Bad Weather = Good Photography

All outdoor photographers, but especially landscape shooters are at the mercy of the weather. Every shot stands and falls with the behaviour of low and high pressure systems. In some parts of the world the weather is more or less predictable and stable, in others weather forecasts can’t really be trusted and conditions can change from beautiful to abysmal in minutes.

Streams and rivers are at their best during and after heavy rain. Find a spot with some trees, wait for a wet and dull autumn day and you have all ingredients for a good image.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 24-105mm F4 @ 35mm, FS22, 20 sec. @ ISO 100, polarizer; tripod.

For the photographer this either means going into hiding until the winds have died down, the rain has eased and the sun comes out again or go out and face the elements.
In a country like Ireland with its changeable and unpredictable weather patterns you learn very quickly to embrace the bad and ugly and make the best of it. 

Digital technology has made capturing good images in bad weather much easier. To the naked eye the sky in this scene was a bland grey. Using the HDR technique and applying a digital tonal contrast filter brought out detail and colour.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E, F14, 1/13 sec, HDR (+/- 3 stops), tripod.

Woodlands

This woodland scene was made on one of those dull and grey Irish winter days. Using a soft-focus filter felt right at the time to enhance the mystical element of the scene. 

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24mm TS-E, F22, 0.6 sec @ ISO 400, polarizer + soft-focus filter, tripod. 

When the wind is blowing and the rain is pouring down the first choice is to retreat to the woods. Woodlands not only provide some protection from the elements they can also be at their most photogenic in bad weather. Wet foliage and soaked mosses seem to emit a glow that can add that special something to an image. An important tool here is the polarizing filter. It both increases contrast and saturation and controls reflections from the wet foliage. 

The day was a mix of drizzle, rain and hail and this particular shot was made during a heavy hailshower. I couldn’t use a lens hood because of the attached polarizer so my main problem was to keep the lens & filter free from droplets. I made 4 exposures with frantic cleaning actions between the shots.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24mm TS-E, F16, 1/6 sec @ ISO 200, polarizer and tripod.

Constantly moving branches and undergrowth can be a problem in high winds. You can however use this to your advantage and deliberately choose long exposure times to blur the scene. If you have a static counterpoint in the scene like a rock or tree trunk this can create interesting images. Exposure times depend on the strength of the wind and the effect you want to achieve. Anything around the 4 second mark usually give a slight blurry effect that gives a sense of movement in the foliage. Longer exposures of 20 seconds or longer (even minutes) remove all detail and result in a more abstract image.

Click here to read Page 2

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 77
Chris Laughton
By Chris Laughton (2 months ago)

I am appalled that the writer should suggest wearing a life jacket when shooting stormy seas - " ... if you survive the fall it might keep you above water log enough to be saved." From that remark it would appear that he has never seen a stormy sea crashing on a rocky coast - immersed in that water you wouldn't last a minute - you would be smashed to bits!

0 upvotes
aaanouel
By aaanouel (2 months ago)

Right!, bad weather offers great opportunities for doing great shots... but to tell the truth, almost all these shots (except for the braking waves on the rocks) are flat and boring just because of the weather, LOL!: there are a lot of better examples for illustrating the main subject of the article, I'd say...

0 upvotes
Vaughn T.Winfree
By Vaughn T.Winfree (2 months ago)

I enjoyed reading this and I certainly agree and appreciate bad weather days. Clear blue skies are boring. Everyone shoots those kinds of shots. Light rain and foggy days add a new dynamic to the image..Overcast days that seemed washed out to the eye can turn out to be some breath taking images when post processed. I prefer bad weather on certain coastlines as well. Easier to get a balance of highlights and shadows when overcast....

0 upvotes
Cliff Whittaker
By Cliff Whittaker (3 months ago)

More like: Bad Weather = Photographic Opportunities.
Some of my most successful pictures have been made when the weather was bad enough that other photographers in my area stayed inside.
You can take what you want from "bad weather" pictures. Rainy day pictures sometimes have beautiful color saturation that you won't get any other time. Then again, some days you just want to photograph "the weather" and show nature at its blustery best. Anyway you look at it, "bad" weather presents opportunities for "out of the ordinary" pictures. It's the photographer's prerogative to present them the way he interprets them.

1 upvote
dousanmiaography
By dousanmiaography (3 months ago)

More like bad weather = Usable Photography...

