Who’s Afraid of a Big Bad Storm?

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Heaven and Earth
This is Peyto Lake in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. And yes. It really is that color. In fact, sometimes it’s even more brilliant that that. When the sun is high and the light reaches deep into the lake, the color seems surreal. It’s awesome. But I’m kind of a sucker for stormy skies, so this shot is one of my favorites from our trip to Banff this year. I set up my Induro tripod as low to ground as it can go… which is pretty darn low. The lens was just a few inches above the rocks. I used a wide angle lens to include lots of foreground in my photo. The wide-angle distortion helps create the feeling of depth in this shot. Shooting in stormy weather is a lot of fun, but it does require some extra considerations.

Be Prepared – And Don’t be Stupid!

Check weather conditions before you leave, and keep an eye on the skies. Be aware of what’s coming, and bring the right gear. We always bring along a waterproof jacket and pants. If it’s cold, rain can really take your body temperature down a notch. Waterproof gear keeps you warm and dry, and offers some wind protection too. Please keep in mind that storms like this can be dangerous, and it’s stupid to mess with nature. If the weather might get bad, get out. Don’t put rescuers lives in danger because you decided to take a risk.

Don’t be afraid of a little rain

That said, don’t be afraid to shoot in the rain. Fstop makes great covers for all its mountain series bags, and we put them on as soon as we think it might rain. We also bring along a rain cover for our camera so that we can shoot in the rain. And a small super-absorbent towel for drying things off now and then. 🙂 And sometimes we bring along an umbrella, too. Sometimes, Jay and I take turns holding an umbrella for each other… but more often, we leave the umbrella at home and just use our waterproof camera covers.

Get Creative

Shooting storms can be a lot of fun, and they offer a perfect opportunity to get creative. Try a long shutter speed to highlight the motion of fast-moving clouds. Use a long lens to “get close” to a distant storm and fill the frame with the storm itself… or use a wide angle lens to make the most of wide-angle distortion as I did here. Try shooting through a pane of glass to capture rain drops or to create an abstract shot. Look for closeups, too – water droplets make awesome subjects. 🙂

Changing weather is amazing.

Be sure to stick around after the storm, too. Changing weather can produce spectacular conditions… sunbeams, rainbows, and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. We often plan our trips to coincide with the best conditions for storms in hopes that we’ll get some really beautiful light. Look for the edge of the storm front and be ready to move as the storm shifts. We like to shoot at the edge of the storm, where clouds are forming or dissipating. Gorgeous!

Do you hole up and hide when the weather gets nasty? Or do you consider stormy skies to be a photographic opportunity?

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.