Many photographers, especially those just getting started, avoid weather that’s traditionally considered bad.
This is a big mistake.
Photographing landscapes in bad weather can be a rewarding experience. Whether it’s a grey, overcast day or a raging storm, the right techniques, equipment, and mindset can help you capture stunning images that truly capture the mood and atmosphere of the scene.
That’s what we’re going to take a closer look at in this article. Let’s explore some tips and techniques for shooting landscapes in bad weather, so you can make the most of any situation and come back with a portfolio of beautiful images.
Are you willing to brave the elements?
#1 Embrace the Conditions
One of the most obvious tips for photographing landscapes in bad weather is to embrace the conditions. Don’t try to fight against the rain or snow. Instead, use it to your advantage.
Take the image below as an example. Photographing this classic location in the Lofoten Islands is not easy in gale-force winds and a full-on snowstorm. Everything was working against me but I embraced the conditions and captured something that represents the true nature of this rugged place.
By playing with the shutter speed and light I was able to capture the snow as it was blowing directly onto the lens (and my face). In other words, I embraced the conditions and made the bad weather the main attraction of the photograph.
#2 Pay Attention to Light
Light is a factor we often don’t consider when thinking about bad weather. Good light is typically thought of as colorful sunsets or soft golden light. But, as TJ Thorne adequately puts it in his eBook with the same name, There’s No Such Thing as Bad Light.
The image below is a perfect example of this. It was a stormy day on the coast of Northern Norway but the mountains kept going in and out of visibility. This was something that caught my eye.
Good light can be found anywhere. It’s just a matter of paying attention to the details.
#3 Experiment with Different Shutter Speeds
It’s worth experimenting with different exposures to see how they affect the mood of your image. A longer exposure can smooth out rough water or create a dreamy, ethereal effect, while a shorter exposure can freeze the action and add a sense of drama to the scene.
Just be sure to use a tripod to keep your camera steady during long exposures.
A slow shutter speed can smooth out more than just rough water, though. In the example above I used a 25-second exposure time to make the quickly moving fog look silky as it rolled around the cliffs.
#4 Composition, Composition, Composition
The composition is an essential part of landscape photography. Regardless of whether you’re photographing in good or bad weather. However, images with great light tend to be slightly more forgiving when it comes to composition. This is because the light itself plays a bigger role and the image as a whole can lean more on it.
Recommended Reading: 5 Compositional Guidelines to Know in Landscape Photography
That’s not the case when the conditions are bad. When there’s no colorful sky or epic light to lean on, the composition becomes even more crucial.
Look for leading lines and diagonal elements that can add interest and movement to your image. Strong foreground elements can also help anchor the image and give it a sense of scale. And don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with your subject – sometimes the most interesting details can be found in the small details.
#5 Protect Your Camera Gear
Modern cameras have become more durable in bad weather but you still need to take care of them. Especially in extremely wet conditions. This doesn’t only lengthen the camera’s life but it ensures that you get the highest quality image files.
Now, I wouldn’t be too worried about the camera getting a little wet in the rain but when there’s a lot of precipitation I strongly recommend using a camera cover. This doesn’t need to be a fancy and expensive thing. A simple $10 bag is more than enough.
It’s also a good idea to dry off the camera when you get back inside. You can use a microfiber cloth to wipe off any water and condensation.
Note: Make sure to give your tripod a wash too. Especially after photographing seascapes!
#6 Focus on the Details
Just because the weather is challenging doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to photograph. We’ve already looked at several examples but one to keep in mind when the wider landscape doesn’t cooperate is to zoom in and focus on the details.
Sometimes a grey rainy sky simply lacks enough contrast to make an impact in the photo. Those are situations where the smaller details probably look better than they would’ve on a nicer day.
The image above is a perfect example of this. It was a rough and stormy day here in the Lofoten Islands with gale-force winds and heavy rain. However, the waves were big and became perfect subjects in the otherwise gloomy weather.
#7 Choose Your Location Wisely
My final advice for photographing landscapes in bad weather is to choose your location wisely. Some places greatly benefit from bad weather, while others are unshootable in them.
Take rainy and foggy conditions as an example. These are far from ideal if you’re attempting to photograph the grand vista from a mountaintop. Move into the forests instead, and the scenery gets an eerie atmosphere that’s perfect for photography. In fact, I’d argue that foggy and rainy conditions are far more interesting than cloudy or sunny when you step into the forest.
Choosing your location wisely is a crucial factor in order to make the most out of any given conditions. Knowing what areas look appealing in which conditions, allows you to always have something to photograph. Regardless of the weather.
In conclusion, photographing landscapes in bad weather can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By embracing the conditions, experimenting with different exposures and compositions, and being mindful of the location, you can create unique and dramatic images that truly capture the mood and atmosphere of the scene.
So next time the forecast calls for rain, snow, or wind, don’t let it stop you from getting out there and capturing some truly memorable landscape photographs.
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