Friday Foto Talk: Showing the Wind   8 comments

Spring flowers and a windy morning in Oregon.

Spring flowers and a windy morning in Oregon.

I was out of touch yesterday, spending the whole day on the beach in Southern California.  But I decided early on that Friday Foto Talk posts can be plus or minus one day.  Not long ago in a post on sand dunes, I showed an image captured during a windstorm.  That gave me the idea for a post on how to “show the wind”.

I get pretty excited about showing something that is considered impossible to see in a still image.  Moving water is fairly easy, but the wind?  It’s invisible after all.  Here’s how I approach the challenge:

  • Anytime it’s windy I try to avoid lens changes to keep the inevitable dust from getting inside the camera.  Choose a lens that will work for the shots you want and stick with it.  If you break down and change lenses, try to find some shelter and do it quick!  Also realize you’ll likely need to clean your sensor after a windy outing or two.
  • Showing the wind is all about showing its effects.  Blowing branches, spray, snow, etc., it can all be used as a proxy for the wind.
Hiking to a high viewpoint gave me a chance to show the patterns of winds sweeping across Lake Crescent, Washington.

Hiking to a high viewpoint gave me a chance to show the patterns of winds sweeping across Lake Crescent, Washington.

  • As with water, I often use a shutter speed that either freezes or blurs movement.  Sometimes you have to search for a medium shutter speed that will make the blowing subject more visible.  Blowing rain or snow can be like this.

Owen’s Valley, California

  • For blurring movement, a subject that forms a strong contrast with the background will create a naturally stronger composition.  Look for contrasts in texture, shape, and especially color.  You don’t want your blowing subject to be too subtle to notice at first glance.
  • It can be harder to show the wind’s effects by freezing movement (see image below).  My advice here is to give your imagination some rein and experiment with different shutter speeds.  Then choose the image that best shows the moment, whether that’s the drama of high winds or the feel of a gentle breeze.
The tail end of a rare snowstorm in the desert of Joshua Tree National Park offered the chance to shoot the bluster and spindrift.

The tail end of a rare snowstorm in the desert of Joshua Tree National Park offered the chance to shoot the bluster and spindrift.

  • Using blowing wind as a supporting subject is also a great idea.  Say you already have a strong subject, for example a person or animal standing firm, facing the wind (as in the image below).  Then you can allow the background effects to show the wind.  In this case you may be limited to a relatively faster shutter speed because of the need for a live subject that is sharp (they move a little even when it doesn’t seem that they are).

This image from Botswana has been posted before, but it shows the intensity of a duststorm so graphically here it is again.

  • Finally, strong winds can cause stability problems.  If you’re using slow shutter speeds, trying to let some elements blur while keeping others sharp, you’ll need either to hang a weight from the center post (if your tripod has a hook) or use a heavy duty tripod.  If on the other hand you’re shooting with a fast shutter speed to freeze movement, then be free and work without a tripod.

The next time it’s windy, instead of wishing for calm, get out and shoot to show the wind in all its glory.  Hope you’re having a great weekend and happy shooting!

A California sunset with the Channel Islands and blowing sea-spray.

Sunset the other day over the Pacific, with blowing sea-spray and the Channel Islands offshore: Southern California

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8 responses to “Friday Foto Talk: Showing the Wind

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  1. Fine and windy works 🙂

  2. These are exceptional 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for yet another great tutorial. The photos are stunning, simply BEAUUUUUTIFUL!! 🙂

  4. I always love your photos and you share such great ideas. Thank you.

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