How to Take Photos in Bad Weather Conditions |

How to Take Photos in Bad Weather Conditions

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4 February 2011

How a photo will look when it comes out of your camera has a lot to do with the weather conditions at the time it was taken. A general accepted fact is that the best photos are taken under a cloudless sky when the sun is really low, very near to the horizon. This is what is called the golden hour, just after sunrise and just before dawn.

But if these were the only times that you take your photos, it’s quite possible that you won’t have a lot to show once you get back home.
It is perfectly possible to take great images under other weather conditions too, and often they add a special atmosphere which can not be achieved under a clear sky, but this requires some minor adjustments to your camera and your attitude.

If you’re not shooting with a SLR camera, don’t stop reading, the following tips can also be applied with the average compact camera.

White balance
If there is one thing I would like you to remember from this post, it’s that colors look different under different weather conditions. This is something you may not notice when you’re walking down the street, because your mind has a smart function that convert what you see to what you know. But when you focus on a certain object - anything with a bit of color actually - and you watch it under different weather conditions, you will notice a slight change in brightness and saturation.

Similar to your brain, your camera is also able to interpret the available light and to adjust the color accordingly.
If you own an SLR camera, you should have a button that says “white balance”, compact cameras often have a similar setting but it might come under another name.
You recognize the white balance option by the available presets: sunny, shade, daylight, fluorescent and some more.
By choosing one of these presets, the camera will adjust the colors to what you’re supposed to see with the naked eye.

It is very important that you choose the correct light condition for every photo that you take. Do not trust the “auto” function, the camera is still a machine, it can misjudge.
If you’re shooting in RAW, it is not necessary to set the white balance as you can adjust it afterwards with software.

Note: This is a very basic description of how what balance is, I just wanted to give you an idea. If you like to learn more about this, keep an eye on this blog as I’m planning to write a post about white balance in the near future.

Following pictures are the same image but with different white balances:

There aren’t too many people that enjoy being in the rain, at least not among my acquaintances, but for photographers rain can cause unique photo opportunities.
Examples like flowers or spider webs with raindrops or streets with puddles may seem obvious to some, but there are much more possibilities.

People look different when they need to walk through the rain, they wear long rain coats and hats, hoods or caps to protect their body from becoming wet. And often they carry a colorful range on umbrellas. You have seen thousands of pictures from the Eiffel tower, how many did you see of the tower surrounded by people with umbrellas?

The rain itself can also be a subject of your photos. Rain drops give a new dimension to the image and often form a pattern within your composition.
As water is a great reflector of light, you can use rain drops or puddles for reflections of your subject or try shooting with a flash in the rain to get a star-like effect.
To get the effect of real heavy rain falling from the sky, shoot with a slow shutter speed.

The landscape photographers can do a lot with the dramatic clouds that often accompany the rain, and if you’re lucky there might even be a rainbow.

Isn’t all this rain photography bad for your camera?
Well, you can trust me that your camera can handle a couple of rain drops, don’t worry. But if you’re planning to spend quite some time outside, you might want to consider some protection. This can be everything, clothing, plastic bags, the hood of your coat, your backpack, anything that keeps the water away from your camera.

What may be more annoying is the humidity. Make sure that in a humid environment you give your camera the time to acclimatize. this can be done by bringing the camera outside - in a bag of course, not in the rain - about half an hour before you plan to use it.

Another grateful appearance in photography is wind.
There is the small gust of wind that makes the palm trees wave and the flags fly, but that is not what I like to discuss here - although it’s nice too. I will talk to you about real wind, Wind with the big W, wind as in storms, hurricanes an tornadoes. Real wind, so to speak.

As a small side note, I need to warn you that this genre of photography is very dangerous and that you should take really care and if something happens you cannot blame me.
That said, if you’re an adventurous type of person, storm chasing might be just your thing. And you can fetch a buck or two as these photos are in high demand by news agencies and magazines all around.

Making good storm photography depends a lot from the equipment. First of all, you need to protect yourself from getting wet, falling down, flying away or getting hit by flying projectiles.
Your camera will certainly need protection against the water - a decent cover this time as I don’t think your t-shirt will be sufficient - and a lens cleaner to quickly remove the raindrops from the lens.
Because you won’t be able to stand still, a very good tripod will also be part of your equipment. If you’re planning to get really close to the storm, you better also take a shovel to bury the tripod a bit.

One real expert trick is to put your camera in a protected case which is fixed to the ground on the path of the storm. With a remote control you can take photos inside of the storm from a safe location.
Again, I am not responsible if your stuff gets broken.

As I still have a lot to tell about weather conditions, I’ve decided to split this post up in two parts, the next part will be available next week, talking about snow, fog and... sunshine!


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