Thursday, September 2, 2010

Under The Weather


Ah, the glorious days of summer - radiant sunshine, blue skies, puffy clouds - afternoon rainstorms? The fact is, sometimes the weather does not cooperate with our plans, and that can be frustrating. Yet, as the saying goes, "when life hands you lemons..."

Some of the most spectacular images are those featuring inclement weather. Heavy clouds, sparkling rain, misting fog, all make for great photography. But there ARE a few things to take into consideration (bar the obvious, protecting your equipment from dampness) in order to create exceptional weather-related photographs.

Lost In The Fog, Saddle Creek, Lakeland, Florida


The most obvious of these considerations is the lighting. Dark skies mean lower light and therefore, slower shutter speeds. The easiest method of adjustment in lower light is to increase your ISO. But remember, higher ISO creates more noise. So find a balance between the two that gives you the best shutter speed for your particular situation.

Seek out a steady support. Use a tripod, monopod, or even a fencepost or table top. Sitting your camera on something that is not moving prevents camera shake, and in lower light you WILL have more camera shake. And don't forget your automatic timer. If your camera does not have a remote, setting the timer will help further reduce unwanted camera movement.

What if there is no available support? Then switch to shutter priority mode. Choose a shutter speed you can hand hold and allow the camera to make the other adjustments. Shutter priority is often overlooked, but in lower lighting it can be very helpful.


Once you have a plan to deal with the lighting, you then have to reconsider exactly WHAT you are photographing. When the lighting is low, the details so prominent in the sunshine are lost. So instead, look for defining shapes, like those of the trees in the image below. Many times it is what cannot be seen that draws the viewer's eye in and sparks their imagination.

Into The Mist, Saddle Creek Park, Lakeland, Florida


Allow the weather to dictate to you what should photographed. Perhaps fog is not the issue, perhaps that day it is rain, then use the rain to your advantage. Rain, and water in general, creates reflections. You have two choices on how to deal with them. Mute them through the use of a circular polarizing filter, or allow the reflection to be the feature.

Always remember that water reflects light, and reflected light will alter your camera's settings. In these situations, try spot metering. Spot metering is a great way to definitively choose exactly how much light you want in an image. However, be careful to not overdo it. It is very easy with spot metering to under-expose your photograph.



Blah skies, gray backgrounds, all lend themselves to a black and white image. Take the image in color and then change it to black and white in post-edit. (I like to use Channel Mixer/Monochrome in Photoshop.) You might be surprised by your results, and you also might save an otherwise average photograph.

Behind The Petals in Black & White

Never let bad weather stop you from taking photographs. With a few tips and some planning, you can come away with some of your best work. Even if people are involved in your shoot. Stage them to include the weather. It's another step towards making those "on-the-spot" decisions so important to becoming a professional photographer.

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

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