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!
Here are few tips to get you started.
- Light is often best before or after big storms – so watch the weather and be ready to shoot when the light is right. After driving in bad weather for over two hours, I arrived at Bryce Canyon just as the storm overhead was breaking up. The last light falling on the mountains with a snow-covered foreground was breathtaking.
- Fast-moving clouds may open up as they move overhead, allowing beams of light to drop from the sky. Photos like these require a quick setup because the light beams don’t always last very long. However, when you can capture them effectively, 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 cuts through the glare and rewards you with rich, beautiful colors. But be forewarned… if you are photographing a rainbow, be careful when using your circular polarizer. A rainbow is a result of scattered light and the circular polarizer will erase it from your photo if you set the circular polarizer incorrectly. The double rainbow below was captured with the help of a circular polarizer (rotated correctly) in Hilo, Hawaii.
- And finally, look for reflections and reflected light to add interest to your foreground. In the image below, Jay used reflections in the small pond to create a point of interest in an otherwise monotonous foreground as the storm overhead was just breaking up in Grand Tetons National Park.
Stormy weather can also be very dangerous and can easily sneak up on you. It can bring about dangerous lighting, hail, and a sudden drop in temperature. Make sure you check the weather reports and take appropriate precautions when you go out to shoot in bad weather.
Do you have any tips for photographing storms? Please share them in the comments below.