn't affect my images at all. From what I could read, though, all it does is underexpose the scene to better capture highlights, then pulls details from the shadows in post-processing, effectively increasing the noise. I think you would be much better served by using correct exposures of raw images.
Danger Dawkins on 09 Feb 2010 - 10.184.75.76 [213.152.238.35]
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:
> Not much, as I shoot raw, so ADL doesn't affect my images at all.

There is a rumour (based on Q&A sessions with Nikon engineers - see Ellis Vener's comment at http://photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00R3bF ) that ADL adjusts the gain on individual photosites (or, more probably, on groups of photosites) on the sensor to pull details from shadows (and, I would guess, applying noise reduction in-camera). If that is the case, it would be affecting the RAW file.
Milesy - on 09 Feb 2010
Those snow formations looks incredibly scary but also beautiful!
grumsta - on 09 Feb 2010
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:

> I have also been lent a micro-4/3 camera by Olympus (E-P1) and I am very impressed by it so far. It's still lacking a few important things, but is hard to beat for the weight. I have a feeling that micro-4/3 will really change a lot of things for mountaineering photography!
>

Great article and stunning pics.

I've just bought a Panasonic GF1 mainly for the almost DSLR quality but compact size. WIth the superb 20mm pancake lens it's small enough and light enough to take pretty much anywhere.
CH - on 09 Feb 2010
Hello, I liked your article. Very informative.

I'm interested to know why you think autobracketing is a minor annoyance. Not challenging you - just curious, as a beginner.

Cheers,

Colin
Alexandre Buisse - on 09 Feb 2010
In reply to CH:
> Hello, I liked your article. Very informative.
>
> I'm interested to know why you think autobracketing is a minor annoyance. Not challenging you - just curious, as a beginner.

I don't think I said anything like that, quite the contrary. I find autobracketing to be a very useful feature, and its omission in any body is in my opinion a major drawback.



> Cheers,
>
> Colin

CH - on 09 Feb 2010
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:

Sorry, perhaps I misunderstood you.

In Modus Operandi section you said;

> Check autobracketing is off

> ... as forgetting anything could range from mildly annoying (forgetting autobracketing was on) ...

Which I took to mean you didn't want it to be on.
Alexandre Buisse - on 09 Feb 2010
In reply to CH:

Ah yes, by that I mean that if you forgot you had AEB on, then you will take a +2 or -2 picture next without realizing it, so there are chances the photo won't be usable at all.
Andy S - on 09 Feb 2010
In reply to Danger Dawkins:
> (In reply to Alexandre Buisse)
> [...]
>
> There is a rumour (based on Q&A sessions with Nikon engineers - see Ellis Vener's comment at http://photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00R3bF ) that ADL adjusts the gain on individual photosites (or, more probably, on groups of photosites) on the sensor to pull details from shadows (and, I would guess, applying noise reduction in-camera). If that is the case, it would be affecting the RAW file.

Well, I haven't done a side-by-side comparison yet, but after seeing many (RAW) histograms with and without ADL, the ones with ADL usually seem to have more bell-shaped histograms, generally speaking. I suspect it does change the RAW file but I haven't tested that yet.
CH - on 09 Feb 2010
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:

Got it, cheers.
Andy S - on 09 Feb 2010
In reply to Andy S: ok, just had a try, maybe not
David Dear - on 10 Feb 2010
In reply to Alexandre Buisse: Hi Alexandre
It's interesting what you say about the batteries. One of the problems I had was weight on the flight over, and I initially looked into the possibility of solar powered charger but it did not exist for that battery. I think for a similar trip, with only 10-11 days without electrical power, even if I had taken a charger with an adapter, 3 would still have felt safer. It's a difficult conundrum. I took RAW only and did not review.

Re: filters, I took a polarising filter because of the altitude, 3500m - 5500m and as I was using the supplied kit lens I'm glad I did as I think it improved the images enormously. I would take the polariser off an hour before sunset and the reverse in the morning. But we had nothing like the extreme conditions you had in Peru. Interestingly I was going to buy a UV filter but the shop did themselves out of a sale by explaining why a UV filter was unnecessary, I now use a Tiffen clear Digital HT filter which is scratch resistant.... I hope!. I've since bought a far better lens, which now makes the camera much heavier and bulkier, but is producing images of greater colour subtlety and saturation, and I have not yet had the conditions to try a polariser, but at the moment it is seems a superfluous.

