Good or bad weather?
Good or bad weather, it doesn’t matter to the landscape photographers; they must adapt.
Nevertheless, in landscape photography, the weather is everything. It impacts the light, shadows, texture, and overall mood of your photos. This is why landscape photographers constantly keep an eye on the weather forecast. Getting out in ideal conditions can take your landscape photos to the next level.
Photography becomes possible when there is light, no matter how little. Every type of weather has a certain atmosphere; thus, it all depends on the mood you want to create in your photos. If you can catch that atmosphere and display it photographically, you are probably on the right track. Grey, drizzly weather can have the advantage that you no longer notice the distracting backgrounds present in clear weather. In such conditions, making beautiful and sensitive images or even more abstract pictures is possible because the colours are pretty muted. In these circumstances, you don’t have to fear imposing shadows either. (Look at my blog on fine art landscape photography.)
Best weather for landscape photos?
Depending on the weather, visibility can change dramatically at any given time. The choice of the right moment is, therefore, essential. Unfortunately, while travelling, you cannot always make that choice. Even for the best photographer, creating a good picture is always a big challenge when the conditions are not favourable.
The best landscape photos are nevertheless taken at a specific moment when all the conditions are favourable. The photographer sometimes has to return several times to find that ideal moment when it all comes together: light, weather, mood, and tide.
It is not necessarily on that beautiful sunny day when everybody likes to be outside that the best photos are taken. Better to look for storms, fog, dramatic cloud formations, sun piercing through the clouds, sunrises and sunsets for a dose of drama and atmosphere. Rain clouds reduce visibility and create a layering effect adding depth to your image. It rarely rains all day long, and in between those showers, there are great opportunities. So, it seems that in the future, you will have to follow the weather forecasts with more attention when going out with your camera.
Why not include in your image seasonal clues, flowers, plants, snow, etc?
The advantage of every type of weather
Every type of weather has its advantages:
Heavy showers can alternate with clear weather. Just before or just after a thunderstorm, the light can be beautiful. Moreover, the wet environment often makes everything shine. The other thing that might happen is that a few rays of light pierce through the clouds, highlighting that within the landscape, what you feel should be the focal point (but you need some luck and patience). It is necessary to pay attention to light measurement in moments like this. Spot metering is recommended; moreover, the light might change by the second.
Blue sky with clouds
Many photographers look forward to this kind of situation. The light is not harsh, and the clouds work like a large softbox in front of the sun. In this weather, just about all photography is possible and rewarding.
Steel blue sky
This usually gives very hard shadows and should, therefore, be avoided. But sometimes, you can use it creatively, such as macro and backlight. For example, you get transparency in leaves. According to the theory books, the worst moment of the day is the afternoon, when the sun is high in the sky and casts hard shadows on the landscape. If, due to circumstances, you still want to photograph at such moments; you can still try to use filters to prevent overexposed skies or underexposed foreground or use diffusor panels for your macro shots. But, admittedly, you are making it very difficult for yourself. You will rarely be able to produce a “poster” photo.
The early morning or evening light is much better in most cases. This is because earlier and later in the day, the sun is tempered by the longer distance that the light travels through the atmosphere. You also get much nicer shades of colour.
Snow and sunlight are good ingredients for landscape photos. But both factors have an important impact on the image concerning light, white balance, colour and the technical approach. Taking pictures while it snows, with not too high shutter speed, can give you fairy-tale images. However, snow reflects a lot of light; this can sometimes mislead the light meter in our camera. With a measurement on a white surface, your equipment will interpret that surface as an average grey, and to get white in the result, you need to overexpose by one and a half to two and a half stops.
Snow photos easily have a blue cast. Precise handling of the white balance is therefore recommended. If you shoot in RAW, you can easily adjust that in post-processing. Another problem is autofocus because it works based on contrasts. That is precisely what is missing in snow. So, one has to either focus manually or look for a detail in which contrast can be seen to lock the focus on it.
Misty conditions can give very beautiful images of fog floating above a landscape. Heavy fog does gradually desaturate colours. Fog can also filter out unwanted elements from your image. Fog, in combination with snow, can add an extra touch and put the focus on your solo subject (preferably darker). And light piercing through the fog can add a delicate element.
From the moment you get the feeling that you and your tripod are getting blown over, you better lie down. Then it becomes extremely difficult to make sharp images. Sadly, I experienced this in the Scottish Highlands when a gust of wind knocked over my tripod with camera. Be also especially careful if there is sand, flying around, and do not try to change lenses at that moment. When photographing seascapes, you have to be aware of the risk of the salty water that blows around in microscopic droplets, which will quickly put a sticky layer on your lenses or filters
Making sharp photos of flowers or plants can be tricky because of the movement of the wind. However, wind can also be used positively with moving crops or trees to create a fading effect. And with longer shutter speeds, you get beautiful lines of clouds through the sky.
Thunder and lightning
Stormy weather produces dramatic landscapes, including rainbows, deep clouds or lightning. You cannot catch thunder on film, but lightning might be possible, though not easily. Be careful in the vicinity of trees or in open fields (there, you and your tripod might act as a lightning rod). Therefore,it is actually better to do this from a car (Faraday cage). Night lightning, in particular, can be photographed: the shutter open and wait until the lightning has flashed. I have to be honest. I have never succeeded in making a satisfying lightning picture. But in my region, lightning does not strike very often.
Luckily, several helpful weather apps (free and paid) help predict those ideal conditions. No app or forecast, however, is foolproof or perfect. I like to use WheatherProHD and ProWindfinder, and occasionally another app to see if a rainstorm is imminent. Depending on your region, one or the other app can also be more accurate.
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