Plain blue skies are dull, and cameras know it for sure. Heavy dark clouds filling the sky should be a sign for staying nice and warm inside for most people, it is totally understandable; but not for the likes of us crazy photographers that love adventure and unique scenery.
This sort of imagery requires some patience and keeping your eyes on the weather as well. It is easier when storm season is just right on your front door. Whenever you feel like a storm might be approaching near the horizon, that's when you need to take some action.
Here are some quick tips and you'll manage to capture highly dramatic landscapes while keeping your camera nice and dry.
Be Smarter Than The Storm
The trick here is to be smarter than the storm. I remember back when I used to work with DSLR cameras that I got this fantastic and innovative device, yup, that wasn't a bad link, I'm talking about a regular DSLR plastic raincoat. The thing is that you are not going to shoot right in the pouring rain but from the safety of somewhere a little out of the direct downpour in the distance.
Still, some drizzle and larger water drops could get around your camera, and even though your kit might guarantee you that it was designed under “weather sealed” standards, it is never a harm to be extra cautious.
Here Is The Gear You'll Need In Inclement Weather
- Get a sturdy tripod with a hook underneath in order to avoid unpleasant surprises when heavy winds come to play around.
- Telephoto lenses (not massive telescopes, something in between 100mmm to 200mm) allow you to put a bit of distance between your setup, and the storm.
- Cover your gear with a raincoat like the one in the link above
- Get an umbrella as well for when the rain starts to fall
- Have your bag ready for putting your gear back into the safe zone (you might consider one of these bad boys)
- Get an agile ND filter system – eg one with a flexible holder so you can quickly pack up your gear
Here Is How To Capture Those Brooding Skies Via Long Exposure
- Use the lowest ISO possible to reduce noise in your photos
- Choose an aperture between f8 and f11 for sharper images.
- Experiment with different shutter speeds. Try speeds from a few seconds to a few minutes to get the right effect.
As always, don't forget about your composition – make sure you have interesting elements to enhance the dark skies and always shoot in RAW.
Remember you are going out in the nasty weather not to shoot static clouds, even when they do look nice and dramatic, the trick here is to capture clouds moving fast thanks to wind gusts, that way you'll achieve brooding skies without having to wait too long like when working with regular weather situations.
One of the best experiences I've had trying to capture heavy weather is at the beach at night. I'm still trying to master things out, but capturing moving clouds with lighting bolts splashed here and there is an awesome treat. Just make sure you stay safe
Setting a camera under threatening weather situations is definitely not for anybody, but take a look at some of the advice here if you feel bold enough to set up a camera on the outdoors.
And of course, if you love getting wet, there are always water cases for your camera!
Nice article Federico. I really recommend those camera backpacks that have the wet weather cover that slides out from underneath in storms like that. Also, if you are shooting from a Tripod, never underestimate the power of the lens hood to keep the drops of water off the front element… as long as you’re not using big filters of course.