0 upvotes
Bill3R
By Bill3R (3 months ago)

Great photos and helpful information. Inspiring. Thanks very much.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
thlc
By thlc (4 months ago)

The picture of the wave hitting the coast was very nice. The photograph has the richness of a 19th century landscape painting. Very nice composition.

1 upvote
Dan Ortego
By Dan Ortego (4 months ago)

I agree the photos are too processed for my taste. Then again I'm still shooting an A900 with ZA glass and B+W filters.

Comment edited 57 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Dazzer8888
By Dazzer8888 (4 months ago)

Looks like more time was spent photoshpping then was actually spent taking the photos!.......i mean, they're good photos and all, but why so over-processed?

3 upvotes
Nabilon
By Nabilon (4 months ago)

Brilliant shots! Don't like the first page that much, but 2 and 3, love them. Very inspiring article.

0 upvotes
Christoph Stephan
By Christoph Stephan (4 months ago)

Very very interesting ... it taught me something new about the use of polarisers. Usually, I whipped mine out only during sunny days to make the blue skye and the colours more pronounced - I will have to rethink this again...

0 upvotes
brettmeikle
By brettmeikle (4 months ago)

Man, some dingbats rolled up for this comments section. Some excellent and beautifully representative work from Ireland. Who wants another picture of Half Dome or that damn barn in front of the Tetons? Inclement weather if far more interesting too.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
E_Nielsen
By E_Nielsen (6 months ago)

I enjoyed the article and learned a few things. Thank you, Carsten Krieger and DPReview!

1 upvote
Alex Moscow
By Alex Moscow (7 months ago)

Very righ location for demonstrating the bad weather -Scotland, isn't it? I put only 3 examples of those in my own gallery, and I have dozens more. Author's pictures do not prove much - I agree with Thatcannonguy's comment

0 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (4 months ago)

didnt he say ireland like five times in the article ? ^^

1 upvote
John Beavin
By John Beavin (7 months ago)

Not impressed, I think he should have stayed home.

2 upvotes
Kendunn
By Kendunn (7 months ago)

Its always the right light for something. If its overcast shoot tight usually avoiding sky, if its bright and sunny mid day I break out an old infrared set up I have. Rain is tough for obvious reasons. Some of my best shots have even been at night with long exposures (with film)

0 upvotes
Thatcannonguy
By Thatcannonguy (8 months ago)

Exposure seems to be random. These pictures should not have been published. They are simply not good enough. Especially with this hardware in mind.

5 upvotes
Alex Moscow
By Alex Moscow (7 months ago)

100 percent true

0 upvotes
f8andshowup
By f8andshowup (8 months ago)

Meh. DPreview really needs to work harder on the non-review type content.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
9 upvotes
Reilly Diefenbach
By Reilly Diefenbach (8 months ago)

Leaving aside the 2006 Photomatix greens, etc., pic 2 has some seriously weird and incorrect geometry.

4 upvotes
Thatcannonguy
By Thatcannonguy (8 months ago)

I would recommend lesson 1 to 5 of Deke Mcclelland on Photoshop fundamentals, as found on Lynda.com.

0 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (4 months ago)

why ? if you take a photo from above it looks like that ^^ simple geometry. ever heard of a vanishing point ?

0 upvotes
Lyn2010
By Lyn2010 (8 months ago)

This article has inspired me for being active on a rainy day.

I've read some comments and stopped doing that. Why are some people so negative? We have all a different taste, so let's respect each others opinion and photos!

14 upvotes
Keith Reeder
By Keith Reeder (8 months ago)

"Why are some people so negative?"

Because the author is expounding what is AT BEST an easily-disputed personal opinion as a matter of unassailable fact, and has done nothing in image terms to get anywhere near to providing his case.

The entire article is based on an arrogantly-stated sweeping statement.

Comment edited 45 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
ironcam
By ironcam (8 months ago)

Watch Josef Hoflehner''s work to see some amazing bad weather photos.

http://www.josefhoflehner.com/patience/33.html

5 upvotes
Michal59
By Michal59 (8 months ago)

Yup. Can't stop myself watching them.

0 upvotes
inohuri
By inohuri (8 months ago)

I went and looked. Very good stuff.

But I didn't see anything that I would call "bad weather".

