Alan Rowan stands on the side of a hill, with yellow gorse bushes, grassy fields and a river in the valley behind him. He holds a compact camera to take a photo of the natural view.

Midnight rambler: How the Munro Moonwalker shoots mountain views

When Alan Rowan finished his shifts as a national newspaper journalist at midnight, he was too wired to sleep. Also an avid mountaineer, after leaving the newsroom he began heading straight out onto the Scottish mountains. Ascending in the dark, he would watch the sun rise, “without another soul in sight” and descend as the rest of the world was waking up.

“One of the wonderful things about walking at this time of night is that the day comes alive with you,” he says.

The sun sets over a low mountain landscape.

Alan’s unique lifestyle suited him so well that he maintained it for 20 years, fitting his passion for the mountains around his work schedule and climbing a total of around 300 peaks by night.

Now a freelance journalist and author, Alan has published two books about his midnight adventures and is currently working on a third about his mission to climb a different mountain during each full moon this year.

His passion for nocturnal summiting means that his bag remains packed, ready to set off to any one of the highest peaks in Scotland at a moment’s notice – adventures he documents as the Munro Moonwalker on his blog and across social media.

A Canon compact camera, small enough to slip into his jacket pocket, always accompanies him on these trips to capture mountain views. “You want to walk as light as possible, which is why I like a really good pocket camera,” says Alan. “I’m going out to see mountains and to take pictures, I'm not going out to take pictures and to be on a mountain – there’s a difference. I don't want to be messing about with changing lenses and things like that. That’s why pocket cameras are perfect for my needs.”

"Every picture tells a story – it’s a log of where you’ve been and who you are"

Alan has been using the PowerShot SX740 HS for capturing memories on the mountains. As well as being portable and easy to use, the camera packs in a number of powerful features from 4K video through to its remarkable 40x optical zoom – meaning he can photograph details close by as well as wildlife and subjects in the distance.

“Photography is so important for me,” he says. “Every picture tells a story – it’s a log of where you’ve been and who you are. It’s also a way to show other people what they miss. There are so many times when you get to the top of a mountain and you think, ‘I wish so-and-so could see this.’ It’s a great legacy – the pictures will be passed on and hopefully my grandchildren will enjoy seeing what I did.”

Alan’s nature photography tips

1. Take a big zoom with you

Alan’s climbs take him to vertiginous locations where staying safe requires sticking to well-worn paths. “A good zoom means that when you spot wildlife such as deer or birds of prey, you can get a lot closer to it,” he says.

“If you see something a mile away, you can't suddenly decide to go there to photograph it because it will have gone by then. You need to be able to capture the shot from wherever you’re standing.”

A rusty red boat sits in the middle of a lake on a sunny day
A close-up of the boat’s hull shows flaky red and blue paint with a metallic texture.

The Canon PowerShot SX740 HS fits 40x optical zoom into a compact body, allowing detailed capture of distant objects, while ZoomPlus technology digitally doubles the optical zoom to achieve 80x with little loss of quality compared to other digital zooms. In the images above, the 80x zoom was used to capture rust detail on the hull of the distant boat.

It even allows Alan to take close-up shots of the sky at night. “I'm working on a book all about being on the mountains in the full moon,” he says. “Having a camera with a powerful zoom enables me to get closer shots.”

2. Be ready for action

Burst modes can come in handy up in the mountains. “You’re in this massive landscape, but you can often spot movement quite far down and you've only got a few seconds to do something with that,” Alan says. “If you spot a flash in the heather, you want to close in on it quickly. So, the Canon PowerShot SX740 HS's continuous shooting speed gives you a big advantage in capturing the action.”

Suited to moving subjects, from wildlife through to school sports days, this 10-frames-per-second burst mode captures more of the story.

3. Make sure you can capture the fine details

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“When you're at the top of a mountain, you've got a perfect view that you need to capture in the best form you can,” says Alan. That’s why having a camera capable of shooting as much information as possible really pays off. “Having video footage in 4K gets every individual piece of grass. By shooting in 4K you’re picking up small details that would otherwise go missing.”

The Canon PowerShot SX740 HS's 4K video mode provides sharp resolution and offers the option to grab stills from the footage. Alan has found the time-lapse movie function a boon, too. “Time-lapse is great for sunrises and sunsets. You can capture the changing light and different set of colours in a very short sequence."

4. Share on the go, wherever you are

A purple and grey landscape lies on the floor with walking poles and a camera on top of it.

“Sharing has become very, very important,” Alan says. “On social media, people are actively waiting for me to post new stories. Sometimes I don’t get around to doing one, and the next thing you've got people saying, “I've been waiting for this post, where is it?’”

The Canon PowerShot SX740 HS's Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity means Alan can share images on the go, connecting his camera to his mobile phone to post updates from the mountainside. Images automatically transfer to his phone using Auto Transfer on the Canon Camera Connect app, and he can geotag his photos using his phone’s GPS before publishing to his blog and social media.

5. Use image stabilisation for sharp wildlife and macro shots

Whether Alan’s photographing his granddaughter doing cartwheels in his garden, or capturing an eagle soaring overhead, he has found the Canon PowerShot SX740 HS's Intelligent IS invaluable for keeping footage steady and pictures sharp. He says it works just as well with macro shots as with movement.

“I take close-ups of caterpillars, butterflies and all sorts of things for my granddaughter and bring them back to show her,” he says. “She gets excited and we have a close bond over it. It’s great that she wants to go and explore. If you get a younger generation that's interested in nature and the natural world, there's nothing better.”

A macro shot shows bluebells with wet grass behind.

Written by Lucy Fulford

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