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5 BAD Photos from BEAUTIFUL Mountains


“You can’t take a bad photo in a place like this!”  I’ve heard it more times than I can count.  Yet somehow, even with digital technology allowing immediate review, and easy access to the world’s most beautiful locations, it remains difficult to get a photo that really captures the feeling of a spectacular place. 

I learned from Galen Rowell, one of the most influential visionaries of the adventure photography world, that focused critique of your own work is one of the best ways to become a better photographer.   Here are 5 examples of some arguably lame photos from shockingly spectacular locations, and what I could have done differently to get a great image.

Wrong lens1. Wrong Lens: Here, on Talluraju, a Matterhorn-like peak at the head of the Santa Cruz valley in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, my lens did no go wide enough and as a result I cropped the human element too close to the edge, and still missed the summit entirely.  With today’s small sensor digital cameras, a wider-angle lens is often more important than a bigger telephoto.  I should have chosen a wider-angle lens for the climb, knowing I would have little opportunity to move around for a better angle.








describe the image2. Making Steep Look Flat:  This is an extreme example, but by shooting straight down with a fish-eye lens, I made this climber on a vertical cliff in a steep-sided valley in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park look like she’s crawling along on the ground.  I should have zoomed in on the parts of the photo I really liked - the climber and the partly frozen pond beneath her – and not tried to get everything into the frame.









describe the image3. Missing the Point: These two bands of differently-colored rock on this slab were so distracting to me, that I missed the point of the happy couple walking along in front of a town-sized glacier flowing into a green tarn high in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia during a CMH Summer Adventure at CMH Bobbie Burns.  I should have included more of the background.











describe the image4. Trusting Autofocus Too Much: Modern cameras work so well that even experienced professional photographers sometimes rely too heavily on the automatic functions.  Here, I should have used a manual focus setting to ensure that the ice climber was in focus.











describe the image

5. Get out of bed for more than a cup of coffee:  By this point, I should have already been outside for half an hour, shooting the rosy alpenglow painting the tips of the Bugaboo Spires during a summer adventure at the CMH Bugaboo Lodge.






Critique your own photos, both good and bad, with a sharp eye and a sense of humor every chance you get, and when adventure travel leads you to the places of your dreams, you’ll take photos worthy of the adventure.


Thanks, Topher, not only for the great reminder about self-critique but for your courage in sharing your rejects. As a photographer, I've found that slowing down and learning from the ones that got away increases the number of keepers.
Posted @ Thursday, September 16, 2010 2:33 PM by Dave Butler
Thanks Topher and thank goodness for digital cameras now, we don't have to despair as much when we get a bad shot because we usually have 10 of the same thing! Great insight , appreciate the details!
Posted @ Thursday, September 16, 2010 5:06 PM by Tracy
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