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6 Useful EOS R Features for Photographing Mountains with Clouds

Clouds can add character to your mountain photographs, but to get the perfect shot, your focus and composition need to be just right. Mount Fuji photographer Makoto Hashimuki tells us about the EOS R features that help him nail his shots more easily than before. (Reported by: Makoto Hashimuki, Digital Camera Magazine)

Mount Fuji with clouds

EOS R/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 47mm/ Manual exposure (f/15, 3.2 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto
Shooting location: Lake Yamanaka Panorama Deck

 

Scene 1: Mount Fuji at sunrise

When I checked the web camera feeds of Mount Fuji early that morning, the mountain was not visible from Lake Yamanaka due to thick fog, but could be seen in the feeds from cameras on higher ground. This usually foreshadows the sea of clouds formation that can make mountains look especially surreal and beautiful.

Rushing down to the Lake Yamanaka Panorama Deck, I reached just in time to capture this shot of Mount Fuji rising through the clouds at sunrise. I love how the beautiful lighting contrast brings out the details on the mountain surface.

 

#1: Focus Guide

Whenever I incorporate a sea of clouds into my shot, I get all my settings ready and wait to capture the best details in the clouds. To prevent focus hunting as I wait, I usually switch to use manual focus (MF).

It can be tricky to nail focus manually at sunrise, especially with the mountain only vaguely visible through the cloud cover. But the Focus Guide on the EOS R made focusing really easy. Once I had the focus where I wanted it, all I had to do was wait for more clouds to gather.

Focus Guide indicator on Mount Fuji


Tip:  Assign the AF ON button to turn on the Focus Guide

I don’t usually use the AF ON button, so I assigned it to turn the Focus Guide on and off instead. I find the Focus Guide especially useful for manually focusing in relatively bright scenes.

Know this: The Focus Guide is also extremely useful for macro photography, where the extremely shallow depth-of-field often makes manual focusing necessary.

 

#2: In-camera RAW post-processing

Being able to post-process RAW files in-camera is convenient—you can do it on the spot! For this shot, I increased the Picture Style contrast parameters. This had two effects:

1) The light-shadow details on the mountain surface stand out better, adding dimensionality to the shot.

2) The mountain stands out better against the hazy sky.

Tip: You can also adjust the Picture Style detailed parameters as you shoot, and preview the effects in real time on the EVF or in Live View. But do it only if time allows: You don't want to miss a shot because you were too engrossed in experimenting with different Picture Style settings!

Mount Fuji with Picture Style - Standard

Picture Style (Standard) - Default settings

Mount Fuji peak with contrast increased

Picture Style (Standard) - Contrast +2


Also see: Picture Style Techniques to Level Up Your Landscape Photography

 

Extra equipment: Use a graduated ND filter to balance out uneven contrasts

The sea of clouds phenomenon tends to occur more frequently around daybreak. At this timing, the position of the sun means that while the mountain and sky will be bright, the light won’t reach the clouds and forest, resulting in crushed blacks in the foreground.

Graduated ND filter

To balance out the contrast, I used graduated ND (GND) filter, placing the darker part over Mount Fuji to reduce the brightness of that part of the scene. This also intensified the autumn colours of the trees in the foreground.

 

With GND filter

With GND filter

No GND filter

No GND filter


Tip: You can see the effects of the GND filter in the EVF or Live View preview, which should help you make fine adjustments to the filter position where necessary.

 

Scene 2: Mount Fuji at night

Mount Fuji at night with street lights

EOS R/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS II USM/ FL: 200mm (360mm effective)/ Bulb exposure (f/7.1, 60 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

The sight of Mount Fuji rising from amid the street lights, as well as the details of the clouds in this shot, reminded me of a traditional ink painting. This shot was achieved with the help of manual focus peaking and the 1.6x crop function.

 

#3: Focus peaking

Just like in Scene 1, I used MF to avoid focus hunting as I waited for the perfect cloud formation. At almost 100km away from Mount Fuji, it can be hard to achieve proper manual focus except on a very clear day. 

For night shots, you can also use focus peaking, especially if you don't need your focus to be on one small, precise area. Here, I have used it to put the street lights in focus. If the street lights are obscured by cloud cover, you can set focus on the stars instead.

Tip: If you can’t see the focus peaking properly, change the peaking colour. Here, I have set it to blue so that it shows up better against the warm-toned clouds and street lights.

Blue focus peaking

 

#4: 1.6x crop function

Mountain shot with 1.6x crop function

1. Normal
2. With 1.6x crop function

Previewing my shot, I felt that it would be more impactful if I cropped out the excess sky and foreground. The EOS R (and the EOS RP) have a 1.6x crop function that is useful for going even closer when you are already using the longest focal length on your lens. Not only does it instantly give you more reach, I like how it lets me adjust my composition on the spot to suit the crop.

Where to find the function: Press the MENU button > SHOOT1 menu > "Cropping/aspect ratio".

 

Other camera features that helped


#5: The shutter cover

When I photograph Mount Fuji, I seek to capture variations and different details. This means that I frequently switch between wide-angle and telephoto lenses while at the same shooting spot.  

On the EOS R, the shutter curtain automatically lowers when the camera is powered off, which helps to prevent dust and other elements from getting onto the image sensor when there is no lens attached. This is very useful for outdoor shoots—I am reassured that the image sensor is well-protected from the elements.


#6: Vari-angle touchscreen monitor

The fully-articulating Vari-angle monitor removes the need to put the body in an awkward position when taking low-position shots, such as those that feature water reflections of the mountain. 

Being able to operate the camera with the touchscreen is very convenient, especially when shooting outdoors at night. 

 

For more tips on shooting mountains and grand landscapes, check out:
Photographing Mount Fuji in Winter: Shooting Spots & Composition Tips
Early Morning Landscape Photography: To Shoot Before or After Sunrise?
How I Nailed this Shot: Adding Impact to a Grand Forest Landscape 

 


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Makoto Hashimuki

Makoto Hashimuki

Born in 1977 in Shizuoka Prefecture, Hashimuki took up photography after purchasing a mirrorless camera in 2012. Fascinated by Mt. Fuji, he later purchased Canon’s EOS 6D and lenses to pursue more serious photography. His shots of Mount Fuji are featured in many publications in Japan, including photography magazines and calendars

Instagram: @hashimuki

 

Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation