There's ALWAYS a shot! Landscape photography in bad weather! Snowdonia, North Wales.
Landscape photography is all about shooting for the environment and conditions you are faced with, good or bad.
!! Please stay away from waves, cliffs and edges of mountains in bad weather !!
Learning to embrace the elements will open up a whole new world of photographic opportunities. I encourage you to research other photographers' work in bad weather. Storms in particular present incredible opportunities - I'm a sucker for a stormy sky! storm chasing is high on my must-do list haha.
Safety, for both you and your camera, is the first thing to keep in mind when out in the elements, you don't want to kill your camera or get hypothermia for the sake of an image! I typically spend a short while taking in the environment, keeping dry and warm; scouting around looking for potential images and trying to anticipate the weather.
I won't touch my camera or risk any gear until I have found a safe break in the weather and know exactly which lens, filter and camera settings I will use.
Preventing unnecessary damage - Changing lenses in heavy rain is a risk, try and anticipate the field of view first to avoid unnecessary exposure to your camera.
DON'T RUSH! - Tho tempting, this is where all of my mistakes are made!
Things to look out for:
long lens - (100-300mm) abstract shots (pick out details)
Mid zoom - minimalism, lines, shapes and textures in rocks, sand, sky etc.
Wide angel - abstract (use interesting details to lead the eye up the frame)
Minimalism - use a moody sky to your advantage, imagine the end edit!
Tones- look for contrast and depth in rocks and sand, these can be epic!
Use a faster shutter to prevent wind movement.
Keep your shots simple! - Don't overcomplicate.
Find something you like and work it!
Keep what you like - remove what you don't! (Think custom burger haha)
Think square! - I find it easier to find a simple shot in a square, this can be fine-tuned to landscape or portrait if needed.
I am a firm believer that there is always an image in ANY conditions. In my recent video, I photographed the stunning view from Moel Berfedd in Snowdonia with good friend and Youtuber Gary Gough.
Photography in Snowdonia is challenging at the best of times! Though this shoot was particularly challenging. Faced with very strong winds, non-stop rain and even incredibly strong hail. It was relentless! It's very good to challenge yourself and improve your skills! - I adore conditions like this! haha
Though tough, it was still STUNNING! There was a tremendous amount of energy and atmosphere! the clouds were fierce and dark, moody and there were many weathered rocks with dark tones too - lots of details and atmosphere to pick out and capture.
I Always shoot in RAW and in conditions like this, using my Fujifilm XT3 or XT4 camera, I find choosing the Fujifilm 'Classic Chrome' profile. This desaturates the colours slightly but adds a dark tone and contrast to the image preview. This helps me balance the compositions and anticipate the final edit.
With this in mind, I pay particular attention to textures, shapes and tones which I can later enhance by dropping the shadows, desaturating the image and increasing the contrast.
As with all photo-shoots, I always ask myself what's important in the image, translating that to my camera settings. for this scene, I wanted handheld images with a fast enough shutter but still as much depth of field as possible to capture the whole scene. As with most landscape photography images, I also wanted my ISO to be as low as possible. Tho knowing the sky wasn't too bright, I could ensure my histogram was correct too, resulting in a correctly exposed file for editing.
Due to the strong winds and low-ish light I decided on a minimum shutter speed of 125th second, this coupled with the ibis in the camera would freeze any wind 'jitter' but still enable a low enough ISO and a fairly wide aperture of between f/5.6 and f/6.3 to give me plenty of depth of field.
My tips for photography in bad weather would be similar to that of any conditions when overwhelmed with what to shoot. My priority is ALWAYS safety, for me and my gear. Having layered up in suitable outdoor 'winter' clothing; warm clothes and waterproofs and my camera protected, I was all set to wait out any storms until sunset.
The difficulty I faced with this shoot, was that I had pre-visualized three different images taken facing three different ways. This required three different lenses, changing lenses is difficult in heavy rain! - One direction was straight into the wind and rain, so no filters!!
I had to make a choice and decide which lens could work for all three compositions. As the light and conditions changed in an instant, it was important I had my settings right and could adapt to the weather and change my shooting positions as quickly as possible! - I opted for my wide-angle and mid zoom lenses, the Fujifilm XF16-55 f/2.8. (24-70 full-frame eq) and XF10-24, I really hate that this lens isn't weather-sealed, but it's fantastic!!
This shoot was very different from my normal 'relaxed' style of landscape photography where I find my composition, set up and fine-tune the settings, positioning and wait! - This was far more 'run and gun' - almost like street photography or events photography where you are required to be extremely alert and adapt to your surroundings and lighting changes.
Though not always the preferred way of photographing a landscape it is great fun! running around the tops of a beautiful mountain in Snowdonia with your camera, chasing light and working different scenes is very exciting!
In bad weather, you're not forced to wait for that 'special' sunset light and are free to capture all of the moods the weather throws at you. This made the experience liberating.. instead of there being a few moments of 'epic afterglow' there were constant opportunities to catch falling rain and angry looking storm clouds.
The more I shoot in these 'bad' conditions the more I appreciate them and what they do for your photography. They teach you how to adapt, learn your strengths and weakness and allow you to challenge your composition skills while thinking in more detail about your exposure settings.
If every location you visited was perfect and every sky was on fire, you would have little chance to test your skills! Landscape photography would become boring. I love the phrase 'golf would be boring if you hit a hole in one every time!' - or words to that effect! haha either way you get the point!
The other thing to remember is that very often at the end of a heavy storm you will be blessed with phenomenal light and detail in the clouds! - Especially on windy days when the clouds are constantly moving, the opportunities are there if you are ready and prepared for them!
One of the other reasons I enjoy bad weather photography is that very few 'non-photographers' will venture out, meaning you will very often find yourself completely alone with all the scenery to yourself! Even if you are without your camera, this can be vital for your photographic development as you can still look for details and compositions.
Gear I bring on a bad weather shoot:
Coffee flask! (buy a good one - worth every penny!)
Waterproofs - trousers and jacket
Wide to Tele lenses (weather sealed if possible, remember your camera isn't WR sealed if the lens you have on it isn't!)
Waterproof cover for your camera bag
Mini dry bags for camera and lenses in case it's really bad.
Wooly hat and waterproof gloves
Warm layers in case you are waiting a while (keep in a dry bag)
LOTS of dry cloths for camera and lenses!
Polariser is a must to make clouds pop if you have the light tho I can go without other filters and grads.
Insulated sitting matt (foam so careful they blow away easily)
Snacks (to pass time and keep sugar up)
Mobile phone and protective case
I hope this helps you plan your next adventure whatever the weather! Tho I do want to stress it's important you inform someone where you are going, better still bring a friend!
Shoot location: Moel Berfedd Snowdonia. https://bit.ly/3myvV8T
A few of my favourite images from the shoot - All taken with the Fujifilm XT4 XF16-55 & XF10-24 at f/5.6-6.3 1/125th ISO1600 no filters.
Now get out there and EMBRACE THE ELEMENTS!!!