Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
Every time the subject of bad weather photography comes up I can’t stop thinking about the famous poem by Robert Frost – Stopping by woods on a snowy evening. So much so that I couldn’t resist using the first four lines as the opening para of this article.
Does bad weather always serve as your cue to retire to the relative safety of your home? Do you always look at bad weather with an eye of skepticism and the thought to venture out to make photos never ever crosses your mind? If your answer to the above is in the affirmative you are the type of photographer who does not believe in the golden words – bad weather is good for digital photography.
Notwithstanding, if you are here, there’s still hope. Whether you are here to look for inspiration to leave your home when bad weather is imminent or because someone told you that it actually is a great idea; you are in the right place. Once you have read through the remaining lines you will be convinced bad weather is like a treasure-trove of fantastic photo opportunities.
One of the biggest advantage of digital photography is the instant gratification that you get by checking the LCD upon clicking an image. Back in the days of film this was simply unthinkable. You would had to wait for at least a day for your images to be developed and printed. With digital photography, however, you can be lazy and make a number of shots before getting the one that closely matches your vision. It is an incredible advantage for landscape and other genres.
Bad weather is not an acquired taste
Shooting in bad weather – the idea might sound preposterous to those who prefer the comfort and safety of a shelter and a warm fire. But it is by no stretch of imagination a gamble. Bad weather allows you to capture the vagaries of nature, which in itself is a recipe for dramatic photos. Great landscape photos are often those which are contrasty and has an element of cloud presence in them, something bad weather offers in plenty.
This, is however, not a general rule and there are plenty of photos which contradict the above statement. But by and large landscape images which are contrasty, moody and tend to induce feeling of suspense do tend to invoke the attention of the viewer.
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You wanted contrast, now you’ve got it
The thing about bad light is the relative contrasting nature of it. You have a lack of light at one end of the sky and a stunning golden hour light on the other. If contrast is your kind of thing, you have to venture out and capture such scenes. I like shooting stormy scenes. Strong twisters that move like an anaconda slowly engulfing everything in its path is a sight not for the weak-hearted. Yet, such sights make for engrossing photos.
Play with light and the absence of it
Bad weather invariably is all about playing with light, and at times the lack of it. A silver lining around an ominous looking cloud, lightning striking out of a dark sky with an illuminated city-scape in the background or a deep dark wood right after a blizzard can be interesting photo opportunities to say the least. The absence of good lighting in most parts do tend to give an image a sense of mystery.
Bad weather gives clichéd subjects a fresh new look
Ironically bad weather produces a completely fresh perspective of a place. This is the reason why landscape photographers would often revisit a place over and over again and in different seasons. Just so that they can get a different photo of the place. If you are looking for landscape photography lessons this is a must-learn.
With today’s accurate weather forecasting you can not only know in advance when bad weather is imminent but also track its course. Weather apps are an incredibly powerful in the hands of storm chasers and nature photographers. Due to Australia’s lack of precipitation in most parts it is always preferable to know in advance when bad weather is predicted and then plan accordingly. Whenever possible try and shoot with a wide angle lens and shoot from a low angle instead of the ubiquitous ‘eye-level’.
Planning ahead would also include packing proper protective gear for your camera and yourself. Pack umbrellas, rain jackets, gloves, weather sealed camera holders and a tent that can give you some protection if needed. One thing you don’t want is to get caught in a severe dust storm. Sand particles and electronic cameras don’t go well together.
Try hard but stay safe
This is one of the most important photography tips. It is important to know when to quit. Sometimes in the heat of the moment you can overlook the threat aspect and or misjudge it. It can have catastrophic results. Always remain alert of the situation. Remember, there is no shame in beating a retreat when things are too hot to handle. You can always come back another day.