Archive for the ‘rain’ Tag

Friday Foto Talk: Shooting around Weather   4 comments

Dust and sand from the dunes at Mesquite Flat blows up-valley ahead of a storm.  Surprising for this hyper-arid place, I got soaked hiking back.

I took a break last week from Foto Talk.  Hope you all didn’t give up on me!  This week I passed by an area that was readying itself for a hurricane.  And there’s been plenty of rain besides.  So I’m taking the hint and posting on the subject of photography and weather, in particular photographing in the wet stuff.

Shooting in stormy conditions presents both challenges and opportunities.  You’ve probably heard the advice to keep shooting right through stormy weather.  While I won’t disagree with this in general, I prefer a less absolute, more realistic attitude.  It’s a matter of weighing the upsides against the downsides.

On the plus side, depending on the clouds and sky, you may get some of your most atmospheric or dramatic shots during bad weather.  On the downside your gear is at risk.  In wet weather you are taking the obvious risk of getting moisture inside camera or lens.  Since that’s where your sensitive electronics reside, this is of course not good.

A storm blows itself out over the Columbia River, Oregon.

SHOOTING IN THE STORM

I’ve lived in both Oregon and Alaska, two places where dramatically bad weather is very common.  Here is what I’ve learned over the years about photography in bad weather:

  • I just mentioned the risks of water inside the camera.  But that’s not nearly as bad as putting yourself at risk.  It doesn’t happen often but dangerous weather does occur.  Use common sense and know when to beat a hasty retreat, to high ground and/or shelter.
  • Find camera protection that works for you.  I’ve posted before with tips and recommendations in this regard, and this post isn’t about that.  Just realize that no matter how good your rain cover, lens changes and other occasions expose your camera to the weather.  So no matter what you do some moisture will likely fall on your camera.  If you have a well-sealed professional grade camera and lenses, you can get away with wetter conditions.  The key is to know how well sealed your gear is and act accordingly.
I shot this lighthouse on the Gulf Coast of Florida recently just after a heavy shower had passed.

I shot this lighthouse on the Gulf Coast of Florida recently just after a heavy shower had passed.

  • At least as important as having camera/lens protection is having good clothing that keeps you reasonably dry and comfortable.  But since no clothing is perfect, be ready to put up with a certain degree of discomfort.  I always remember what my grandmom used to say whenever I complained about getting wet.  “You’re awfully sweet but you’re not made of sugar.  You won’t melt!”
  • Unless I see something quite compelling, either while driving or hiking with camera in a pack with rain-cover on, I usually don’t bother getting my gear out when the rain (or wet snow) is coming down hard.  Shots I may try when it’s dry I won’t chance when it’s very wet; that is, unless it’s really calling out to me.  It’s a simple calculation of risk vs. reward.
  • When it’s raining or snowing, contrast tends to be subdued.  So I tend to be attracted to compositions where low-contrast helps instead of hurting.  Low contrast in the wrong shot can rob it of impact, but in the right situation it helps establish the mood of your image.
Hiking up into the Oregon forest during a rainstorm near dusk was the only way to get this shot.

Hiking up into the Oregon forest during a rainstorm near dusk was the only way to get this shot.

  • I shoot from within my vehicle a lot more when the weather is bad.  And I don’t think it makes me a wimp!  It does require sometimes pulling off in odd places.  If you do this, take it from me:  turn your attention away from the light and pay attention to your driving until you’re stopped, and even then continue to keep one eye out for traffic.  Unless the road is truly empty, I won’t block the travel lane.  I always make sure there is good sight distance behind and in front.  Having good sight distance is key, as is using emergency flashers and being quick about it.
The rain was coming down hard for this shot from inside my van: Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

The rain was coming down hard for this shot from inside my van: Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

  • Being near big waterfalls can be just like being in a rainstorm.  So all the precautions you take in rainy weather you should also take when shooting a big waterfall in high flow.
  • Normally I don’t use UV filters, but when it’s wet I like to put them on. Lenses seal much better with a filter than without.  Any filter will help seal a lens.  If I’m shooting in a forest and especially along a stream, I use a circular polarizer instead of a UV filter.  CPLs cut down on reflections from wet leaves and rocks, bringing out their colors.
  • If you like shooting the stars at night, consider also shooting on moonlit nights when clouds or even storms are around.  Lightning is an obvious draw for many photographers, but if you let your imagination roam you can find unusual night compositions.
Most photogs. want clear skies when they shoot at night, but the clouds added drama to this overview of Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone Park.

