During my eight years as a professional photographer, I’ve come to appreciate the moody and somber aspects of photography even more than the bursting sunsets: you can often find me in the forest or on the beach in the harshest of conditions, or in low-light. But I’m a real sucker for mountains, mainly because we don’t have those here in the Netherlands. There’s just something about the merging of land and sky in mountains that I find truly attractive.

Cimon by Alberto Salvaterra on 500px.com


Your destination is determined by the material, age, and shape of the mountains in a specific range. Without getting into geology too much, hard mountains are shaped more smoothly than relatively-soft mountains.

The Dance of Eternity by Daniel Laan on 500px.com

Expect rounded domes in areas where glaciers have eroded the hardest materials. Conversely, mountains that are relatively young and soft are eroded much more by water, which makes them jagged. Dolomite rock is a good example for this, and it’s where the Dolomites get their name.

The Big Shyness by Federico Antonello on 500px.com

If you’re more of a hiker than a climber, it’s a good idea to start with smooth mountains. More interesting viewpoints can be achieved rather easily.


To bring more variation in your portfolio, it’s a good idea to mix up viewpoints and perspectives. From down below, the base of the mountain will look more massive than its peak. This will make the mountain appear to be looming overhead.

The Fortress by Daniel Laan on 500px.com

If you can increase your altitude relative to the mountain you’re shooting, the summits will be more prominent, and some interesting details could appear that may have otherwise stayed hidden. Increasing your altitude isn’t without danger, but in some cases (especially in the Alps), you can hitch a ride to the top with a cable car. I recommend a hike up the slope, since there’s nothing like the fresh air, and you’ll never know what hidden gems you might find on your way up.

Druid Falls by Daniel Laan on 500px.com

Lens choices

A mountain shot that focuses on the summit benefits from the use of a telephoto lens. Some of the best examples I’ve seen are shot at 300-600(!) mm; definitely not wide-angle lenses.

The Unfolding by Alexandre Deschaumes on 500px.com

Deschaumes’ work is inspiring to me personally, not in the least because his mountain shots always seem to come straight from Mordor.

Dragging a telescope like that up a mountain is admirable, but a less-hefty wide-angle lens does have its place in this genre. Should you want to incorporate a foreground, a wide-angle’s distortion is exactly what you would want, since that enhances the apparent height of the mountains. Dramatic foregrounds can then be part of the composition as well, although getting them as sharp at minimum focus distance is challenging.

Land of the Lost by Daniel Laan on 500px.com


I’ve kept a record of the most stunning telephoto mountain shots over the years in a gallery called “Ghostly Mountains” on 500px. Here are some of the best. Follow these photographers, because their work includes regular uploads of these spectacular subjects.

Golden Titans by Nicola Pirondini on 500px.com

Ered Luin by Giuseppe Chiauzzi on 500px.com

Stone teeth by Aurélien BERNARD on 500px.com

Pink Lady by Bruno Pisani on 500px.com

The Peak by Greg Boratyn on 500px.com

dark mountain by Marco Barone on 500px.com

Echoes of the past by William Patino on 500px.com

Twin Peaks in Yosemite by Michael Bandy on 500px.com

Aiguille of the Vanoise by Gérard Darnis on 500px.com

Unfurl by Daniel Laan on 500px.com

Mtn Mist pano by Michael Bollino on 500px.com

Vertical by Fred Bucheton on 500px.com

Other mystical atmospheres

My creative desire to engage in the development of mystical atmospheres is at an all-time high, but I’m a firm believer in the plasticity of art. There comes a time when you’ll want to explore other areas, other subjects, and other ways of processing as well. That’s fine, since painters had their artistic periods as well. Mountain photography is definitely worth exploring, but take care of yourself in this pursuit, because it’s not a genre without hazards. I hope that you will read between the sky and the land and see the potential in ethereal photography someday, too.

Journey to Caradhras by Daniel Laan on 500px.com