Taking photos in bad weather takes patience and flexibility, especially if you’re traveling.
- Tip Number One: Be patient.
- Tip Number Two: Think local atmosphere when you’re shooting photos in bad weather.
- Tip Number three: Come prepared.
- Tip Number Four: Use your umbrella as a prop when you’re shooting photos in bad weather.
- Tip Number Five: Be ready for serendipity when you’re shooting photos in bad weather.
- Now it’s your turn.
You’ve spent time planning ahead for your trip, watching the calendar for events to attend. You’ve done your research, following other photographers on sites like 500px. You’ve bought your tickets and assembled your equipment. You are ready to go!
The one thing you didn’t plan on was clouds and rain. Here are five tips on how to embrace the weather and come home with photos you love.
Tip Number One: Be patient.
There’s always a temptation to pack up your tripod and leave when the weather isn’t what you expected. You’d be surprised by how many photographers do just that! But they miss out on so many creative opportunities that happen when you shoot photos in bad weather.
I shot this photo on a trip to Bali with a group of fellow travel photographers. This temple, Pura Bata Bolong, is in the same temple complex as the famous temple, Tanah Lot. It’s perfectly situated for a sunset photo.
As the sun slowly sank behind the temple, the clouds moved in. Now, sometimes clouds can help create a beautiful sunset, but this time, they were too heavy and blocked out too much of the sunlight.
By the time I took this photo, almost everyone else in our group had left for the local bar. In fact, I was told to stop wasting my time as they left. It was my birthday, and a cold beer in the humid climate sounded great, but I was determined to wait it out to see what happened. I knew that the sun might reflect up onto the clouds from below the horizon and create an afterglow.
The result of my waiting was this silhouette of the temple with the ocean waves smoothed out. It’s one of my best-selling photos!
Tip Number Two: Think local atmosphere when you’re shooting photos in bad weather.
I shot this photo in Yunnan Province, in southwestern China, when I was visiting the Yuanyang Rice Terraces. These rice terraces were carved by hand into the sides of the Ailao Mountains over the past 1300 years. I love this photo because of the clouds! They helped create a sense of mystery.
The clouds gather over the valleys well below the terraces, and the local people call them the “Cloud Sea.” Sunrise is one of the prime times for shooting photos there, but the clouds often rise from the valley as the sun warms the air.
As they roll in like the tide, they block the view. Having a clear view of the terraces with the rising sun in the distance would be lovely, but showing the area with the cloud sea rolling in seemed more authentic to me.
Tip Number three: Come prepared.
If you’re going to be shooting sunrises or sunsets, be sure to bring your tripod with you! A remote to take the photo also helps prevent camera shake. These are a must if you might be shooting photos in bad weather.
For the photo below, we also had a high-powered flashlight. We left our hotel at 2:30 a.m. to capture the sunrise behind the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine. The heavy clouds and fog may have interfered with our plans, but a strong flashlight saved the day.
As the sky started to lighten to blue instead of black, we placed our cameras on tripods, set a slow shutter speed, and then painted the house with the flashlight. Without the help of that light, the house would have been a silhouette. Instead, the flashlight lit the house, and the dark clouds and shadows added drama to the scene.
Tip Number Four: Use your umbrella as a prop when you’re shooting photos in bad weather.
We set out to shoot photos of this couple in Paris on a drizzly day. We had umbrellas with us, and when the rain let up a bit, I was able to shoot them with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Adding the umbrella helped frame them.
I just wish the umbrella had been more colorful. I now always travel with a red or bright blue umbrella for moments like this.
On the same trip to Paris, we were sheltering from the rain under an overpass when I saw this woman walking toward us. I quietly set up my camera and waited. When she had passed, I swung around and captured her walking away!
This was such a lucky photo! Everything worked. The color of her umbrella made her pop off the background. Her white fur coat added texture and drama. Best of all, she was walking down the middle line of the walkway, framed by the columns and arches.
Now it’s your turn.
To learn more about the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, visit this link.
To learn more ways to make your travel photos unique, check out this blog post I wrote.