The best conditions in open country can often be found at the edge of bad weather. Incoming low pressure can bring dramatic clouds and lighting, perfect conditions for a set of good images. Once the weather has arrived however things get a bit more tricky but there is no need to pack in straight away.
When wide vistas are not an option due to grey (or equally uninteresting blue) skies finding details in the landscape is a good alternative.

Autumn is one of the best times to photograph details of the landscape; the already rich colours are enhanced by the overcast and wet conditions. 

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 70-200 F4 @ 109mm, F22, 0.6 sec, polarizer and tripod

The lack of horizon and dramatic sky  (which usually takes up at least 1/3 of the frame and has a major impact on the mood of an image) makes composing a striking image a real challenge and a good exercise. Arranging the shapes and colours at your feet into pleasing images can keep you busy for hours even when the rain is pelting down. 

Constant drizzle and a fair breeze were the prevailing conditions on this day in late summer and I spent the better part of a day exploring meadows around the Burren National Park. If you can find a good composition in this chaos you can find it anywhere.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 90mm TS-E, F18, 1/15 sec. @ ISO 200, tripod. 
Farmland can provide the necessary colour if everything is dull and grey. The conditions on that summer day were as bad as it gets: Gale force winds, rain and almost featureless clouds. I don’t consider the image a masterpiece but it’s still usable.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 24-105 F4 @ 88mm, F22, 1/8 sec. @ ISO 100, tripod.


Coastal regions are equally productive and dangerous in foul weather.
High cliffs are the most dangerous place to be in stormy conditions but often also offer the best opportunities. Sudden gusts of wind and freak waves claim lives every year so before you set out watch the sea area forecast, check the tides and tell someone where are you going and when you plan to be back. On location watch the conditions for a while until you have an idea of the wave and wind action, this will help you choosing the best viewpoint as well as keeping you safe. Always keep an appropriate distance from the cliff edge and if it’s extremely wild a life jacket might be an accessory to think about, if you survive the fall it might keep you above water log enough to be saved.

This was one of the worst storms I have ever experienced on the Irish west coast. Although I know the area very well and can predict the behaviour of wind and waves to some extend there were some moments during the half hour I spent outside you could call a close call. I had worked out the composition before, all I had to do on the day was waiting for the perfect wave.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 24-105 F4 @ 40mm, F22, 1/13 sec. @ ISO 50, tripod, 1-stop ND grad, ThinkTank raincover. 

Violent storms bring some stunning wave action and the best chances for some unique shots. There are two ways to capture the action. To freeze breaking waves an exposure time of 1/500 or faster is necessary. Personally I like to add a sense of motion and therefor slightly blur the movement. Exposure time depends on the force and speed of the waves but 1/20 is always a good starting point. If possible I use a polarizer, it both increases my exposure times and adds a little kick to the colours.

This was one of the few occasions I was happy about foul weather. Keem Strand appears in almost every Ireland tour guide and the clouds and rain forced me to try something different to the usual fair weather approach. Water has a wonderful reflective surface and can increase the little light there is and it worked perfectly on this occasion. 

Canon EOS 5D, 24-105 F4 @ 47mm, F20, 20 sec., 2-stop ND grad + 3- stop ND, tripod. 
The coast obviously is also a great place for detail studies and sand, rocks and water are subjects with endless possibilities.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, 17-40 F4 @ 40mm, F22, 6 sec. @ ISO 100, tripod, polarizer.

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