When It Comes To Weather, Perfect Isn’t Always Prefect

I know photographers that only head out to make photos in what they feel is perfect weather conditions for the photos they want to make. If there is a chance of rain or even heavy overcast they stay at home and don’t go out. That is unfortunate because you miss out on a lot of opportunities. Sure, I have been disappointed when the weather takes a turn for the worse. But more often than not I come home with some interesting photos.

Trail in Shenandoah National Park
Trail in Shenandoah National Park

The forecast called for cloudy to mostly cloudy skies last Tuesday for Harrisonburg, VA. I knew that it was time to head up to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park for the day! For most of us, when the forecast calls for cloudy skies, the clouds will be rather high in the sky. When you are on a mountain, cloudy skies can mean you will be in the clouds! And that is exactly what I wanted. I spent the day walking trails in the clouds.

Last Light of Day on Old Rag Mountain
The last light of day on Old Rag Mountain.

There was a break in the cloud cover but not for long. Plus, it depended on where you were on Skyline Drive. A few tenths of a mile could mean clear skies or staying in clouds. As I rounded a bend I could see Old Rag Mountain bathed in some nice golden light. I hurried to the next over look and got a photo just in time. A minute or two later, the light was gone.

As photographers we need to study more than just photography. Study the weather if you photograph outdoors. Look for changeable weather not just clear blue skies. Find conditions that will help enhance the photos that you want to make and get out there!

Every Now and Then You Will Be Rewarded

Until one Saturday last month, July 26, 2014 to be exact, I had never attempted to photograph the Milky Way. I have seen some great photos online but I had never gone out and figured it out for myself. I had been thinking about getting out and photographing the Milky Way for some time. I did some research on what other photographers had done so I was ready to get out and give it a try. I figured I would set it up as a Meetup for the Night and Low Light Photography Group. As the day got closer the weather reports called for various possibilities of rain and overcast. On the day of the Meetup the weather report called for partly cloudy skies with 20% chance of rain. Not bad odds and as it turned out, very nice because of a storm that came through. This is a composite of five images made while the storm was approaching.

Storm Clouds and Lightning
Evening Storm

I was the last one standing out in the storm and I only left when the rain came. Everyone else was in their cars and we all sat hoping the rain would let up. Most got tired of waiting for the rain to stop and the skies to clear so they left. Of the group that started there was only three left including me once the rain stopped. After the rain stopped the skies did clear and the Milky Way did make an appearance. I got out and got set up again and here are some of my first attempts to photograph the Milky Way.

Milky Way with the lights of Harrisonburg, VA.

Milky Way with a few clouds.

Milky Way with a single cloud.

I must admit that I almost left before the skies cleared. I knew that I had a 3 hour drive home but I’m glad I stayed. I learned a few things from this outing (I’ll share that in a post at CreatePhotographics.info in a day or two). Most of all, something that was reinforced here, every now and then you will be rewarded for your patients.

When the Fog Lifts and Other Conundrums

Have you ever planned a photo outing for a certain day and been disappointed by bad weather? Sure you have, we’ve all had that happen. What about having a day when the weather is less than stellar but still very nice for photos? Mind you, I don’t often hope for bad weather but when summer thunderstorms or a morning fog is predicted, I look forward to those days more than perfect weather.

For me, perfect weather conditions get boring. That’s right, boring! Give me an angry sky every now and then. Big dark clouds with lots of detail to photograph. Not the gray skies we usually get with bad weather. I’ll take some lightening or fog whenever it’s offered as well! I miss a good thunderhead rolling in just before sunset. Angry dark clouds with lightening out over the Gulf of Mexico. Once while I was in Key West, I went to the top of the building that I was staying in to photograph a thunderstorm rolling in. Great stuff!

The thing that gets me down more than anything else is when the “bad” weather lifts just before I can photograph it! OK, having a nice day go downhill fast because of bad weather is a bummer too. When the unusual weather turns nice that is really crushing. Spring is hopefully on it’s way and with it some interesting weather. Currently there is snow on the ground outside. It’s not much above freezing temperature wise, so I’m looking forward to spring showers.

Please, give me some weather I want to photograph, when I have time to photograph it! You probably already know the frustration of driving to a meeting, you have no time to spare and you see something that is begging to be photographed! Why do the photo gods taunt me! I carry a cameras with me all the time. So why is it that I get to watch very cool, interesting weather unfold right before me when I can’t photograph it?

So I will appreciate it, when I do photograph it!

Need a reason to get out and make some images?

As winter is getting here, finally some might say, and it is getting cold outside you might want to stay in and put the cameras on the shelf until it gets warmer. Yeah, I’m a wimp when it comes to cold weather! I was born in Florida, in July. Anything under 60º is COLD! Dressing up like the Michelin man to go outside is not my idea of a good time. If you are like me, the thought of getting out in the wintertime to make some images is, well, not very inspiring. Besides that, there is a reason its called “The Dead of Winter,” everything looks DEAD! Talk about an inspiration buzz kill! Here in Northern Virginia the trees are bare, the grass is either brown or a lack luster green that doesn’t look good in photos. Add as much saturation as you like to the somewhat green grass and it still looks off. Any leaves that are on the ground have lost all the fall color they once had and are now just masses of brown. Not very photogenic at all when you start thinking about it.

So what does winter have to offer photographically? Well, there are quite a few things when you start to think about it. Here are three:

1) Frost, that is something you don’t see on a nice July day! But you sure get it this time of year. Early morning, when everything is still and cold can be a great time to photograph frost. Look for the sun just hitting a leaf or some grass. You won’t have long to get your shot but you can get some nice ones with the golden morning light on the frost.

2) Ice, frost on a much larger scale. When freezing rain is in the forecast be sure to look for icicles and frozen branches. The green leaves and red berries of a holly tree can look great incased in a layer of ice. Look for clear skies after the freezing rain has moved out. The golden light of the sunrise or sunset will make the ice, leaves and berries glow in the warm light.

3) Snow, again, more frozen water! What is it about winter and frozen water!?! Anyway, getting out after a nice fresh fall of snow can be great for finding interesting images in places that you have photographed time and time again. When the snow falls it blankets an entire area with tiny flakes so try and photograph some of those flakes. Look for the textures that the different sizes of the flakes create. When the wind blows, drifts and interesting patterns are created. Be on the lookout for morning or evening sunlight on these drifts and patterns and you will get some great warm tones and cold tones in the same image.

One thing I find good about this time of year is the angle of the sun. Since the sun is over the southern hemisphere the shadows are longer for more of the day. The sun never gets very high in the sky so the shadows are longer than any other time of the year. Although the days will be getting longer these shadows will still be around for another couple of months.

Bundle up, charge your batteries and get out there and create some great winter images. I’d like to see some of the images you create. Send me a link so I can check them out. If you have a Flickr account, add me as a contact: Conchphotog.

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