How to Photograph in Bad Weather

Stormy weather can be a great time to photograph nature. Brooding clouds and beautiful landscapes are ingredients for compelling photographs that can convey emotion, as well as a story.

You can get great pictures during a storm or when it’s clearing. Anyone who’s ever seen Ansel Adams’s “Clearing Storm” photograph can attest to the power that dramatic clouds add to an image. You can also get great pictures when the clouds are building before a storm.

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The first thing you need to worry about in stormy weather is your safety. In certain parts of the world, the weather can get ugly real quick. What looks like a great photo opportunity can pose a threat for your safety. Here are some tips for protecting yourself in stormy weather:

  • Dress for the occasion. If you’re photographing in cold weather, wear warm clothing. In some areas, you’ll have a chilly morning and then it will warm up in the afternoon. For this scenario, dress in layers. If you photograph in a climate where thunderstorms or rain showers occur frequently, carry a small plastic poncho in your camera bag.

  • Keep your hands warm. If you photograph in a cold climate, purchase a pair of photographer’s gloves. The tips of the thumb and forefinger of photographer’s gloves flip back when you need bare fingers to use the camera controls and press the shutter button. When you’re not taking pictures, flip the tips back to keep your fingers toasty warm.

  • Check the weather forecast. If you go to a site like the Weather Channel (www.weather.com), enter your zip code to get a current forecast. You can also view a map that shows the storm clouds and click a button to show the predicted movement for the next several hours. If you own a smartphone, you can get an application that will give you up-to-date weather conditions any place you have a signal.

  • Don’t stray far from cover. Weather conditions can change quickly. Make sure you can get to cover quickly if the weather looks like it is taking a turn for the worse.

Photographing in inclement weather requires common sense and stamina. After taking safeguards for your own safety, it’s time to think about your gear:

  • Protect your camera. Use a rain sleeve, or carry a shower cap in your camera bag. Cut a hole for the lens and one for the viewfinder. Put a piece of packing tape on each side of the hole you cut for the viewfinder. Poke the camera lens through the large hole you cut in the shower cap and use a rubber band to fasten it securely.

  • Protect your camera bag. Use the built-in rain cover, or you can use a large plastic bag to protect your camera bag. Cut slits for the camera bag strap. When you need to cover the camera bag, take the strap off, place the modified garbage bag over the camera bag, and then thread the strap through the holes you cut.

  • Change lenses cautiously. Don’t change lenses at all in windy weather unless you can get some shelter. The wind could blow dust or grit into your sensor.

  • Let your camera acclimate. If you’re going from a warm room into cold weather, protect your camera with a baggie. Condensate will form on the outside of the baggie. You can also leave your camera in the camera bag for several minutes until the cold penetrates the bag and acclimates your camera to the cold conditions.

    Reverse the procedure when you bring the camera indoors. Don’t remove the memory card until the camera has acclimated to the warm conditions.

  • Keep your spare battery warm. Batteries drain quickly in cold weather. Instead of keeping your spare battery in the camera bag, put it in your pocket.

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