Weather Photography – James Allan

Sun through rain 2

Sunset through rainstorm as we approached Adelaide airport in a flight from Broken Hill

I was looking for tips on weather photography.   I have compiled as many assorted tips that I could find from 5 different web sites.  Click on the links and check the sites out, there are some great weather photos.  One of the sites from America appears to focus on getting in your car and chasing storms.  Some of these storm chasers in the mid west get incredible images.  I know we live in Oz, but I’m not sure that we have those terrible twisters like in the States.  Never the less the tips are still applicable.

1. Be Prepared:

  • The best camera is the one in your hand. (Phone camera / compact camera whatever)
  • STAY ON PAVEMENT – no need to go off road in bad weather.  You may end up needing rescue services who will take a dim view of unnecessary risk taking.
  • DO NOT GO CORE BUSTING (The dangerous centre of the storm)
  • Watch the weather forecasts – Bad weather comes to everyone – know when it’s coming and be prepared.
  • Download a weather apps for the phone – for example the BOM Ap which includes the weather radar
  • GET A RAIN COVER for the camera
  • MICROFIBER TOWELS and LENS CLOTHES to clean water off the camera
  • A lens hood will keep some water off the lens.
  • REMOTE CONTROL to allow tripod and long exposure shots.
  • WATCH FOR SNAKES, one site claims Rattle snakes become active around storms.  I don’t know about Australian snakes. Leave them alone if you do see them.

2. Camera Techniques and Settings

  • “keep the camera as steady as possible” – I think there is benefit in repetition,  “sturdy tripod” – “pack a tripod” – “Use a tripod”
  • Always think about how to frame a shot – Add interest with interesting angles.  Include foreground interest.  Get low.  Get high.  Fill the frame
  • Know the advantage of the cameras Automatic Modes,  For instance low light settings / lightning setting.  May save time when trying to change settings quickly.
  • Vary your approach.  By all means take a picture of the whole scene, but don’t stop there.  Look for elements that are poignant and vital.  What makes the picture work – try to isolate just that element.  Look for patterns.  Remove unnecessary visual cues. Look for Abstract Images.  Take lots of different shots.  Pick the guts out of the image.
  • Be patient.  Things change with time.  People and wildlife appear.  Light moves, storms brew.
  • Switch to manual mode.
  • Be flexible with your settings.  Over expose / under expose.  Try fast and slow shutter speeds.  Be flexible.
  • LENS CHOICE – you can take great images with all sorts of lenses – be creative.  Telephoto, Wide angle and Macro.  Each lens has a different technique.
  • check your ISO – don’t ruin a shoot by having your ISO too high, (for instance >1000 after a night shoot)  – or limit your options by staying on ISO 100 when the sky darkens.
  • RAW processing to give you the flexibility to post process the images.
  • Slow your shutter speed so that it captures the motion created by the breeze.  For instance tree branches moving.
  • One explanation of how to shoot a successful lightning photo.  They suggest you  set your camera on a tripod and set the mode to manual. You might also want to enable the mirror lock-up function and use a cable release to minimize camera shake. Adjust the f-stop to 8 or 11 to ensure your exposure is between 5 and 30 seconds, since you want to open the shutter and wait for the lightning bolts to appear in the sky. Since I never know where in the frame they’ll appear, I suggest you focus manually on infinity and include a lot of sky in your composition.

3. Subject matter and Opportunities

  • “Bad Weather = Good Images”.  “Bad Weather Photography Equals High Impact  Photos”
  • Rainbows – don’t use a polariser – they disappear.
  • Sunsets – remember to turn around – the opposite direction may be just as interesting,
  • Dusk and Dawn.  Storms look great lit by a sunrise or sunset.  Around this time rainbows are higher in the sky and contain more red-orange, less green – blue.
  • When it’s wet outside, colors become deeper, richer and more saturated
  • Lightning – see above.  Don’t stand under trees or near metal poles.
  • In wet weather look for reflections and ripples in puddles.  Look for water flowing down gutters and streams and waterfalls.
  • Macro photography opportunities, look fir rain drops on plants.  The raindrop can act as a lens.
  • Rain streaks on windows
  • Don’t forget that weather affects people – try and photograph weather affected people.  Rain soaked football games, commuters running from the rain, caught in the wind and drenched to the bone. I love umbrellas.
  • Fog – moody and high impact scenic shots.  Foggy objects recede more quickly into the distance.  Fog is great  to hide distracting backgrounds –  to isolate your subject
  • Think of WIND PHOTOGRAPHY as an opportunity for ARTISTIC EXPOSURES
  • Think of CLOUD PHOTOGRAPHY as an opportunity for DRAMATIC IMAGES

4. Post Processing

  • use post-processing techniques to accentuate the various layers of the cloud formations to add even more drama to your images
  • Think black and white photography when considering ways to take advantage of clouds – Google NIK effex – Silver effex
  • HDR

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