Want to learn the best tips for capturing powerful images of mountain peaks? These five photographers share the stories behind their most influential treks.

“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied,” the legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams wrote in his autobiography. “It speaks in silence to the very core of your being.” Mountains have always been a beacon and a challenge to the human spirit, reminding us at once of our frailty and our power.

Through their images, photographers can share a small piece of this sense of wonder with the rest of the world. But shooting mountains is no small task. The weather is unreliable, and the terrain can be treacherous. In Adams’s era, equipment was bulky, so much so that he sometimes traveled with mules to help with the physical burden. And though the gear has gotten lighter, many of the same challenges remain today.

We reached out to five photographers who have embarked on adventures both small and epic, and we asked for some of their favorite memories from the world’s most beautiful peaks. Below, they share their stories and some of the secret tricks they’ve learned along the way.

1. “If it’s cold, it’s best to keep your camera batteries in your inner pockets or somewhere close to your body to keep them warm; otherwise, they will not last long.”

Piotr Snigorski

5 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Epic Mountain Shots — Keep Your Batteries Warm

Image by Piotr Snigorski. Gear: Nikon D300s camera, Sigma 17-50 2:8 EX HSM lens. Settings: Focal length 27.00mm; exposure 1/640 sec; f11; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

My most memorable experience as a photographer and as a mountaineer and skier was my whole trip to the Karakoram Range in Pakistan. I went there with my friend Olek. Our goal was to climb and ski from the summit of Gasherbrum II, one of 14 eight-thousanders. The mountains there are huge, raw, and overwhelmingly beautiful. To get to the base camp alone, you have to walk for six days through the Baltoro Glacier, passing legendary peaks like the Trango Towers, Masherbrum, the Shining Wall of Gasherbrum IV, and finally Broad Peak and K2.

It’s a paradise for any mountain photographer. It was an incredible and beautiful adventure but probably also the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life, not only because of the whole “climbing the eight-thousander thing” but also because my friend died during the descent, falling into a crevasse. The trip and experience taught me a lot as a photographer, skier, and climber, but mostly as a person. All the images I brought back from that expedition have a special meaning for me.

Pictured: [1] Piotr Snigorski. [2] Piotr Snigorski.

Pro Tip:

Remember that you are in a wild and unpredictable environment. You have to be prepared for this. Weather conditions and visibility can change very quickly. Always check the forecast first and take some extra clothes with you, especially a water/wind resistant jacket and an additional warm layer. You also have to remember that you’ll have to carry all the equipment you take with you, so try to keep it as light as you can. If it’s cold, it’s best to keep your camera batteries in your inner pockets or somewhere close to your body to keep them warm. Otherwise, they will not last long.

If your goal is to make great sunrise or sunset photos, a tripod is handy, but sometimes it’s just too big and heavy to take with you. In those moments, you can get creative and use something else as a substitute: a rock or a backpack. Polarizing and graduated ND filters are also very helpful. Whatever gear you use, remember that sometimes you and your equipment will face some harsh conditions—rain, snow, even falling rocks in harder terrain—so take good care of your camera and yourself.

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2. “It’s better to make do with one zoom lens and to leave room for spare shoes and a raincoat.”

Mike Laptev

5 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Epic Mountain Shots — Pack Light

Image by Mike Laptev. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Canon EF50mm f/1.4 USM lens. Settings: Focal length 50mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f/8; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

There is a place in the Caucasus Mountains called the Lagonaki uplands. It is known not only for being part of the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve but also because it is a fairly accessible corner of untouched nature. I went there with a group of photographer friends to shoot mountain landscapes. Mountainous areas are known for their changeable weather. You can walk along a glacier under the scorching sun, and after fifteen minutes, you might find yourself under a shower of rain.

That’s what happened to us. The downpour was so strong that in addition to ordinary raincoats, we had to hide behind our camping mats. Fortunately, the rain ended as quickly as it began, and we went to the camp, dripping wet. As soon as we set up the tents, the evening sun began to illuminate those very clouds from which the rain had fallen. This scene was worth photographing, even in wet shoes. The pictures of this evening and the next morning were the best from the whole trip, although it was not so pleasant to take them.

5 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Epic Mountain Shots — Prepare for Sudden Weather

Image by Mike Laptev. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens. Settings: Focal length 15mm; exposure 1/13 sec; f/22; ISO 50.

Pro Tip:

You don’t need to be an alpinist to shoot maintains. Many excellent pictures of mountains were taken from the bottoms of the peaks. However, you do need to consider the weight of the equipment you are going to take with you. It’s better to make do with one zoom lens and to leave room for spare shoes and a raincoat.

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3. “For a more interesting shot of a mountain range, it’s good to have something interesting in the foreground, such as a river, wildflower, tree, bush, or cactus.”

Richard A McMillin

5 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Epic Mountain Shots — Have a Point of Interest

Image by Richard A McMillin. Gear: Sony alpha-100 camera, Tamron 18-200mm lens. Settings: Focal 18mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f10; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I was lucky in 2009 to be able to go to a business meeting in Anchorage, AK. When I walked out of the airport, I almost broke my neck from looking around at all the mountains. I rented a car and drove down Seward Highway along the Turnagain Arm. There are several spots to pull off the road and take pictures, which I probably did at each and every one.

