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What weather do you choose to shoot in?




There's no denying that taking photographs under blazing sun and clear blue skies is more comfortable than lashing rain and fierce winds. But some of the finest landscape photography has been taken in otherwise ‘bad’ weather. Take, for instance, the majesty of Ansel Adams’ snowscapes or the rolling mists of Per Bak Jensen.


The problem with only shooting in fair weather


The weather can cast a kind of filter over our emotions as well as a landscape, and create all sorts of atmospheric tensions. So the problem with only shooting in fair weather is that your range becomes limited. You get used to using your camera in a certain way and producing shots with the same emotive value, never really testing your own technical expertise or a landscape’s potential.


On a more practical level, shooting in inclement weather produces a softer light that is easier to work with, as opposed to having to fight against unfavourable conditions such as glare, which can dictate when and from what angle you can shoot.


Here are some tips for shooting in bad weather, to help you capture your subject in a new light...


Clouds


A heavy, dense sky isn’t barren and featureless, it can add emphasis to your subject. If you’re photographing a stark or desolate landscape, clouds can serve to add emotional resonance, depth of perspective and a textured backdrop. Without the glare of the sun, clouds can reduce the contrast of your photographs, allowing you to better maintain a histogram within the range of 0-255. A monochrome filter can add even more weight and gravitas to your subject.


Rain


Shooting in the rain allows you to capture intense shots, whether it’s a remote seascape or the puddle reflections of a deluged city. Shooting with a higher ISO (around 1600), quicker shutter speed (1/250) and high aperture (around f/4 to f/1.4) can enable you to get clarity and light even under cloud cover and pick out individual fragile raindrops clinging to leaves, as well as dramatic splashes. Of course, the rain can present a problem for your camera too. Try to shoot away from any blowing rain to protect the element and use a lens hood and long lens so you can remain relatively sheltered.


Storms


Magnificent lightning strikes can illuminate an abandoned area or highlight a specific feature allowing you to add real drama and energy to your landscape photography. Even better is when you shoot these random occurrences in contrasting environments, such as over mountain ranges or stark winter landscapes. It’s important to find a low-lying vantage point away from tall structures so you don’t put yourself at risk. A tripod is invaluable, and for panoramic shots opt for a wide-angle lens, ideally an f/8 aperture, with around an ISO 100 if your lightning is roughly five miles away.


Mist and fog


Lending a real ethereal and mystical quality to your landscape photography, mist and fog can create a barrier between objects in the foreground and those in the background, whether you’re photographing lazy brooks and stones beneath mountain ranges or haunting jetties. Use a tripod to achieve a real stillness of composition and an exposure compensation of around + 1 EV. This lets you capture the fog’s creeping energy and movement in a way that threatens to envelop the entire frame and the viewer. Try not to overexpose if in manual mode and aim to the right of your image’s histogram.


Snow


Rather than simply creating a bleak, uninspiring canvas, snow is able to focus a viewer’s attention on a subject far more clearly. But it can also create a natural sense of ease and calm, whether it complements a rising mountain peak or the pathos of a fragile tree. Use natural objects to add depth and frame your picture, but be careful not to overcrowd your scene, and shoot within a limited tonal range. Your camera will struggle to metre, so shoot in manual mode and use EV compensation of around +2/3 to +1 2/3 as needed.


As we hunker away in bleak midwinter, many photographers are tempted to hang up their cameras. But now is the perfect time to discover the idiosyncrasies of shooting landscapes in bad weather. Whether it helps you set a particular mood, add emphasis to a subject, or merely exercise your adaptability to a range of conditions, bad weather can add a new dimension to your landscape photography.