Image of the November 2017 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
November 2017 Issue
Home / Articles / Photo School

Capturing alpine light

Early morning alpenglow on Aoraki/Mt Cook. Photo: Richard Young
Time your visit to the mountains to capture the best (or avoid the worst) light.


Witnessing high mountain peaks bathed in a pre-dawn, pink alpenglow can be a magical experience. The dawn air is clearer than at any other time of day, offering clear views and vivid colours. As the sun breaks the horizon, it casts a wonderful low and warm light across the landscape, offering some of the best lighting of the day.


In the middle of a bright summer’s day the sun will be high in the sky, which will create a harsh light and make everything look flat. Shooting in the morning or the afternoon will offer a more interesting light.


The light is often softer at this time because the sky is full of wind-borne particles from the day. This creates a thicker atmosphere which tends to dull the colours and lead to more washed-out sunsets. On the other hand, lots of dust can have the effect of scattering light across a greater region of the sky, creating a larger drape of colours.

After dark 

The mountains can retain a very subtle light long after the sun has actually set. Once every last bit of daylight has faded away, night opens up a whole new world of star-filled skies and a full moon can even light up snowy peaks enough to capture the mountains in a whole different light.

Location: Early morning alpenglow on Aoraki/Mt Cook
Camera settings: 300mm lens, ISO 64, f11, 1/8 second

Support Wilderness

Since 1991, Wilderness has had one simple goal: to help Kiwis ‘See more, do more, live more’ of New Zealand.

If you value our mission, please consider subscribing. As a loyal supporter, you’ll receive these benefits:

  • New Zealand’s best outdoor journalism We’ve won multiple awards for our journalism and magazine production.
  • NZ’s best trips. Browse more than 610 trips with downloadable maps and route notes.
  • Trustworthy gear reviews. Each month we review gear we’ve been bashing and thrashing for months so you can determine if its worth your money.
  • Web exclusives. Each week we publish stories you won’t find in the magazine. View our latest web exclusives.
  • Member benefits. Our WildCard provides discounts at more than 20 partners throughout New Zealand.
  • Your support goes a long way. Your subscription will help us fund NZ’s best outdoor journalists and writers and ensure Wilderness will be there to inspire the next generation of outdoor Kiwis.

A subscription costs as little as $7.00/month for instant access to all articles, trips, gear reviews and gear guides.

View all our subscription options and join the club.

Already a subscriber? Login Now.