I went all the way down to Portage Glacier Rd. There were a few picnic areas along the way, one of which I later found out was called Moose Flats. It was an amazing place, with mountains, small lakes, and rivers all around. I even saw a couple of bald eagles. While I was taking one shot, I heard loud snorting sounds and crashing in the woods nearby. It startled me, and I looked to see what it was but couldn’t quite make it out. All I could see was a large brown object in the trees. Fearing that it was a bear, I immediately picked up my gear and headed back towards my car. What I noticed on my way back was that there were giant moose tracks all over the area.

Pictured: [1] Richard A McMillin. [2] Richard A McMillin.

Pro Tip:

Pay attention to what the locals suggest and get a report on the climbing conditions before you go. For a more interesting shot of a mountain range, it’s good to have something interesting in the foreground, such as a river, wildflower, tree, bush, or cactus. Magic hour lighting can make a dramatic impact on rock face mountains, especially if they are reddish colored rock. Sometimes the best place to take a picture of a mountain is from another nearby mountain. When you take a picture from a distance and you can see the mountain from the very bottom to the top, it makes more of an impression.

For instance, the top of Crystal Mountain is the best vantage point I have seen of Mt. Rainier. Taking a shot from Crystal Mountain allows you to see unobstructed all the way down to the valley floor (of White River) and all the way to the top of the peak.

5 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Epic Mountain Shots — Try Shooting from Other Peaks

Image by Richard A McMillin. Gear: Canon EOS 7D camera, Tamron 10-24mm lens. Settings: Focal length 20mm; exposure 1/100 sec; f5.6; ISO 100.

Another basic lesson I learned early on for taking landscapes is to keep your f-stop higher to keep more of the scene in focus. I’ve also learned that for landscapes, in general, wider is typically better, so I have moved to wider lenses with less zoom range (long range zooms typically aren’t equally sharp at all zoom ranges) and better quality glass. I currently use a 16-35mm or even a 12-24mm lens for most landscape work, but I occasionally get out a 14 or 18mm prime. I also wish I had taken more shots in RAW format back when I first started out with digital so that I could fully reprocess them with the better software that I have now.

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4. “If you manage to pull yourself out of bed before sunrise, you’ll get some stunning light conditions when the sun rays start to hit the mountains.”

evenfh (Even Hulleberg)

5 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Epic Mountain Shots — Go Early

Image by evenfh (Even Hulleberg). Gear: Canon EOS 70D camera, Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens. Settings: Exposure 1/160 sec; f11; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I’ve spent the last fifteen years traveling to every corner of the world, but one of my most memorable experiences came when I finally took the time to visit some unique places in my own country, Norway.

Last year, my girlfriend and I took a trip up to Lofoten, an archipelago known for its dramatic and stunning scenery. One day, we decided to hike up to Ryten, a mountain that offers some of the most unforgettable views in Lofoten looking down towards Kvalvika beach. You can’t afford to miss this hike if you’re ever going to Lofoten. The hike itself is not too strenuous, and on this day, we were incredibly lucky with the weather. It took me years of traveling to realize that one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen was right here in my own country all along. After the hike, we got to enjoy the midnight sun before setting off looking for new adventures.

Pictured: [1] evenfh (Even Hulleberg). [2] evenfh (Even Hulleberg). [3] evenfh (Even Hulleberg).

Pro Tip:

A fantastic way to capture majestic mountain landscapes is to place people in the picture. Another great tip is to get up early. If you manage to pull yourself out of bed before sunrise, you’ll get some stunning light conditions when the sun rays start to hit the mountains.

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5. “Learn to adapt to changes, as they can bring out the best kind of creativity.”

Ioana Catalina E

5 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Epic Mountain Shots — Learn to Adapt Quickly

Image by Ioana Catalina E. Gear: Nikon D610 camera, Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f4; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I’ve been passionate about nature and mountains since I was a child, and luckily, photography and hiking came hand-in-hand. One outstanding experience for me was going with two friends to the Swiss Alps in June. It was a dream of mine to plan a trip in the Alps at the beginning of summer, when there is still enough snow on the mountains and yet everything is green and the diverse, colorful flowers are in bloom.

What made our trip a true adventure was the long hike we took during the night to reach Lake Stellisee for an outstanding sunrise. Although everything doesn’t always go as planned, especially since the weather is unpredictable in the mountains, that morning was perfect. Having my friends with me, I was able to take photos of the couple together in that beautiful moment at sunrise by the lake with Matterhorn Mountain in the background.

5 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Epic Mountain Shots — Make the Most of Opportunity

Image by Ioana Catalina E.

Pro Tip:

Weather can be unpredictable in the mountains, and you are likely to experience something different than you expected. Learn to adapt to changes, as they can bring out the best kind of creativity. When something takes a new form in nature, it gives you the chance to take unique pictures.

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Top Image by Ioana Catalina E.