9 Tips to be a Good Trek Photographer

My personal  journey with photography and wilderness has been a very special one. I began taking images of the wild only to share with my friends what I was experiencing. This experience in turn, helped my friends take up hiking more seriously. The major contributor to this change was my involvement with photography.

A few years ago, when I was exploring ways to be in the wild and still be able to contribute my photographic work to an online or print editorial, I found that my options were limited. Several questions popped into my mind – Will someone pick me to shoot an assignment for them? Will they fund my travel and outdoor ventureIs there someone willing to explore a non-established photo-documentor’s work?  

But today, things are different. I find that there are more opportunities out there, but fewer and fewer people capture pictures that tell stories. Enamoured by photo editing softwares, people are forgetting the essence of photography. Instead, they choose to beautify their images through post production. This seriously makes me cringe.

So if you’re going as a Photo Trekker with Indiahikes, I wouldn’t want you to send in images that look like any other image on the website. We want to show well-thought-out compositions and storytelling pictures on our website.

I am going to share a few tips with you that will make you change the way you take images. I’ll bring them out of my personal experience.

1. My first thought is always of light. I almost never set out to photograph a landscape, nor do I think of my camera as a means of recording a mountain or an animal unless I absolutely need a ‘record shot’. Light, on the other hand, is always on my mind. Light can do wonderful things in the mountains. Capture it, especially during dawn and dusk.

This image shows how light has established the drama to the landscape and lit up the valley.

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Near Kempty Falls, Uttarakhand. Picture by Anuja Gupta

 

2. Don’t photograph everything The most effective photos – the ones your viewers will be moved by – are the ones that communicate the value of an experience. Photos that aim to turn something into an experience simply by virtue of being photographed – they’re not so important.

For me this shot of the bird translates to the freedom of Verditer Flycatcher in its very home. The faint image of the mountain in the background adds to the surreal structure of the image.

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Unknown trails near Lohajung, Uttrakhand. Picture by Anuja Gupta.

 

3. Use your photography skills to enrich your life. Let the desire to ‘get the shot’ propel you to new places, but don’t feel like you have to document everything along the way. When you come across an experience or a feeling worth sharing, share it.

This image gives a glimpse of the diversity in the flora of that region. Hence spell binding the viewer with the riot of colors, and contrasting landscape.

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Photo Credit: Galen Rowell, Bnaff National Park

 

4. Being in the wilderness, will evoke a lot of emotions in you. You may strike a cord with a scenery or people, and that will make you stand in awe. You may be astonished by a rawness that you had never seen before. You have to ask yourself what is the scene conveying to you, what are the elements you need to include or exclude to convey the emotions you felt.

Soon after sunset, on the summit camp of Roopkund the wind chill was making it unbearable for the trekkers to stay out any longer.  Thus the cloud cover and the retreating trekkers made this shot look like a war zone.

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Bhagwabhasa, Roopkund. Picture by Anuja Gupta.

 

5. Don’t limit yourself by what you think will or won’t work. Experiment! Go out on days you’d usually stay in, get up early, stay out late.  Make external commitments, if it helps you stick to your plan. The least you can walk away with is knowledge and experience – not bad!

While trekking you meet many locals pacing up and down with heavy load, carrying all the necessary equipment to make camping comfortable for the trekkers. This shows how hard-working people in the mountains are. Hence this image becomes important for a photo-essay.

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On the way to Juda ka talab, Kedarkantha. Picture by Anuja Gupta.

 

6. The desire to take a great photo pushes one to chase an experience – An experience that was valuable even when the photos didn’t turn out the way you expected.

This image was photographed while the clouds were passing across the forests of Ghaeroli Patal, Roopkund. When I stood there and looked at the view, I was reminded of many fairy-tales that I read in my childhood. I was instantly transported to my childhood.

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Forest before Gharoli Patal, Roopkund. Picture by Anuja Gupta.

 

7. Look for scenes that make you feel something, then use your technical and composition skills to bring that feeling to the forefront.

The sunlight leaking through the clouds felt like spotlights on the Chandratal Lake.

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View from top of Chandratal Lake, Spiti. Picture by Anuja Gupta.

 

8. When a photo doesn’t turn out the way you expected it to, don’t toss it aside. Study it, looking for patterns between what your eyes saw and what your camera produced. Being able to approach a scene and understand how it will look as a photograph will open doors.

I will admit that, while shooting this image from my phone camera, I had not seen the guy jumping with joy, till I saw the image on my computer. This made the image very intriguing. So I decided to keep it.

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Bhagwabhasa, Roopkund. Picture by Anuja Gupta.

 

9. Before you pull out your camera, imagine how you want your photos to look. Use that vision to guide your work. The strength of your photos, and your commitment to creating them, will no doubt increase.

While walking on the gentle slopes of Ali Bugyal, I noticed the expanse of the meadows and how tiny the living beings were looking. I wanted to shoot the contrast in size. Interestingly the clouds in the background set a perfect stage for it. Therefore, I had already planned a shot in my head.

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Ali Bugyal, Roopkund. Picture by Anuja Gupta.

Participating as a Photo Trekker with Indiahikes

With these ideas in mind, Indiahikes is bearing the torch for all lovers of wilderness, who not only want to trek, but to photograph and hope that their work will get due credit and visibility.

We take care of all the expenses from the start point to the end point of the trek. This also includes the porters or mules that you hire while trekking.

Terms and conditions for the assignment

  • You will have to send your body of work (porfolio) to anuja@indiahikes.com and copy to swathi@indiahikes.com, to be reviewed.
  • Once selected, you will have to register the trek and pay the fee. On your return back from the trek, you will submit the images, thereafter we shall refund the trek fee, this is only to make sure that all our trek photographers sincerely shoot the assignment and make the submission on time.
  • Indiahikes will not refund  money for the travel you will make to and from the basecamp.
  • You need to send 75 images of minimum 2 mb size; resolution 300 dpi.
  • You will have to shoot images day wise, and send them across to us in the same manner. This will help us understand the campsites better.
  • Regarding copyright: Copyright for all images submitted as a photo trekker remains with the respective photographers. However, each photographer grants a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual licence to Indiahikes to feature any or all of the submitted images in any of their publications, their websites and/or in any promotional material connected to this competition.

If you have been selected as a photo trekker, I have few suggestions and key points to share with you.

  • We want you to study the trek that you have been assigned. Study it from our website and understand what all you will be expecting while trekking.
  • We need 10 landscape shots (these will be scenery shots) from each day as the highlights of the trek. The landscape should be able to tell the viewer the life in wilderness.
  • Three action shots of trekkers per day. Here you can show genuine enjoyment the trekkers are having, whether on the trail or at the campsite. Please refrain from taking posed images.
  • Portraits are of great value. Therefore, you must take images of locals of the region and other living beings (birds, dogs and sheep). Also try to be candid while taking portraits.
  • Mood shots of trekkers enjoying the serenity of the trek are also much cherished. Hence your presence of mind and focus to capture mood with come to good use.
  • While taking images, if you can make note of interesting conversations you have with your co-trekkers or guides, and feel it is worth sharing, please do that too. it will help us weave a good photo-story with your images.

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Anuja Gupta

Anuja Gupta

Anuja Gupta is a Trek Leader at Indiahikes. She has eight years of experience as a Photojournalist. Once a press photographer in the busy streets of Mumbai, she ventured to the Himalayas to capture a different world altogether. That's what connected her to Indiahikes. Now, she leads treks, co-ordinates them and also captures stories through her photography. You can write to her on anuja@indiahikes.com

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