One thing I have found difficult to produce is the starburst sun. With film you stopped down to f16 or below and it automatically produced a starburst. Is this a problem with digital or is it that the sensor on the micro 2/3rds is too small? Any ideas?

Another important point is finding the ideal aperture for the sharpest images. Unlike film where generally the smaller the aperture the sharper the image, with digital cameras because of the close proximity of the sensor to the lens this 'rule of thumb' does not apply. It is worth setting the camera up to find the 'sharpest' image with the least distortion. On my camera, for example, the best overall aperture is f11 even though the lens stops down to f22.

I'm now looking into the Hyperdrive as you recommended, I was getting concerned by the number of memory cards I seem to be acquiring!

Dave



John2 - on 10 Feb 2010
In reply to Andy S: Of course, you realise that the histogram displayed on the back of your camera when taking raw pictures has had JPEG processing applied to it.
Andy S - on 12 Feb 2010
In reply to John2: > (In reply to Andy S) Of course, you realise that the histogram displayed on the back of your camera when taking raw pictures has had JPEG processing applied to it.

Even when shooting in raw only and not jpeg or raw-plus-jpeg?
Dominic Green - on 12 Feb 2010
In reply to John2:
> (In reply to Andy S) Of course, you realise that the histogram displayed on the back of your camera when taking raw pictures has had JPEG processing applied to it.

your histogram is an excellent tool. As with all tools, you have to get to know it - just the same as your light meter. In film, every stock would have a different curve. Each sensor and camera differs. Histograms are pretty linear, mapping tones from 0 to 255 normally in 8 bit, so you're right in that it is similar to jpeg. With a raw file, it is worth getting to know how much genuine headroom you have in the highlights, but to be honest, I would be careful about pushing it too far. The shots in the article are some of the best balanced exposures that I have ever seen of mountain photography. I haven't put them through a vectorscope or waveform monitor, I am going by eye.
I find with digital imaging in general the key is to peg the higlights and put them right against the top of the "legal" (to use a film/video term) just inside of the point where they blow out. If you stop down too far, things get mushy. Even with the extra latitude of RAW, that is tight tolerance, a bit better than slide but not as much as black and white film. Does that check out with other people's experience??
Dominic Green - on 12 Feb 2010
John2 - on 12 Feb 2010
In reply to Andy S: Yes. That's why I said, 'when taking raw pictures'. The raw data has to be interpreted somehow in order to display the histogram. This article explains the matter briefly - http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/right-hista.shtml
Guto Evans - on 17 Feb 2010
In reply to UKC Articles: I'm off to Toubkal next month and after reading this article I'm taking my 10D as well as my trusty compact. Now where can I get a cheap 82mm skylight filter
amf37 on 11 Mar 2010 - d00-129-24-145-122.dhcp.unm.edu
In reply to UKC Articles:
That's very strange. I'm sure I posted on here last night pointing out that this great article has been published on line at climbing.com for a number of months already, and I think its rather strange this isn't acknowledged at all. But my comment seems to have gone...
Alexandre Buisse - on 11 Mar 2010
In reply to amf37: Yes, this article has already been published on climbing.com and luminous-landscape.com, in addition to my own website. But I don't think many people in here had had the opportunity to read it, hence why it got reposted on UKC.
Michael Ryan - on 11 Mar 2010
In reply to amf37:

It's Alexandre Buisse's article and is credited and acknowledged to him.

More Alexandre's work here too:

Scottish Towers
http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=2541

Alexandre Photo Gallery at UKC

http://www.ukclimbing.com/photos/author.html?id=104570
CH - on 11 Mar 2010
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:

Alexandre, I have a question please about the Think Tank belt. Does this sit above your rucksack hip belt?
Alexandre Buisse - on 11 Mar 2010
In reply to CH: No, it sits above my harness and below my pack's hipbelt. It would be a major pain otherwise.
CH - on 11 Mar 2010
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:

Thanks.
In reply to UKC Articles:

Simply stunning photo's! Thanks for the great article.
John Rushby - on 12 Mar 2010
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:

> I have also been lent a micro-4/3 camera by Olympus (E-P1) and I am very impressed by it so far. It's still lacking a few important things, but is hard to beat for the weight. I have a feeling that micro-4/3 will really change a lot of things for mountaineering photography!
>

Good article - enjoyed reading that.

I have a G1 micro 4/3 set up which is considerably lighter and a bit more compact than DSLRS mates are using.

the lack of mirror box might allay Grumpy's fears about moisture.

FOr what I need and my level it fulfills pretty much everything, my only gripe is that the range of lenses is limited at present.

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