Most photogs. want clear skies when they shoot at night, but the clouds added drama to this overview of Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone Park.

SHOOTING TRANSITIONS 

As I’ve gone along, shooting in weather of all kinds, I’ve learned that shooting on weathery days is all about transitions.  Periods when weather is moving in on you or just clearing away very often offer the most rewarding light and atmosphere.  That’s why I titled this post Shooting around Weather, not in it.

  • Given that weather transitions usually happen quickly, it’s important to be ready.  That means, for a start, getting out there.  Some people think it strange, but a landscape photographer looks at bad weather forecasts and plans to go out shooting.  And it’s not just landscape shooting that can benefit.  You’ll get some of your most interesting architecture, people or wildlife shots when weather adds some drama to spice things up.
The interesting light here at Bollinger Mill & Bridge, Missouri is from a rapidly approaching violent thunderstorm.

The interesting light here at Bollinger Mill & Bridge, Missouri is from a rapidly approaching violent thunderstorm.

  • So how to plan for something so capricious?  First, identify “transition days” ahead of time.  They are days when weather shifts from one regime to another, and the weather-person will sometimes call them out for you.  Otherwise you can see them coming yourself, once you’re familiar with the weather in your area.  Because they are full of change and thus unpredictable, you can easily get skunked with either socked-in conditions or clear blue skies.  But you can be rewarded with fantastic light as well.
  • Because they are literally defined by change, success on transition days is anything but guaranteed.  So instead of trying to outsmart the weather, go out on storm days too.  Transitions in the middle of stormy periods, often featuring brilliant sun-breaks and colorful rainbows, occur between fronts and generally don’t show up in weather forecasts (although you can sometimes see them on radar).

Within seconds, the rain stopped and light of the setting sun shot out from behind the Grand Tetons, Wyoming.

 

  • Watch the sky carefully and try to anticipate transitions.  This can take practice, and expect Mother Nature to throw you many curves.  During dry times, get to where you want to shoot and wait (hope) for the shift to stormy weather at the right time, when the sun is low.  During the storm, get to your spot and shelter there with camera & tripod at the ready.  As the sun lowers, there is always the chance it will dip below the storm clouds, illuminating everything in beautiful light.

Thanks for reading.  Now I’m off to get some shots of the ocean and sky in tropical storm weather.  Wish me luck!  Have a great weekend and happy shooting!

Recent sunset in a coastal area along the Gulf of Mexico where Hermine was due to hit.

Recent sunset in a coastal area along the Gulf of Mexico where Hermine was due to hit.

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Friday Foto Talk: Shoot in Any Weather   19 comments

A blustery cold winter morning at Joshua Tree National Park, California gave me the opportunity to shoot something I’ve always loved to see: spindrift in bright sunlight.

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:

The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee.

The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee.  It was raining pretty heavily but I walked to a high lookout anyway, just in case.  Grain added during processing.

  • 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.

 

When you're in a Costa rican cloud forest, and it's raining, these are the kinds of shots that jump out.

When you’re in a Costa Rican cloud forest and it’s raining, these are the kinds of images that jump out.

One recent morning I woke to clouds and a missing sunrise, but this fog made it well worth shooting anyway. Toning added during processing.

One recent morning I woke to clouds and a missing sunrise, but this fog made it well worth shooting anyway. Toning added during processing.

