The phrase “bad weather” is enough to send many photographers running for home.

For many, bad weather is synonymous with bad photography, conjuring up images of dull, gray photos with lackluster compositions. Rain and wind are the type of conditions that most of us don’t want to be out in, let alone shooting in.

But despite its reputation, bad weather can present a tremendous photo opportunity. Dark, stormy weather can make for dramatic and bold photographs while fog is perfect for capturing images that have a surreal and mysterious quality. The lighting that’s often found just after a storm is considered to be some of the best –and can make for spectacular photography.

Just because the weather is bad, doesn’t mean your photographs will be. Let’s take a look at some ways that you can make the most of these conditions and capture some amazing images.

raindrop photography

Image: Yogendra Joshi

Raindrops

Most of us don’t look forward to rainy days, but when it comes to photography, the very thing you may be resenting might just what you need. Raindrops can be very photogenic, and make for some fascinating shots. Capture raindrops in motion or in their still form –clinging to spider webs, dropping off railings, or pooling on plants. Raindrops can also make great macro images. Regardless of where they are found –raindrops can add sparkle to almost any image. To freeze falling raindrops, use a tripod and a fast shutter speed of around 1/1000 second. For softly streaked drops, slow the shutter speed down to around 1/125 second.

Making the Most of Bad Weather

Image: Bahador

High Winds

While high winds can be frustrating if you’re trying to do portraits, in other cases, wind can make for some excellent high energy photos. If it’s safe to do so, consider shooting coastlines in a storm –during high winds the waves can be exceptionally powerful. Windy weather is also perfect for capturing some great in-motion shots –such as swaying flowers, swirling leaves, swinging flags, or crops blowing over in a powerful wind storm. Be sure to use a high shutter speed to freeze the action and prevent motion blur caused by windy conditions. Alternatively, if you’re looking for blurry images, use a tripod and a slow shutter speed to capture streaky clouds or softly blurred water.

Making the Most of Bad Weather

Image: Phillip Grondin

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Fog and Mist

Early morning fog or mist can make for moody and brooding images. Since fog usually causes dark, dim lighting conditions, you may need to use a longer exposure. Keep in mind that the slower the shutter speed, the more blurred the mist will look. Also, fog often causes the camera’s light meter to decrease the exposure, so you may need to adjust the exposure, and dial in some positive exposure compensation.

Reflections

Reflections are a great way to add extra dimension to an image. Puddles and water can act as mirrors –reflecting light and transforming flat and lackluster lighting conditions into intriguing images. It you’re using a polarizing filter, be sure to take it off when capturing reflections, since these filters cut through reflections in the water.

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Image: Lane Pearman

Spectacular Lighting

One of the best things about photographing during a storm is dramatic and quickly changing light. Just after a storm when the clouds start to break is often the best time for capturing some amazing landscape images. The light streaming through the clouds often creates a spectacular light show, one that can make for some dramatic and powerful images.

bad weather photography

Image: Scott Wylie

Preparing to Go Out

Shooting in bad weather can be risky at times, and it’s important not to forgo safety while in pursuit of a potential image. Here’s how you –and your camera, can stay safe, and get the most out of challenging weather.

  • Dress for the Occasion – Remember to dress appropriately for the weather. Wear warm layers or rain gear depending on the weather you are going to be shooting in.
  • Bring Camera Protection – If you are shooting in the rain or on the coast, be sure to bring adequate protection for your camera. You should also take precautions when changing lenses especially when it is windy or raining, as this can allow dust and rain to get into the sensor.
  • Check the Weather – Checking the weather forecast before you head out can give you a good idea about what weather to expect. This will help you to know how to prepare, and will also give you a guideline for the best window of opportunity.

Gear to Bring

While you can capture some great images with whichever camera and lens you have on you, having some extra gear can help you to make the most of the weather conditions that you’re shooting in.

  • Tripod
    Since bad weather involves shooting in low lighting conditions, you may want to use long exposures, and slow shutter speeds. This will require a tripod, or a solid surface, to stabilize the camera and prevent camera shake.
  • Neutral Density (ND) Filter
    When using long exposures, a graduated Neutral Density (ND) filter can help you to darken the sky, allowing you to ensure that the foreground and the sky are both exposed properly. An ND filter can also help to protect the lens from damaging particles and salty sea spray.
  • Lens Hood
    A lens hood also offers some protection for your camera, and is handy for keeping the rain off of your lens.
  • Spare Battery
    Of course, a spare battery is always a good idea. Especially when using long exposures which tend to drain the battery quite quickly.

While bad weather certainly has its own set of challenges, these conditions are ideal for capturing some unique and dramatic photos. Since many people avoid challenging weather, braving the elements can help you to get some images that are different from the norm. Best of all, this weather is often accompanied by beautiful and spectacular lighting, which means that you’ll be in position when the storm breaks –ready to capture some truly amazing photos.

Have you taken photos during challenging weather conditions? Share your images with us in the comments!