Occasionally I see someone post on Facebook or mention elsewhere that they are anxious for the weather to cooperate so that they can get out with their cameras. They’ll say they are inside playing in Photoshop because the weather is keeping them from shooting, or that they’re looking forward to getting out when the weather finally improves this weekend.
The message for this post is very simple. Quit making excuses and get out there! Short of hurricanes, tornados, and other dangerous situations, there is really no weather that you can’t handle with clothing and gear. Check out my series on winter photography for tips on how to protect yourself and your gear.
It’s springtime now in the northern hemisphere, and that means quickly changing weather. So why not go out to see what happens? Maybe it will clear up just before sunset, rewarding you for your persistence. But even if it stays weathery (or even gets worse), don’t worry! The most important thing to remember is that there’s really no kind of weather that doesn’t offer at least a few good photographic possibilities. Here are some examples:
- Rainy & Foggy. Especially when paired with fog or low clouds hugging hillsides, rainy weather can be the perfect time to shoot mood-filled landscapes. And if it suddenly clears, hello rainbow! Rain also offers good people shooting. With typically bright raincoats and umbrellas, the flat light of cloud-cover can really bring out those colors. Rainy conditions can also favor flowers and other small colorful close-ups. Droplets on flowers and other vegetation look great in macro photos.
- Snowy & Cold. New-fallen snow glistens like an older snow-cover never does. And when the wind starts playing with snow magical things tend to happen (as in the image at top). It can certainly be a challenge to deal with the contrasts of a snowy scene. All that white, when it fills most of the viewfinder, demands that you are careful with exposure (your camera’s light meter is ‘fooled’ into underexposing). The cold air of winter offers a clarity that can give your landscapes a sense of depth, and make your backgrounds stand out better.
- Windy. I’ve been shooting in some wind in the desert lately and have posted a few of those. The nice part about wind is that it will pick up sand and other loose materials and blow them around, creating moody effects. Of course windy conditions present some challenges. You need to think about camera stability; decide if a tripod is better than being buffeted while you’re holding the camera. As long as you weight it down by hanging a heavy bag from the center post, a tripod will work well in wind when exposures are too long for hand-held shots. And don’t try to change lenses out in the wind, unless you don’t want to have your camera’s sensor & interior cleaned afterward.
- Clear Blue Skies. This is the bane of every landscape photographer. It means the sun’s light isn’t really filtered and reflected while it’s still in the sky, before it gets to your subject. Thus most photographers think the light is poor in times of clear weather. While it’s easier to get a great landscape image when there are clouds in the sky, that doesn’t mean great shots aren’t possible. Subjects have to be unusually strong when under bluebird skies, and there is a tight window to shoot in when the sun is very near the horizon.
- More Clear Days: Clear skies are also decent times to shoot close-ups and macros. A portable diffusing panel helps out, or you can shoot when the sun is very low. For similar reasons people pictures can turn out very nice in clear sunny weather. You need to find shade or again shoot when the sun is low. Placing your subjects at the edge of the shade and near broad reflective ground surfaces helps to give beautiful illumination backed by darker backgrounds.
- And Clear Nights: When it’s clear, some subjects (architecture being a great example) look very good at the so-called blue hour. That’s well after sunset but before it gets dark and the sky loses all of its blue color. If you want to shoot a star-filled sky, clear and moonless is the time to do it. I actually like a partial moon to help illuminate the subject or foreground. I also like some clouds in my starscapes and don’t care too much about the Milky Way. But I’m in the minority there.
I think you can see that almost any conceivable weather is good for photography. The trick is to think about all the types of pictures you may want, not just the one or two that you happen to desire at a given time. If you have this mindset, then no matter what the weather you’re likely to find just the right kinds of pictures to shoot. Have a wonderful weekend!