  • 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.
The drive out to this spot in an ice storm was not fun but how else are you going to see and shoot unique light like this? Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

The drive out to this spot during an ice storm was a little sketchy, but how else are you going to see and shoot unique skies and light like this? Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

  • 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.
Owen's Valley, California in a sandstorm.

Owen’s Valley, California in a sandstorm.

  • 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.
Mount Rainier and its famous subalpine flower meadows under soars into the clear blue near sunset.

Mount Rainier and its famous subalpine flower meadows under soars into the clear blue near sunset.

  • 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.
I photographed this particularly striking food vendor at Angkor Wat, Cambodia in shade but adjacent to a brightly lit square.

I photographed this particularly striking food vendor at Angkor Wat, Cambodia in shade but adjacent to a brightly lit square.

  •  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.
A crescent moon was setting as I captured this image at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

A crescent moon was setting as I captured this image at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

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!

Just before sunset the clouds started breaking and voila! Columbia Gorge, Oregon.

Just before sunset the clouds started breaking and voila! Columbia Gorge, Oregon.

Wordless Wednesday: Columbia Gorge Weather   2 comments

Columbia_Gorge_2-24-14_5D3_002

Single Image Sunday: Panther Creek Bridge   7 comments

A bridge over Panther Creek in Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest almost fades into a misty rainy dusk evening.

A bridge over Panther Creek in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest almost fades into a misty rainy dusk evening.

I haven’t posted a black and white image in awhile.  This was quite a productive trip last time we had real weather.  Stood right in the middle of the creek for this one.  Click the image to access price information on a variety of print and download options for the high-res. version.  Thanks for taking a look!

Single-Image Sunday: Rainy Oregon   4 comments

This Sunday I thought I’d post a black and white image.  I don’t do a lot of black and white.  Perhaps that’s why I like it so much when I do capture an image like this one.  Then it’s back to the computer to see if I can bring back the mood in the scene.  I’ve found especially with black and white that RAW digital captures can take away some of the subtle contrasts and tones and make them feel a little lifeless.  I processed this with Nik Silver Effex Pro.

This little outing was really sort of a bust.  I arrived in the Columbia River Gorge (Oregon) to get some pictures at sunset.  Unfortunately a rainstorm timed its arrival for sunset too.  It was a race to get a picture before the deluge, a race I lost.  As I set up it began raining.  So I grabbed a few shots and quickly put my camera away.

The light was rapidly fading with the building clouds, robbing the scene of what a minute before was a very vibrant green.  I thought immediately that it might make a good black and white landscape image.  A minute or so after I captured it the rainstorm grayed out the nice shadows and highlights on the water.  So this was definitely one of those pictures that straddles the edge of changing light and weather conditions.  I think that’s the reason it turned out well.  What do you think?

Rainy weather descends on Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

Rainy weather descends on Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

Simply click on the image for pricing options.  You’ll go to the high-res. version.  Click “add this image to cart” to get a tabbed price chart.  The picture won’t be added to your cart until you confirm your choices.  Sorry but the image is copyrighted and not available for free download.  Please contact me with any questions.  Thanks for your interest.

Friday Foto Talk: Cameras and Water   6 comments

Metlako Falls in the Eagle Creek Gorge (Oregon), as viewed from above.

Metlako Falls in the Eagle Creek Gorge (Oregon), as viewed from above.

First of all, let me say these pictures may indeed be the last ones my Canon 5D Mark II has captured.  That’s because it took a bad fall and bath.  I had climbed down through the steep brush in Eagle Creek Gorge (Columbia River Gorge in Oregon) trying to find an interesting view of Metlako Falls.  Metlako Falls is one of the tougher waterfalls in Oregon to access and photograph.  I ended up in a spectacular spot, looking down a tumbling stream toward the hidden grotto that the beautiful cascade spills into

The clamp on my tripod head had been a little loose lately.  I’d tightened it but apparently not enough.  I was trying to mount my microphone on the camera to take a video.  In sketchy spots like this, I usually have the camera strap around my neck for safety.  But I had taken it off to get the mic.  The camera was about 7 feet above the creek.