1 upvote
Alex Moscow
By Alex Moscow (7 months ago)

thanks, I enjoyed it a lot

0 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (4 months ago)

@inohuri: seriously ? just looked at the first ten pictures, and every picture is in bad weather ^^

0 upvotes
tyronet2000
By tyronet2000 (8 months ago)

I enjoyed the article, having spent a rain soaked day in the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday trying to get half decent shots. I think the point he was making was: you don't have to be a Fine Weather photographer :)

5 upvotes
Ettishole
By Ettishole (8 months ago)

I completely agree, makes for a great story too.

1 upvote
Keith Reeder
By Keith Reeder (8 months ago)

"having spent a rain soaked day in the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday trying to get half decent shots"

And - I suppose you're saying - failing?

The article title, and the premise of the article, are entirely wrong then, aren't they?

Comment edited 22 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
inohuri
By inohuri (8 months ago)

What a buncha party poopers. The author did OK. Can you do better? Or do you just give up and leave your camera at home?

For those concerned about expense some of my favorite photos were shot with an old Fuji S6000FD on an overcast Seattle day at ISO 100 in raw. In the late evening, hand held, leaning against whatever was handy.

Saturation? Contrast? These are issues? Tastes vary. Easy to change. Oh that's right, you are shooting .jpg aren't you? Learn about raw. Elements 11 has ACR7.

There is also the waterproof case for the classic Fuji F30/F31FD which is intended for diving. Roughly file out a 49 to 52mm filter adapter and it will press fit on the outside. Add a collapsing rubber lens hood to keep the rain off. You can get out and shoot in salt spray without worries. Just soak the whole thing in water then dry it off before opening.

Note to author: Add a rubber lens hood to a polarizer to keep off the rain and make a large grip. Rotate the hood itself to adjust.

11 upvotes
Ray Ciupka
By Ray Ciupka (8 months ago)

I think all of you have missed the point of this exercise. It is saying that you can still go out in bad weather and enjoy photography with some reminders from the author in the basics of taking photos in bad weather.

By ozinvernon

14 upvotes
rodney007
By rodney007 (8 months ago)

Pretty average looking shots

1 upvote
Hclarkx
By Hclarkx (8 months ago)

I'm surprised at the number of negative comments on this article. The author did not claim to be getting great images; he was clearly showing how to extract some images worth making from an environment that is difficult and not conducive to photography. Surely we've all been there (figuratively speaking).

Have you been to Ireland? It's a quite scenic and interesting place. But you can go there for a week or two and not see the sun. So what is an avid photographer to do? Pack away his equipment and spend two weeks visiting Pubs?

The author provides some good advice on how to bring home some decent images should your costly travel net you only cloudy or overcast weather.

12 upvotes
Keith Reeder
By Keith Reeder (8 months ago)

"The author did not claim to be getting great images"

He implied EXACTLY that, from the title onwards.

1 upvote
Makivoi
By Makivoi (7 months ago)

I agree. I live in Ireland and I too have been guilty of packing away the gear when the weather gets bad....which it frequently does...but some of my most atmospheric pictures have been taken when the weather has been foul, I have been away for the weekend visiting the west coast....with all my camera gear...and out of sheer frustration I have taken the camera out...feeling "I HAVE TO TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH !"...and hey presto I have discovered that it can be much more dramatic when you take a chance. Karsten would certainly inspire me to take more chances...and he has also opened my eyes to the beauty of my country...much more so than those nice sunny touristy shots that you always see of Ireland. HDR and overprocessing doesn't appeal to everyone but his point was to experiment and take chances.

2 upvotes
designdef
By designdef (8 months ago)

I feel this is a tutorial on how to get a 'useable' image (whatever that means) from shots taken in dull conditions by using HDR, tone mapping, swirly water and any other available technique. Ironically, all this over sharpening and brightening has drained most of the captures of any atmosphere, which presumably was the point of taking them in the first place?

4 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (8 months ago)

I don't see any examples of bad weather creating good pictures. ALl I see is bad weather ruining potentially good pictures. The lighting is awful and other than the last photo there's way too little contrast and saturation. They look like any other amateur snapshot taken in bad weather.

4 upvotes
completelyrandomstuff
By completelyrandomstuff (8 months ago)

I don't know if it's me, but it is exactly what I am getting in such weather- unsatisfying photos. I think it's a good subject, but what it tells me is that it is just really hard to get good shots in such a weather.

0 upvotes
Gary Zuercher
By Gary Zuercher (8 months ago)

I see the bad weather... where are the great photos?

