We look at what's your enemy and what's you friend when taking photos on a Himalayan trek.
There are many challenges for photographers in the Himalayas.. The most
popular area, the Khumbu which is widely known as the Everest region is a
hub for trekking enthusiasts and mountaineers looking for the ultimate
challenge and photos to capture it. Our recent groups who made it to
Everest Base Camp captured some fantastic images and also shared some
issues they had along the way. I thought I’d take a moment to expand on it
for the photographers out there considering such a trip. This is just my take
on things I found helpful (or not so much) when I'm on a trek or expedition.
Tip 1: Before you go
Before you go, figure out a system that works well for you while hiking. I
made the mistake of thinking I could lug my 9lbs of camera, lens and
battery pack around my neck so as to always be at the ready. By the
second day of the trek, I was already stowing my camera in my backpack.
For some, this works well, for others though it means they don’t bother
getting the camera out once they have become run down from a day’s
trek. Depending on your camera’s weight and bulk, experiment with
a waistbelt Beltpack or a chest mounted bag. There are also some really
nice backpacks that have a special compartment on the outside for the
Tip 2: Batteries
Most teahouses that have solar panels will charge you a small fee to
charge your batteries, although not all do. Typically the nicer
lodges/teahouses do have this option and the lodges we stay at will have this option with the best place to charge being Namche . One of the best options is to take a foldable solar panel, like this RAVPOWER model,
you can tie it to your pack while you trek and its waterproof. Keep your
batteries warm overnight by sleeping with them. I know this sounds odd
but picking up a small, fleece bag to hold your camera batteries, then
stuffing it in the bottom of your sleeping bag will ensure your batteries are
ready to go in the morning, as the cold is a batteries enemy.
Tip 3: Dust is your enemy.
It takes less effort to try to keep dust out of your camera than it does to
properly remove it from hundreds of images once it’s on your camera’s
sensor. One rule i follow when midway through the day on a trek is to only
change lense in non-dust blowing conditions or if at all possible until you
Tip 4: Get a cover
Consider getting a smaller rain/snow cover for your camera. In a pinch a
plastic bag will work, but a dedicated rain cover will help you keep shooting
in rain or snow without worrying about damage. Keeping moisture out of
the lens is especially important as the last thing you want when going
through your images are specs of moisture in front of an Everest sunset.
Tip 5: Low Light
Teahouses & Lodges will be dimly lit, especially at night, so get used to
using a high ISO setting. Alternatively, bring a flash, but for me, that usually
ruins the mood. When using the camera get prepared to hold the camera
steady or set it on a flat surface will help. Ideally, a small tripod is ideal.
Tip 6: Use one lens.
A controversial option. Consider traveling with one lens. I know this sounds crazy but I’ve done this
a few times on treks over the last two years or so and while the lens I chose
is heavy, it has decreased the dust from lens changes dramatically. Using
my Nikon D5500 although not a full frame camera using 55-300mm lense
covers most shots. However using a wide angle adapter can be useful for
the landscape options.
Tip 7: Polarizing Filter
Grab a polarizing filter if you don’t have one yet. A circular polarizing lens
is the most popular and they make a dramatic effect on glare/haze. While
there isn’t much pollution in the Khumbu, there is still plenty of smoke and
mist in the mornings and at night. Polarizers work by blocking out light
reflected off of dust or reflections off water/windows. They are best used
at a 90 degree angle to the sun and at noon. Using a filter as the sun
passes it’s apex (Roughly Midday) and you keep it to one side of you or the
other will produce some extremely rich blues in your sky shots. It will also
help sharpen mountains scenes.
Tip 8: Look around you.
You will have a lot of broad sweeping vistas with the world's
highest mountains surrounding you. Get used to using your camera to
shoot panoramic images. If something excites you, take a shot. Even if your
planned route has you coming back through a village, the lighting and time
of day will be different. Take the shot the first time.
Tip 9: Remember where you are
Ask permission and best yet, learn to ask for permission in the Nepali,
Sherpa or Tibetan (depending on where you end up) language. Some
people aren’t ok with their picture being taken so it's always worth asking.
In any culture, it is respectful to enquire before pointing the camera.
Tip 10: Get Up early
Before the sunrise if possible. It’s worth it even if you don’t have a camera.
Listening to a village wake up, the woodsmoke fires as breakfast is
prepared and the clattering of yak bells…..it’s a nice way to start the day.
I hope some of that info comes in handy when you're on a trek or climbing expedition.
MD & Co-Founder