5 Reasons Why Bad Weather Days are the Best Times for Photography

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Bad Weather Photography Equals High Impact  Photos

Remember those days when you looked out your window and wished that the weather was better so you could get out and take some fantastic photographs? Do rainy, windy, stormy days stifle your photographic ambitions? I’ll give you five reasons why bad weather is not all doom and gloom for photographers.

bad weather photography with dark clouds

The things that keep most people indoors on bad weather days are the very things that have creative photographers heading for the great outdoors. Grab a rain jacket, brave the elements AND take your camera – these can be the best times for photography to capture something memorable.

Let’s look these five reasons to appreciate bad weather, and what they can offer you for photographs that get that second look.

  • Dark and unpredictable clouds
  • Powerful winds
  • Rain and drizzle
  • Snow
  • Fog

#1 CLOUD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR DRAMATIC IMAGES

Clouds can be brooding, moody and sinister – a great backdrop for photographing old buildings, new skyscrapers, and trees. While you’re out in the storm, also think about shooting just the clouds by themselves, to create a “cloud bank” of images to use as drop-ins for compositing with other images. Clear blue skies are pretty boring in most photos. With your catalog of cloud shots you’ll never have a bland sky photo again.

Low hanging clouds can add a really mysterious quality to your images. Think black and white photography when considering ways to take advantage of clouds. You can use post-processing techniques to accentuate the various layers of the cloud formations to add even more drama to your images.

In this shot of a storm moving in over the Bugaboo mountain range, I used Google Nik Silver Efex Pro and the Structure setting to add tonal definition to the clouds to create atmosphere.

bad weather photography stromy clouds

#2 WIND PHOTOGRAPHY FOR ARTISTIC EXPOSURES

bad weather photography- windy daysWindy days provide you with all you need to make excellent motion studies for long exposures – tall grasses flowing like waves, tress swaying wildly, leaves trembling and dancing full of motion. Waves on lakes become whitecaps, perfect for those milky long exposure waterscapes.

Even though still photographs capture a single moment, you can achieve great impact when you capture the residue of motion in a single frame. High impact daytime long exposure photographs need movement to be successful, and when the wind is blowing, things are moving. Capture this in a single frame and you have an instant “wow” shot.

Use a neutral density filter to slow your shutter so that it captures the motion created by the breeze. Use a tripod for your wind shots to make sure that whatever is not moving in your image stays nice and sharp. The contrast of solid and fluid is a powerful creative technique.

#3 RAINY DAY PHOTOGRAPHY FOR COLOR AND SPECIAL EFFECTS

badweatherphotography-rainstreaks

Rain is awesome for artistic and creative photos.

When it’s wet outside, colors become deeper, richer and more saturated. This provides you with a way to look at the great outdoors in a “different light.”  Observe how flat and lifeless colors appear on an overcast day. But add some rain and the colors really pop!

Rain photography gives you hundreds of subjects for creative artistic photos using reflections and ripples in puddles, lakes and other water bodies. A wet rainy day gives you macro photography opportunities, by providing you with drops, ripples, and rivulets, perfect in the flat, even light of a rainy day. Use rain streaks on windows as art effects to make high impact abstract images.

badweatherphotography-raindrops

badweatherphotography-rainclouds

#4 SNOW PHOTOGRAPHY

Gently falling snowflakes in photography can add an additional element of emotion to add more impact to your images – who hasn’t felt a little shudder in the blustery cold? It can be used to create a sense of realism in a photo, especially in street photography.

Heavy falling snow adds an instant texture to your images. Colors appear softer, and less vibrant as they compete with the white of the flakes. I find it adds an instant painterly effect to most images – especially those with lots of natural colors.

badweatherphotography-snow

#5 FOG PHOTOGRAPHY

Fog – moody and high impact scenic shots, great for storytelling, and it can be used as a “backdrop” to hide distracting backgrounds to isolate your subject.  I especially like fog photography because it adds an instant pastel effect to your images, which can make for stunning fine art photography.

badweatherphotography-fog

SURPRISE BENEFITS OF BAD WEATHER PHOTOGRAPHY

If you’ve endured the rain and the wet, chances are you’ll be rewarded handsomely for your efforts and patience.  You’ll have captured some rare and uncommon moments that most people never attempt. Because luck favors the prepared mind, you may also get really lucky. You’re outdoors, you have all your gear, and you are shooting. In amongst all those dramatic bad weather photographs you capture, you may find something truly wondrous in the very next frame.

badweatherphotography-opportunity

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below, and do share your bad weather stories and images as well.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Alex Morrison is a professional fine art and nature photographer, accredited by The Professional Photographers of Canada. She was the Canadian Photographic Artist of the Year in 2009. She teaches photography, runs workshops and online classes on fine art and nature photography, as well as infrared and iphone photography. Her educational website with photography tips is at nature-photography-central.com. View her art photography portfolio here. Alex has a coupon code for her Infrared Post Processing e-book, use DPSTKS to save $12.00.

  • Michael Owens

    I love bad weather, for me – suits HDR and striking black and white imagery.
    The example here of the trees and the clouds, is breathtaking. I have seen it before, and still become amazed by it!

  • Choo Chiaw Ting

    not for entry level bodies – no weather seal??

  • Yes, weather seal cameras help, but don’t let that prevent you from going out even if you don’t have one, just be careful and you are good to go! I really like the picture of the puddle with the reflected trees under the rain, so abstract and beautiful Alex!