13 upvotes
RFC1925
By RFC1925 (8 months ago)

The second photo has to be one of my favorite HDR shots I've seen. Looks exactly like a screen capture from some computer game. Probably not what the photographer was trying to achieve but I love it nonetheless.

Good article and a nice set of photos.

1 upvote
Light Pilgrim
By Light Pilgrim (8 months ago)

Photos are very average....or maybe I do not understand the point

3 upvotes
chj
By chj (8 months ago)

yuck, just my opinion

3 upvotes
Becksvart
By Becksvart (8 months ago)

Quite nice, except a few greens that appeared a little too strong.

Having lived in Ireland for five years I wholly concur with the sentiment that you have to learn to adapt to steel grey skies, rain and crazy winds, and it seems like you have.

I sometimes miss Ireland for the pubs and the friendly people but that weather..

I've wanted to visit Canada and particularly Vancouver for some time but having seen a few episodes of the great show "Continuum" I can't remember having seen the sun once.

At one time in Cork I didn't see the sun for one week. Didn't think that could weigh so much on the mind, but it could.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
calking
By calking (8 months ago)

Don't let rumors stop you from going to Canada. Vancouver has plenty of sun days, and is amazing. Make sure you visit vancouver island and whistler.

1 upvote
asmith
By asmith (8 months ago)

Vancouver in July this year we had: zero rain. Pretty much wall-to-wall sunshine and temperatures into the thirties for a lot of the time. Don't believe everything you see on TV! :)

0 upvotes
Wye Photography
By Wye Photography (8 months ago)

I know its personal taste (or lack of it) but I don't like these photos. I dream of beautiful days on Welsh and Lake District mountains. The reality is my trips often occur in not-so-good to bad weather where the Sun makes a happy but fleeting appearance. I just try and do the best in the circumstance I find myself. I just love Gore-Tex.

5 upvotes
mailman88
By mailman88 (8 months ago)

Did you notice the f-stop on these series of pics?
Most people in this forum can't get past f/8, with the fear of diffraction.

Oh well, these pics prove otherwise....Very Nice Indeed.

1 upvote
Johnny B Goode
By Johnny B Goode (8 months ago)

If you have APS-C DSLR, getting past f/8 can be "dangerous". Author of this article uses Fullframe.

2 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (8 months ago)

Old Canon FF with WA at f/22 with a bunch of ND filters... might as well use a smartphone, with a stronger bunch. There are some water-proof phones now. :)

0 upvotes
Keith Reeder
By Keith Reeder (8 months ago)

"If you have APS-C DSLR, getting past f/8 can be "dangerous"

Don't talk such nonsense.

1 upvote
Johnny B Goode
By Johnny B Goode (7 months ago)

The more pixels on smaller sensor you have, the earlier you get diffraction I think. I suppose we are talking about the newest DSLRs like Nikon D5200 with 24 megapixels. Sorry if I am wrong.

0 upvotes
57even
By 57even (8 months ago)

I agree. There is nothing more boring than a blue sky as a backdrop, but a grey overcast sky can add real mood and character to a picture. I much prefer shooting in this kind of weather, which is just as well considering I live in London.

But as the author says, it's really only possible with modern cameras with good DR and post processing technique. Personally I don't have an issue with that if the result looks natural. After all a default JPEG tone curve is just that...default.

0 upvotes
Mr Fartleberry
By Mr Fartleberry (8 months ago)

I learned a long time ago not to waste my time and film on these sort of shots. Even today very few RAWs from trips get processed afterwards shooting in cloudy/rain conditions. I use my time better running into town and getting a real meal.

Then again maybe you can buy those zillion bags and rain covers thru Amazon if you think someone wants to buy your pictures of occluded misery.

5 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (8 months ago)

Perhaps you exposed them improperly. Under cloudy/overcast days, you can get very saturated color in your photos without photoshop. I think use a slide film probably works better under such lighting.

0 upvotes
Nigel Wilkins
By Nigel Wilkins (8 months ago)

Many people like these photos...perhaps it's your vision that's the issue, or just your taste is different to others?

Thanks for being so negative!

0 upvotes
kdaphoto
By kdaphoto (8 months ago)

Hmm. Living in a place that has plenty of overcast and rainy days I have learned that there is plenty to shoot and you can get wonderful results. The ovecast can yield very saturated colors and give a very different look to your images. Too bad you've closed your mind to learning and insist on what you consider perfect conditions to shoot. You have no idea what you are missing.

