It is no secret that “bad” weather provides great opportunities for moody, dramatic and atmospheric landscape photos. In this article, I will share a few important tips for photographing in such weather.
No matter where in the world I have gone for landscape photography, bad weather is always part of the package. Iceland, Norway, The US, and the Faroe Islands have all delivered! Unless the bad weather includes clouds which are so low hanging they cover up your subject matter, I absolutely love these conditions. Bad weather was actually one of the main reasons I went to Britain in the first place. In the video above you can watch my landscape photography extravaganza vlog from Snowdonia national park in Wales. Here we experienced some of the worst weather, which resulted in some of my best photos from my tour through Britain. Below I share some tips I on photographing in bad weather, which I have collected through the years.
First and foremost you will need a camera which can handle the conditions. A weather-sealed camera is necessary but sadly, no weather sealing is perfect. In my experience Nikon and Canon do fairly well with their full-frame series. The Pentax K1 is supposed to be great too. Olympus with their master micro 4/3 line and lenses boasts of their weather sealing. As I have only used Canon (and now Sony) I only have the experience with Canon and Sony and they have for the most part always done very well. I have had my 5Dm3, 5Dm2 and 5Ds literally dripping with water without consequences. This is by no means a call for you to push your electronics as far as I do, but be aware of the difference between a weather sealed camera and one that is not.
A sturdy tripod helps a lot. Travel tripods are normally too flimsy although there are techniques to keep them grounded. In addition, on that note you can attach an umbrella to your tripod if it is sturdy enough. It however should go without saying: do NOT do this if it is windy!
It is also important to keep yourself dry as to keep your spirit up. There is nothing worse than having cold water run down your neck and back! Make sure you are rainproof from top to bottom. Bring a proper rain jacket, trousers and boots. If you are planning for a hike first and do not own a pair of waterproof hiking boots you can even get covers for your hiking boots. These comes highly recommended.
In landscape photography – as with all photography – composition, light, subject matter, and storytelling is what makes a good photograph. Photographing in bad weather is no excuse to slack on the image just because the conditions are hard. I have made many excuses in the start of my landscape photography career. The most normal are either the winds were too strong, the rain too much, I was tired or a combination. If you are not in it, you will not win it. You have to endure the elements and work around your problems. Adapt to the situation. Be patient and solve the problems as they occur. That being said, of course, you should not push yourself longer than you are comfortable. Thunderstorms, hail, blizzards, tornados etc. are really dangerous. So obviously, do not put your life at risk for a photo.
Bring Napkins and Microfiber Cloths
Getting water spray on your front element and filters is a common problem with a lot of rain in the air. If you are not using filters, you can use your lens hood to shield from most of the rain and water vapor. If you are shooting into the wind, the lens hood trick will not help you. I always bring many napkins, as they in my experience are the best for swiping up the water. Sadly, they often leave traces of paper on the lens and that is where I use the microfiber cloth to wipe of those small traces. You might ask why I am not only using microfiber cloths? I do sometimes if there is not too much water in the air. In my experience though, microfiber cloths have a tendency to be saturated with water fairly quick making them useless.
In the cases where I have a constant spray or rain hitting my lens I always set up the shot and composition in manual mode. Here I choose the desired settings for optimal exposure, manual focus, and as high a continuous shooting speed as possible. If I have any changing exposure settings such as aperture or shutter speed priority this technique will not work. I then cover the front element and wipe it off the best I can and I cover it with either my hand or a microfiber cloth. When it is wiped off and clear of any water droplets I keep covering it until the composition is as desired. You might want to have the clouds in a certain formation or waves to behave in a certain way. When everything is ready, I hit the shutter button. I keep pressing it while I remove whatever I used to cover the lens. In this way, there is a good probability the first and second shot will be clean – at least as clean as possible.
I use the app “Storm Radar” to predict where showers will hit. It tends to be fairly precise and gives me a fair warning if a shower is imminent. In that way I can either duck and cover or locate myself in a position where I can use it in my photo.
To Sum It Up
- Bring a weather resistant camera and lens
- Bring a sturdy tripod
- Bring plenty of napkins and microfiber cloths
- Bring an umbrella (if there is no wind)
- Composition is still everything
- Be safe
- Use the above technique with covering your lens and continues shooting
- Use the app “Storm Radar”
- Stay dry by bringing rainproof clothes
Do you have any experience in photographing in “bad” weather? If so, do you want to share some tips? Write down below and let us exchange some knowledge.