How to take pictures on Whiteface

Mary Dougherty

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I'm a fine art film photographer living in the mountains and traveling to tell beautiful stories

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Taking pictures on top of Whiteface Mountain is adventurous and so worth it. Like any natural excursion, preparation is key. As a destination wedding photographer based outside of Lake Placid I am familiar with shooting on the mountain, and ready with alternative options should we need to change plans. See the workshop I host for photographers, and the shoot I produced here.

See past shoots on Whiteface Mountain :

In this post we will address how to take pictures on top of Whiteface, what it costs, how to get there and more. Sure, photographing on a mountain summit has some unique challenges. It’s definitely not your typical shoot. But the tradeoffs include gorgeous panoramic views as an incredible backdrop, and such a fun story to tell!

To start planning your own shoot, elopement or wedding with Mary Dougherty reach out here.

double exposure on film of whiteface mountain and couple standing on top for engagement pictures

How do I get to the top of Whiteface?

The 1934 alpine-style gatehouse will be your entrance onto Veterans’ Memorial Highway. You’ll drive 5 miles on a paved road with 2,300’ elevation gain. The road is open daily from 8:45am-5:30pm, closing completely for the season in mid-October and not opening until late May / early June. Next you’ll hike just under ¼ mile from the top of Veterans’ Memorial Highway to the summit, gaining 257’ in elevation on rocky stairs. 

What does it cost to drive up Whiteface?

To drive up Veterans’ Memorial Highway the fee is $20 for a vehicle and driver. The first additional passenger is another $20, and passengers 3-8 cost $10 each. 

How long does it take to get up Whiteface?

After leaving the Toll House area at the base, it’s a 5 mi drive followed by a 15-25 min walk depending on how you are feeling. 

black and white photo of couple kissing on top of a mountain with view behind them | Mary Dougherty

How can I take pictures on top of Whiteface?

You can have photos taken at any time the summit is open. For engagement sessions and elopements, I’d recommend starting on the summit no later than about an hour to an hour and a half before the summit closes. This will help you maximize on early evening light, and comfortably give us enough time to shoot, before anyone asks us to leave. 

Do I need to plan anything to elope on Whiteface?

Not necessarily. You certainly can head up the mountain in advance, to explore and get a feel for the surroundings. But on the day of, no matter what we may or may not have in mind, it will all come down to weather and lighting. I will help recommend specific spaces on the summit where I think our shoot would work best. This would happen when we arrive at the top and see the site firsthand and in the moment. Of course, getting a marriage license and officiant are necessary.

What should I wear?

Even though you can drive most of the way to the top, the last ¼ mile or so is on foot. The walk is up and over some varied, rocky terrain. A sturdy pair of shoes is definitely recommended. Then easily slip into your second pair for your shoot. Temperatures tend to drop as you climb, so having a few layers to wear during the in-between moments will keep you the most comfortable. 

couple looks out to lake from mountain view of whiteface mountain in lake placid by Mary Dougherty

What conditions can I expect?

Weather is always a toss up on top of a mountain! There could be low visibility with fog, a strong breeze, or clear conditions with bright light. We will anticipate the conditions as best we can, be ready with some alternative ideas and hope for the best! 

How many people will be on the mountain?

Since Whiteface Mountain is open to the public, there is typically a steady stream of visitors. Weekends are likely to be busier than a weekday. 

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