For me photography is about learning, flexibility and compromise. Working with those and using them to your advantage is what makes an exceptional photographer.

0 upvotes
calking
By calking (8 months ago)

He's a "fair weather" guy.

0 upvotes
Keith Reeder
By Keith Reeder (8 months ago)

"Thanks for being so negative!"

Look at the article title.

He has UNQUESTIONABLY failed to prove the truth of his opening statement, so negativity is completely understandable.

0 upvotes
Simon97
By Simon97 (8 months ago)

I learned back in the film days that shooting in overcast conditions will often yield more pleasing results because of the huge contrast between light and shadow is not an issue.

0 upvotes
Create
By Create (8 months ago)

Why all the expensive equipment, can't we get nice images with lower end cameras and lenses, that the normal person shoots with, what about waterproof cameras, can't we get just as nice images with some basic equipment. Show the once in a while photographer how to get the results of a pro, i know it's possible.

1 upvote
Nigel Wilkins
By Nigel Wilkins (8 months ago)

Use your camera with the same settings & you will get pretty much the same results...what makes you think you need the same equipment?

0 upvotes
calking
By calking (8 months ago)

Because 95% of the forum people here are all about having the most recent, expensive, comprehensive full-frame DSLRs and full complement of lenses that anyone can ever aspire to own as a reason to go out and take photos of anything.

0 upvotes
inohuri
By inohuri (8 months ago)

"once in a while photographer" wants pro results. Not likely to happen. Study and practice are what work for any craft.
Have you studied the manual for your camera and know it's shooting features well? Can you push the right buttons in the dark or with the camera tilted?
There are many websites and books that will try to help you. But "once in a while" doesn't cut it. It takes practice and honest self criticism.
Carry a camera with you always, even if it is a cell phone. Learn how to get the most out of it by actually using it.
I get my best hit rate with older compact cameras. I'm willing to take them with me and they get good results.
I have what should be adequate DSLR stuff, but I don't use it unless I know it will get a better photo and it often won't.
Most shots are with a Canon A640 using CHDK .dng raw at ISO 80.
Second best is the big Fuji S6000FD for higher ISO or wide and telephoto. Usually shot at ISO 100 in raw.
These smaller sensors are sharpest between f4 and f5.6.

0 upvotes
mckracken88
By mckracken88 (8 months ago)

not convinced.

not a fan of overdone hdr and filters. (and foam water)

13 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (8 months ago)

It's not HDR. It's exactly what you get if you shot in overcast, gloomy lighting, you exposed right. No HDR required to get the color.

0 upvotes
TheDman
By TheDman (8 months ago)

Some of it is HDR. The first Woodlands image is very obviously tonemapped.

Agree though that you can do well shooting in overcast conditions.

2 upvotes
Ronald1959
By Ronald1959 (8 months ago)

I agree. I like to shoot in the rain, but this is not my style.

0 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (8 months ago)

not so bad weather, not so bad photography.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Eriol Brumel
By Eriol Brumel (8 months ago)

Thanks a lot for this very interesting post, and to take up the topic of bad weather. In fact, in landscape photographie there are a lot of regions in the world where one has to cope with "suboptimal" weather conditions and very often one has no option to wait for a weather improvement ...

Your shots and explanations are very inspiring!

0 upvotes
robmanueb
By robmanueb (8 months ago)

Love your shots and practical advice. Polarized filter has just became a priority.

0 upvotes
tinternaut
By tinternaut (8 months ago)

Nice article and photos. I agree with all but the bit about HDR (though that is a damned fine example of HDR done well enough not to look too much like HDR). Personally, with the modern sensors, I think a better result can be had by producing 2-3 differently exposed TIFFs from the same raw capture, and having a good mess about with layers and masks (or alternatively, just use the raw + local adjustment brushes, in less extreme conditions).

0 upvotes
calking
By calking (8 months ago)

I like the term "mess about". I hadn't heard that before.

0 upvotes
Michel J
By Michel J (8 months ago)

Thanks for sharing this.

You made here the impossible, and you can get some results what are really interesting.

I noticed that you're using a polarized filter, what I never thought I'd use by a flat dull day (so next time I would take a try, because it's a very good idea).

Unfortunately, nothing can recreate these brillant micro-contrasts what we get from a good lighting situation, but here have really some way to enhance our shots when required.

Maybe flash fill-in too?

0 upvotes
Total comments: 77