    Last Christmas I visited a small village in the border between Thailand and Myanmar and, being around a lake, mornings were surprisingly foggy. It was my first time capturing fog in a tropical country as Thailand, it was a very beautiful experience. See the captures here: http://gonzalobroto.blogspot.com/2014/03/amazing-sangkhlaburi-part-i-landscapes.html

  • Choo Chiaw Ting

    😉 thinking of smoke / fog /rain machines…

  • Great! Love it! I love trying to take photos in the rain of wildlife – also that way it’s much harder to find them! Wish there was more bad weather here in Israel!

    avishaifuterman.com

  • suttree

    Thank you. I needed to see this. About to leave for a 4 day photo-taking trip and rain is predicted for at least 2 days. You’ve raised my expectations! Beautiful examples in the article as well

  • Brett Steinberg

    I took this last Saturday at Rocky Mountain National Park in CO. I don’t know that I would have loved this shot as much as I do if the skies weren’t as overcast as it was.

  • Richard Taylor

    Cost?
    Keep in mind the lens you are using needfs to be “weather sealed” as well.
    You may be able to get by with a wet weather cover for your camera.

  • Richard Taylor

    I like shooting motor sport in the rain mainly becuse of;
    You don’t have to worry about the light direction or harsh shadows.
    The spray from the wheels etc adds a lot of “atmosphere”

  • ColininOz

    For fog and smog images China is the venue ! Shanghai for these shots

  • LOL come to Canada!

  • Just buy yourself a good rain cover and you’ll be fine

  • Excellent article!! Thank you!!

  • Grace

    Love your foggy trees. What’s the best settings for foggy/misty shots? I have given up and put my Lumix on landscape to cope with sea mist shots!

  • thenaturephotog

    I tend to find that shooting in fog is like shooting for snow or sand, so I usually overexpose by at least 1/2 stop, but I shoot in Manual Mode and bracket a few shots first. Also I use the matrix metering mode (Nikon) that calculates exposure based on an analysis of the entire frame rather than just one point or zone. Don’t give up yet, give it another try and et me know how it goes.

  • thenaturephotog

    Thank you Lois! Its good to know you enjoyed it.

  • Grace

    Thanks very much for the info, will try it out next time we’re at the coast or it’s foggy. Luckily (or perhaps unluckily from photo viewpoint!) we don’t get too much fog inland.

  • Paul Harris

    Hi
    I’ve been shooting Civil War reenactments and sometimes the forces of nature all come together to allow for a hot like this one. Not everyday is warm and sunny

  • thenaturephotog

    What an inspired capture! This is a great example of creating atmosphere with the elements. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Paul Harris

    Thanks. It had rained the night before and predawn was perfectly clear. The fog came up about an hour after sunrise. Here is a link to the rest of the shoot. http://www.oakhillstudio.org/p890561579

  • WOW – a rainbow and a lightning together! What a rare picture!
    Bad weather is a challenge – but gives really nice results – if you´re prepared… unfortunately I was not prepared well enough one night – but still like the results…. http://livingpicturesquely.blogspot.co.at/

  • Shane

    One photo is in Canada

  • Guest

    I took this a few weeks ago during a major lightning and thunder storm. I love the way the lightning lights up behind and underneath the clouds.

  • Debbie Laudenslager

    I took this a few weeks ago during a thunder storm. The lightning was both blanket and fork. I love the way it lit up the cloud.

  • Katielee4211

    Wow! That’s awesome. The fog really lends a reality to the shot.. Like you’d pulled the curtain on time.

  • Great photo tips, thank you! It looks like the snow photography sample photo was taken at The Forks in Winnipeg, MB (my home town). I was there yesterday with my dog.

  • Kari Lynn Wellborn

    Taken yesterday on Swift Trail in Graham Co AZ. This is not fog it is a cloud we passed through.

  • Great photo tips, thank you! It looks like the snow photography sample photo was taken at The Forks in Winnipeg, MB (my home town). I was there yesterday with my dog. Here is a photo of the same area taken in June 2013.

  • thenaturephotog

    Hey Derek!

    Yes, the photo was taken at the Forks in Winnipeg. My hometown too. Are with any of the Canera Clubs in Winnipeg?

  • thenaturephotog

    Yes, the photo was taken at the Forks in Winnipeg. My hometown too. Are with any of the Camera Clubs in Winnipeg?

  • thenaturephotog

    Gorgeous shot! It’s a hard shot to take sometimes too – to get the exposure right can be tricky, Well done!

  • Hi Alex! I do belong to the Winnipeg Photo Community, but there has not been much happening in there lately.

  • Kari Lynn Wellborn

    Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.

  • I’ll try this, I spent money on an expensive “protective” plastic cover I got through Amazon and it didn’t work, it got all fogged inside when I tried taking pictures.

    Sometimes these cheap little tricks as you suggest will do better than anything.

  • Bill Rose

    Taken today Western Slope of Colorado

  • pete guaron

    I find that after a heavy rainfall, the air is much cleaner – and that brings with it cleaner colours and more fascinating tonings, in everything I see around me. Even the colors in the sky are more vibrant, more interesting. And of course it also creates opportunities for adding reflections in some cases. We were given eyes so that we could see – so many people don’t even notice these changes, but they can make the difference between “a nice snap” and “a great photograph” – we all need to “see” more, it’s part of the process of planning your shots.

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