Succeeding When Everything Sucks in Landscape Photography

You get up early in the morning, and you go up a steep mountain to shoot the sunrise scene, you are weary, and then, you can see nothing, there is only a tight mist instead of a spectacle. Is there a way to succeed if there are some bigger and bigger problems?

By the way, I don’t mean this just by default. In my last YouTube video, I showed you a landscape photography adventure here in the Austrian Alps, where I actually experienced something like this. And that there was just fog rather than spectacle wasn’t even my biggest problem. I never thought that I would run into so many different spots in one photo day. But finally, it worked and I got some pictures which I am very happy with. What happened and how did you succeed in the end?

exhausting start

Due to a knee injury, I wasn’t able to walk much in 2021. I only did a little walk, and in the fall I tried my first very steep walk. The last real spike was about a year ago. I am so grateful to be able to walk again, at least from the point of view of my knees. But the truth is, I’m currently completely out of shape. I’ll fix that in the summer, but it almost broke me on this day. Having a heavy backpack on my shoulder was something I figured, but then, the problem happened.

Are snow boots just for infants?

I prepared everything I needed for my flight the night before, including my snowshoes. They are very important here in the Alps in winter. There is no way to get around without snowshoes in deeper snow. You’ll sink into every step, you’ll be exhausted and you’ll be over after just a few minutes of walking. I own very good snowshoes that are lightweight and fit easily in my bag. But the best snowshoes are worthless when you forget to load them in your car after you’ve set them up at home. You already guessed it: you forgot about them.

The first part up the mountain was fine, as there was no snow. I already knew there would be snow in the upper layers, but I had two options: give up and drive home, or have coffee and dream about landscape photography, or I can go hiking anyway and do my best. Since I’m more of a landscape photographer than a coffee drinker, I decided to pick the latter.

It was easy to walk on the first part without snow, but then the snow came, and the combination of forgotten snowshoes and no training was too bad if you had a heavy backpack on your shoulders with a Sony a7R IV and heavy G Master lenses. I had an intense discussion with my inner temptations, but in the end, I overcame them.

When you think it couldn’t get any worse

On my way up, I realized that the ground mist rose higher than I had thought and the chances of getting a clear view of the valley weren’t good. But I planned to get up about an hour before sunrise, which would give me plenty of time to think about the formation on one hand, but on the other hand, I also hoped that it would be enough time to clear the fog or at least pushed down due to the high pressure I saw on the weather maps.

At every step, there was a fight, but in the end, I made it. But you know: When you think it can’t get any worse, life can take you by surprise.

Guess what I also forgot: No, it wasn’t my camera that I was so grateful for. It was my tripod. I planned to shoot a sunrise scene. Since there were a lot of trees in the front, I saw a high chance of needing to stack the focus, and I didn’t have a tripod with me. A photographer’s nightmare has come true.

Was it still possible to succeed?

You can always take any shot. You just need to point anywhere and focus. You will get a good shot, you can even post it on your social networks. But is it a possible masterpiece, a beautiful art picture, would you like to print it and hang it on the wall? There is no guarantee but not impossible as you can see in my video. The only thing you can do in such a precarious situation is not to give up.

I did find some fixtures, but without a tripod it was really hard to adjust, view in time with sunlight, and manage depth of field, where stacking the focus simply wasn’t possible. But difficult and impossible are still two things. In this particular case, perhaps it was an advantage that I forgot my tripod.

To see the whole adventure, watch the video linked above, where you will also find plenty of tips on shooting landscapes. And feel free to leave a comment below about the most difficult situation you have faced in your photography.

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