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Posts Tagged ‘atmosphere’

postheadericon Beauty of Mountain Light

Mountains have a special effect on photography; the clearer, thinner air makes lighting starker and brighter, and the weather can change in an instant. The sheer height of mountains helps to create some of their special conditions of light; their relief produces the others, through the frequently rapid changes that occur in localized weather. One of the most memorable weather conditions for photography is the clear, crisp air in sunlight that gives high visibility to long views and fine detail. This, however, is only one of variety of types of lighting found in mountains.


The air is thinner at altitude, and is therefore clearer, provided that the weather is fine. Since the air is thinner, there are fewer particles to scatter light into the shadow areas, which consequently can be very deep. Local contrast, as a result, is often very high. The skylight in shade is a more intense blue than at sea-level. This intensity is more than usually difficult to estimate and without correction can be stronger than you expect. The thin air is also a less effective screen against ultraviolet rays, and there is a higher component of these short wavelengths. This produces an unusually large difference between what you can see and what the camera’s sensor will record. Unless you want to make use of the blue cast to emphasize distance, use strong ultraviolet filtration. Remember also that, in reacting to the ultraviolet wavelengths, the sensor receives more exposure, and the distant parts of the scene will look paler than they do to the eye.


So much for the thinner atmosphere. The interesting part of mountain light comes from the changeable weather, and this is controlled strongly by the relief of ridges and valleys. In particular, clouds become an ever changing part of the local lighting which you’ll need to keep a constant eye on.

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