From Jimmy Chin's MasterClass

Photo Studies: Mountain Architecture

Jimmy breaks down his approach to photographing mountain landscapes, and how he composes his shots.

Topics include: The Bugaboos: Make the Line the Subject • The Howser Towers: A Mountain Portrait


Jimmy breaks down his approach to photographing mountain landscapes, and how he composes his shots.

Topics include: The Bugaboos: Make the Line the Subject • The Howser Towers: A Mountain Portrait

Jimmy Chin

Teaches Adventure Photography

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I've never really focused on landscape photography. It was always something that was part of what I was shooting. So I would be on an expedition, I would be on a climb, and I was pretty focused on documenting the climb, the climbers. But there would be a moment when kind of mother nature reveals itself that's very dramatic, and obviously I would shoot it. Holy cow, this thing looks insane. Oh! Climbing can bring you places where you have a very unique perspective. And oftentimes I'm up in the mountains and you look at what's in front of you and it's like it's been designed by nature, but it's incredible, like the way the ridges are falling together. I like to think of it as the mountain architecture. And there's so many incredible leading lines and just very compelling images because there's a lot of depth, there's a lot of different lighting scenarios. At the end of the day, probably the greatest designer is nature. So when I talk about landscape or mountain landscape photography, there are a few images that pop to mind. One of them is a shot I took in the Bugaboos in British Columbia. The moment captured my eye because there were a lot of dramatic clouds kind of swirling through the air, but the way that the mountain was structured and the kind of architecture of the mountain was just very compelling. And being a climber, we were in a unique position to see this perspective. I think when I'm shooting a landscape shot like this, I'm very aware of the lines. I'm also thinking of the basic rules of composition. But there are so many interesting leading lines and depth, and that's really what you're trying to show with your image. When you look at the image, you want to be drawn into it. You want to look at the details. You want to have that depth and keep the viewer in the image. I mean, ideally, an image can kind of transport you into the space. So this image from the Bugaboos has a leading line. It comes straight at the viewer. And when you're looking at it, especially if you're a climber, you're kind of following the lines of the mountain. It's hard to extract me from being a climber. So when I look at a picture like this, I'm constantly thinking about the lines. Like, is that a good ski line? Is that a good climbing line? I found that in some ways, that does help me compose. I do try to balance an image in a particular way. That rule is important to know so that you can potentially break it intentionally. But in general, my first thought when I frame an image is kind of, like, how I'm going to balance the image, and then is there enough kind of going on in the image that's going to kind of keep you there? For me, it's always been easier to have a figure in it and to place somebody in it to give it context and scale. But in some instances, keeping it clean and keeping it a pure landscape will work. I was flying in doing a scout for a different shoot, and this is one of those moments that you're just r...

Push the limits of your photography

Jimmy Chin has built his career taking photos at the top of the world, earning him the cover of National Geographic and multiple awards. Now he’s taking you on location to teach you techniques for capturing breathtaking shots. In his photography class, learn different creative approaches for commercial shoots, editorial spreads, and passion projects. Gather the gear—and the perspective—to bring your photography to new heights.


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