Metlako Falls in the Columbia River Gorge is difficult to access.  Here it's viewed from above.

Metlako Falls in the Columbia River Gorge is difficult to access. Here it’s viewed from above.

You know what happened next.  The camera slipped out of the clamp and fell directly onto a rock then into the creek.  I quickly grabbed it before it went over the edge and frantically dried it off.  But the damage was done.  There is a big dent in the top.  This camera has served me very very well.  It has given me zero problems and captured excellent images for about a year and a half.  I was planning to keep it at least until the next version of the 5D came out (or a new high-resolution full frame Canon).

One more of Metlako Falls, this from a small steep path that leads to this view.

One more of Metlako Falls, this from a small steep path that leads to this view.

Now of course that’s all changed.  Luckily my lens appears to be fine, but the camera is damaged goods, no matter whether it can be repaired or not.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  I’m using my backup, a Canon 50D.  It’s a solid DSLR, but it’s a crop-frame.  I’m too much the wide-angle enthusiast to shoot with it on a constant basis.  Also it doesn’t do video and has slightly lower resolution.  So with few financial resources right now I need to somehow get a new camera.  Though I’m curious about the 6D, I’ll probably just go with the 5D Mark III.

The Columbia River Gorge's high cliffs turn gold at sundown, reflected in wetlands formed during spring's high water flow.  This was captured the day before this camera took a fall.

The Columbia River Gorge’s high cliffs turn gold at sundown, reflected in wetlands formed during spring’s high water flow. This was captured the day before my camera took a fall.

Now to the advice.  Shooting in the Pacific Northwest gives one plenty of experience with water.  From plain old rain to splashing creeks and waterfalls, even the humidity, this area tends to be hard on cameras.  My 5D II was not the best sealed of cameras, so I needed to be careful.  I use a towell that sort of has a big pocket built into it.  It is very absorbent.  I found it at Walgreens.  The pocket fits right over the top of the camera, then I can drape it over the lens.  I do this when it is raining lightly or if I have waterfall spray.

You can buy quite expensive rain gear for your camera.  But nothing I’ve tried is very convenient for use in the rain.  I want to get a housing.  I would just love to start shooting underwater pictures at freshwater creeks and wetlands.  Housings are extremely expensive though.

There is one challenge that often goes overlooked when talking about this subject.  When it starts raining you need to quickly transition to camera protection mode.  How do you do this without getting the camera wet?  If you have an umbrella it might help.  But it’s often a stressful scramble when the sky suddenly decides to open up and take a big pee on you and your gear.

A fisherman tries his luck in the lake that sits beneath Crown Point in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.  This picture was captured with my backup camera the day after the "accident".

A fisherman tries his luck in the lake that sits beneath Crown Point in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. This picture was captured with my backup camera the day after the “accident”.

I also shoot above rushing water very often.  I have a friend who uses a safety strap that connects the camera to the tripod.  If the head or plate fails, the camera does not fall to the ground or water.  But that still leaves the tripod itself vulnerable.  So I try to always keep the camera strap around my neck near cliffs or over water.  That way if a disaster develops I can save at least the camera/lens and probably the tripod as well.

There is a major Catch 22 here.  Often you want to be out shooting when the weather is “interesting”.  I usually am trying not to shoot in actual rain but just before or after.  I don’t regard grey skies and steady rain as interesting weather!  I think it is the edge of things that you want to target with your camera: the edge of a storm, edge of an ecosystem, edge of the day, edge of a facial expression, etc.

The walls of Oregon's Columbia River Gorge at day's last light.

The walls of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge at day’s last light.

So my approach is to avoid having my camera out while it’s raining, to wait until the rain lets up before shooting.  And then I cover it with the special towel when I have it out shooting.  I think the electronics in this gear we have will never get along with moisture very well.  Of course if I was independently wealthy, or was somebody famous, sponsored by Canon (yes I’m talking about you Art Wolfe!), I would have a well-sealed Canon 1Dx.  If something happened to it Canon would just send me another.  If I had this $6000+ camera I would not worry about drizzle so much, though full immersion (and salt water) would still be a danger.

