In Norway we grow up hearing, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. While this wasn’t what you wanted to hear when you were eight years old, and had to go to school even though it’s -20c and a snowstorm, it’s what we are used to. Instead of complaining about the cold weather we would wear an extra layer of clothes and go about our day as normal.
Foggy sunrise at Covadonga cathedral in Asturias, Spain
This way of thinking has in many ways impacted my photography and made me go out with a camera, even though it’s rainy, windy or just bad weather. What many seem to neglect is that even though the weather is bad, there are still a whole lot of great images waiting to be captured. They are just a little harder to find. Here are three ways to take advantage for bad weather conditions and still get good photos.
#1 – Drop the sky and zoom in
Bad weather often means a grey sky without contrast. Personally, there’s not much I dislike, more than that in a landscape image. Most of the time this uninteresting sky will take unnecessary attention from the subject, and do more harm than good.
Remote cabin in Jotunheimen in foggy weather
So, instead of including a sky that lacks contrast, use a telezoom and focus on a smaller detail in the landscape. Perhaps there’s a cabin, a river, or maybe even a deer in the area around you. Use your zoom and make these subjects into the main part of your image.
This can also be a good exercise for your creative vision, as it forces you to slow down and pay attention to your surroundings. It forces you to carefully look through the landscape and notice every single
In fact, I’ve found using a telezoom beneficial for my photography in general, as I’ve become more aware of the scenery, and I’m constantly searching for something that sticks out.
The low clouds made an interesting framing of this waterfall in Norway
#2 – Photograph waterfalls
On sunny days it’s very hard to get good images of waterfalls, as the light is hard and the reflections are bad. Most likely the water will look hard and “shiny” even though you’re using a long exposure.
When the sky is grey, it’s raining, or when there are a lot of clouds, you’ve got the perfect excuse to go photograph waterfalls. Since the sun is not an issue, the light will be softer, and you’ll have no problems with hard light on the water. This lets you do both short and long exposures, and still have decent light.
A quickly passing snowstorm gave interesting light to this waterfall on Iceland
If it’s raining you should consider using a polarizer filter, though, as the rocks (if any) around the waterfall might reflect some light. The polarizer will kill most of the remaining reflections and you’re left with a great result.
#3 – Take a hike in the woods
My last piece of advice on how to take advantage of bad weather, is to take a walk in the woods. This is something I often do when it’s a rainy day, both with and without my camera. Sometimes it’s nice just to go for a hike in familiar terrains, while other times it can be really rewarding to bring the camera.
Misty morning in Shennandoah National Park
Personally, I do not often bring my camera in the woods when I’m going during the daytime. The reason is that I find the mood to be much more compelling when it’s early in the morning, or late at night. At this time the light is even softer, and you can get some dark moody images, or perhaps you’re lucky to even get the light shining through.
Another benefit of going early in the morning is that you increase the possibility to encounter deer or other animals. Just be sure that you don’t make too much noise when hiking, as that will scare away most wildlife.
Bonus tip: Bring rain gear for both yourself and the camera! Also, bringing both an air blower and a microfiber cloth is important when you’re photographing in bad conditions.
What do you prefer to photograph when the weather is challenging? Let us know in the comments below, and share your images of bad weather as well.