Eveing in Grand Tetons National Park

Landscape Photography in Stormy Weather

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.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (UT), USA

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

  • 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!
Photoshop Manual Blending Workflow Examples

Glacier National Park, Montana

  • 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.
Rainbow Falls, Big Island, Hawaii (HI), USA

Rainbow Falls, Big Island, Hawaii (HI), USA

  • 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.
Eveing in Grand Tetons National Park

Evening 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.

About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.

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4 replies
  1. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    I’d be interested in an article filled with tips for protecting my gear in stormy weather. Any protection tips in clothing also, but keeping my camera safe is my biggest deterrent. Thanks

    Reply
  2. 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

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply

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