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Quick Tips: Stormy Weather

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For most people, stormy weather can be the ruination of an otherwise perfect vacation… but landscape photographers welcome storm clouds. Why? Because storm lighting is often dramatic and beautiful. So when the skies start to cloud over, pay attention… this is when things get really good!

  • Light is often best before or after big storms – so watch the weather, and be ready to shoot when the light is right.
  • Fast-moving clouds may open up as they move overhead – allowing beams of light to drop from the sky. Those beams can turn an ordinary landscape into a contest-winner!
  • When everything is wet, use a circular polarizer filter to cut through scattered light. It will cut through the glare, and reward you with rich, beautiful colors. But be forewarned! If you are photographing a rainbow, remove your circular polarizer! A rainbow is a result of scattered light – and the circular polarizer will erase it from your photo!
  • And finally, look for reflections and reflected light to add interest to your foreground.
2 replies
  1. John Rader
    John Rader says:

    Jay,

    Sound thinking in the article, however I have to disagree with one of your statements. You mention that you should remove your polarizer in the presence of a rainbow. What you should mention is that, at the right angle of rotation, a rainbow can be completely removed from a scene (since a rainbow is actually due to refraction by water molecules, but more importantly internal reflections inside of a water droplet). However, if you rotate your polarizer 90 degrees to the angle at which the rainbow disappears, the polarizer will actually intensify the brightness of a rainbow. This is actually how I capture very intense rainbows, even when they don’t appear that way.

    Also, one thing you could add is that the amount of light available right before, during, and right after a storm is much lower, hence a clouded sky is essentially a natural ND filter and/or diffuser. I think of shooting at these times as equivalent to shooting during the “golden hours” since the light is not as intense, allowing for even exposures and the possibility of creative exposures (as opposed to shooting with a strong ND in full sunlight). Just a thought.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and thanks for the articles.

    John

    • Jay Patel
      Jay Patel says:

      John,

      You are correct about the polarizer and the rainbow. For the most part we try to keep our Quick Tips blog post simple and non-technical. I will see if I can add the ND Filter effect as another small blog post…good suggestion.

      Thanks for a great comment.
      -Jay

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