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Bad weather photography

November 27th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments


I almost never actually do it although I know I really should. Who would want to go out in a 8 bft storm? Who would want to get soaked in heavy rain? Who would want to go out in the freezing cold or snow? Who would like the risk of getting struck by lightning? Bad weather photography can be very rewarding if you’re able to put those discomforts aside.

All these things sound horrible. But you’ll feel differently after going home, taking a hot shower and looking at the really moody pictures you’ve just taken. Bad weather pictures have always fascinated me. Mostly because of the mood of the pictures themselves. But also because people just don’t go out with that kind of weather. So bad weather picture are rare occurrences for amateur photographers.

Rainbow in the morning sun during a brief but fierce downpour.

Rainbow in the morning sun during a fierce downpour.

The moody part of bad weather photography can be enhanced by including people, or making people the subject of your images. People tend to “lock up” in bad weather. They hide in jackets with hoods, take shelter underneath anything that keeps them dry and huddle up beneath umbrellas if they can. Faces of people take on specific “bad weather faces”. Those expressions range from the awe, playfulness, annoyance to outright disgust. The old man holding his hat, overlooking the sea when a bad storm is pounding waves on the dunes. The kid on the breakwater, cheering at the rainbows that appear in the air when large storm waves hit the breakwater. Grown men getting too close to the breaking 5 metre waves and getting soaked. Someone leaning in the wind without falling over. Someone running across the street with his briefcase above his head. The hard expression on someones face while cycling against the wind in the rain.
All these situations can deliver some stunningly powerful and moody images. 

Big waves


You can use any stationary object to help steady your camera in stormy weather.

You can use any stationary object to help steady your camera in stormy weather.

There is also a certain technical challenge to bad weather photography. You need to keep the front element of your lens dry. You need to hold the camera as stable as possible while in a storm, and compensate your movements with high shutter speeds. And al this often in low light. You can’t use a tripod in a storm because they are just as stable as holding the camera, even if it goes low enough so it doesn’t flip over.

Weather and dust sealed lens

Weather and dust sealed lens.

Then there is the gear problem. How are you going to protect your expensive photography gear in those conditions? You can buy the most expensive gear off course. Most expensive camera’s and lenses are weather sealed. They always mention weather sealed instead of proofed, because they never give a real guarantee that it is actually weatherproof. But there are also cheap alternatives. A lot less practical in my opinion though. But they are certainly worth to take a look at. You can create your own rain covers from plastic bags.

Weather sealed camera

Weather sealed camera

You can also buy commercially available solutions like the disposable rain sleeves from op-tech, or you can buy more permanent rain protection for a bit more money. Also good to know is that batteries lose their capacity when handled in extreme cold (think sub zero degrees centigrade). So always bring enough batteries if it is reaaaly cold, and keep them as warm as possible.



You’ll get a feeling of accomplishment just by defying the elements. And it will also reward you with some unusual pictures. So my advice is: overcome the discomforts and difficulties of bad weather photography, and give it a try!

Made while being cold and soaked to the bone with wet snow. Very moody and dark.

Made while being cold and soaked to the bone with wet snow. Very moody and dark.

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