The last image below was captured the day after the accident.  I had done a sort of rock climb 100 feet or so up Rooster Rock.  A nearby osprey in her nest was not amused at my presence, and I clung to a precarious spot to get the shot.  I definitely kept the neck strap in place this time.  But I won’t ever stop putting my camera in dangerous spots just because of the possibility of an accident.  That’s just not me.  I know, what about putting myself in danger?  I don’t want to talk about it!

Hope you found this advice helpful.  It’s a mean world (at least for camera gear), so be careful and good luck out there!

A viewpoint gained after a short rock climb partway up Rooster Rock in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge gives a fine view of early evening colors on the river.  Captured with my backup camera the day after the accident.

A viewpoint gained after a short rock climb partway up Rooster Rock in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge gives a fine view of early evening colors on the river. Captured with my backup camera the day after the accident.

Oregon Weather   4 comments

Typical weather in western Oregon's forested Cascade Mountains outside of the height of summer.

Typical weather in western Oregon’s forested Cascade Mountains outside of the height of summer.

 

The weather in the Pacific Northwest (western Oregon and Washington) can be described in one word: drippy.  This is not always true of course.  Summer is typically sunny and beautiful.  But for much of the year, this region of the country gets hit by one storm another other coming off the Pacific Ocean.  The percentage of cloudy days here is by far higher than anywhere else I have lived.  In short, there is a good reason the Northwest is green and heavily forested.

This Spring, the weather has been typically cloudy and wet.  There have been a few warm sunny days of late, and that has given the hopelessly optimistic (naive?) among us the impression that the rainy season is over.  But this past weekend’s cool wet weather shattered that fantasy.  I feel sorry for newcomers to Oregon.  They actually expect springtime to bring warm and sunny weather.  They don’t really get it yet.  Reliably warm and bright weather does not arrive here until after the 4th of July.  Cruelly, it really does seem to like waiting until after this holiday weekend.

Fog and sun battle for dominance in an Oregon forest.

Fog and sun battle for dominance in an Oregon forest.

Being a photographer, I know that bad weather provides some opportunities along with its challenges.  So over the weekend I spent some time trying to get atmospheric pictures of our lush green forests and waterfalls.  (Tune in to the next post for the waterfalls.)  I look on weather like this as an opportunity to capture the unique and special feel of this place, the deep forested canyons and ridges that make up western Oregon’s Cascades and Coast Range.  You really can’t do that when the skies are clear, because the pictures end up looking like so many other beautiful places.

The steep forest of the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon sees plenty of misty-rainy days.

The steep forest of the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon sees plenty of misty-rainy days.

So I went on short hikes into the nearby Columbia River Gorge.  My goal was to be out photographing between showers.  I really don’t enjoy hiking in the rain for one thing.  For another, my camera gear is even more averse to wet weather.  Go figure!  As I should have expected, things did not turn out as I hoped.  Dry periods were spent driving to and from my hiking destinations, while a steady, soaking rain fell for nearly my entire time spent in the woods.  In other words, I spent my weekend getting muddy and soaked from head to toe.

Fog and mist permeates a deep evergreen temperate rain forest in Oregon.

Fog and mist permeates a deep evergreen temperate rain forest in Oregon.

Although it was a struggle to keep my camera gear dry, I managed to get a few good pictures and (amazingly) returned home with a working camera.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.  They are copyrighted and illegal to download without my permission.  Click on any of the images to gain access to the high-res. versions where purchase options are given.  You’ll need to click “add this image to cart” in order to see prices, but they won’t be added to your cart until you decide what you want.  Please contact me with any questions or requests.  Thanks for your interest.

There is a reason Oregon is green and chock-full of streams and rivers.

There is a reason Oregon is green and chock-full of streams and rivers.

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