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7 Ways to Take Advantage of Challenging Weather to Improve Your Photography

Last week we started to get prepared to shoot in challenging conditions; this week we’re looking at 7 Ways to Take Advantage of Challenging  Weather to Improve Your Photography.
My main objective in creating my images is to make the viewer feel.  Feel the atmosphere, the mood, imagine they could step into the image. While we can all appreciate the warmth of a sunset, the chill and mystery created by a fog or mist can raise the hair on your neck, as can overpowering mountain peaks breaking through the angry cloud.  
Let’s look at how can can take advantage of these conditions.

Heavy Cloud

If you encounter conditions when you have almost a blanket, lifeless cloud, try to find a subject to isolate. Sometime there may be little contrast in the cloud but if you can create your composition around  high focal point such as mountain peaks or tree tops, your patience is often rewarded by a small break which will help frame your subject.

Capture the Action

Normally we refer to weather as being challenging when the wind is blowing and the seas are thumping or waves crashing - don’t be afraid to show this in your images.  I’ve seen many people shooting on the coast in these conditions with the mindset, “I can fix that” and they shoot a really long exposure to smooth the water to a sheet-like surface, which is one way to go. I’d encourage you to embrace the conditions, just shoot your subject differently.

In these two images of the Twelve Apostles, taken from a similar location, I attempted to capture the angry, rugged mood in the first image by allowing the movement and definition in the clouds and water, the contrast between light and dark.  Additionally the closer composition to emphasise the rock structure, giving that weathered feel. In the second I was trying to convey a more peaceful scene, mixing the white water with the pastels, embracing the warmer temperature and the softer rock face.

Look for a Highlight Colour

When faced with a scene draped in mottled greys, deep blues, blacks and silhouettes, search for a composition that will give you that eye-catching, splash of colour.

The orange lichen wrapping the base of the rocks serve as a lead-in and boundary to the lone tree, in this Bay of Fires image.

Foreground is Your Friend

If an overcast or dull sky reduces the impact of your subject, find an interesting foreground that will lead your viewer into the image or demonstrate the movement of the elements.

 Getting down low and close so a unique foreground can fill the bottom third can be a great way to transition through an image. 

In this image, titled Iron Born (GoT fans will know what I mean), the sky is only a small fraction of the overall image, but certainly helps create the mood and feel.

Embrace the Abstract

While you may have been hoping for a beautiful sunrise with waves gently rolling in across the sand …. That’s not what we have today!

Look for the micro-systems around the rocks or sands, or mudslides and debris. Fierce weather can often be the catalyst for change and that presents a chance to capture a unique here that may be hear one minute and gone the next.

Mist & Fog

You have to love the eerie mystery that is created by a good mist or fog! 

One of the great things about mornings with mist and fog is that they often turn into some amazing lighting situations as it begins to thin and the sun forces through, but if the sun does not appear there are wonderful opportunities to create imagery with cool, subtle tonings or the move to black and white.

Black and white is a great alternative in these situations, but my suggestion would be to consider the colour first, as the subtle changes in tones may have something to offer.

Embrace the Dark Side … Roughly translates to Consider Black and White

When working in challenging weather conditions some photographers often become a little lost because their images are all about ‘amazing colour’.  While colour can certainly still be a factor in challenging weather conditions, working with your composition and mood becomes more critical. In many cases this muted, flat colour palette is best pushed aside in favour of a black and white image. In inclement conditions, the varying gradations and contrasts of blacks, greys and white can produce stunning compositions.

I’ll finish this week’s blog with, Intrepid, as a reminder to get out there and shoot, even if we’re on our own; but always remember the first  rule to shooting in challenging conditions is to keep safe!

Shout out to Alan Britten, the subject of 'Intrepid' - cheers Alan!
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