Making the Most of the Murk: 6 Tips for Shooting Outdoors in Bad Weather

Bad weather is a fact of life that there’s no point in fighting. But you can take advantage of it. When you’re taking your pictures, fit that weather into the story your photos are telling. You may be surprised, but mist and dusk can work wonders.

Making the Most of the Murk: 6 Tips for Shooting Outdoors in Bad Weather

All the orange leaves have fallen by now. Outside the mist is creeping over the fields each morning, and every week you pull out your umbrella at least once. The freeziest part of winter’s coming closer and closer. But that doesn’t mean that weather like this should you turn you away from photography.

In a previous article we showed what you can photograph at home when you really don’t want to go outside. But if you do find the willpower to leave your heated home, try taking advantage of the ugly weather. After all, it too has its atmosphere. And for certain subjects, it’s downright fitting.

Plants

Water drops are a great way for you to practice depth of focus. Just find some grass or a nice plant and experiment with taking pictures from countless angles.

6 Tips for Shooting Outdoors: grass with dewdrops.

In the morning, the grass often lays onto the ground due to dewdrops, and then crawls on it like spaghetti. So I chose a composition where the grass stretches out along a diagonal line towards the top right corner. 
Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1. 8 G, 1/320 s, f/7.1, ISO 320

Animals

You’re probably curious why I’m mentioning animals, of all things. I myself was surprised at how beautifully even ugly weather outdoors can add atmosphere to an animal photo. Later I realized that it’s actually natural. People hide from the weather, but wild animals live in symbiosis with it. Here the thick fog that surrounds the lion from all sides gives the picture a mysterious feel.

6 Tips for Shooting Outdoors: lion in the foggy weather.

I was unhappy with the weather that morning. But the result surprised me.
Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1. 8 G, 1/160 s, f/4.5, ISO 250

People

No matter whether it’s windy, cold, or rainy, there’s always a point to photographing people. And often you can use the weather to give a photo a story. In the photo below, a trio of siblings balances on a bench at the edge of a stormy lake. This seemingly boring picture is livened up by the fact that all three of them are watching a duck that is calm and unmoved by the waves.

6 Tips for Shooting Outdoors: waves on lake.

During post-production, I left this photo with cold colors and raised its contrast slightly to highlight the anger of the waves.
Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1. 8 G, 1/1600 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

Architecture

Homes, churches,  bridges. Monuments that have stood up to the inclement outdoor conditions for many centuries. Often a gloomy, soppy day helps them much more than the sun would.

6 Tips for Shooting Outdoors: a concrete bridge in Sweden.

Already on its own this concrete bridge gives off a very “raw” impression. The typical Swedish weather underscores its rawness even further. I deliberately let the bridge “exit” into the top right corner.
Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1. 8 G, 1/1000 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

Landscapes

Often it’s enough to just photograph the landscape, which changes significantly under the weather’s influence. That in itself is an interesting fact that leaves a lot of room for experimentation.

It makes landscape photos a sort of reportage, a record of (weather) events. And if you’re returning from a vacation where it was gusting and raining nonstop, your photos will show it.

6 Tips for Shooting Outdoors in Bad Weather: water in windy weather.

This photo was not taken with ideal settings. Note the aperture, which is wider open that it needs to be. Because of this, I had to excessively reduce the exposure time. So in post-production I significantly reduced the light tones.
Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1. 8 G, 1/2000 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

Closeups and Macro

It’s easy to say that it’s horrible outside and so there’s no point in taking pictures. But that will often rob you of a moment whose pureness comes purely from the fog, rain, or storm. So keep your eyes wide open in every weather and notice even things that seem like details. Nasty weather can make them more impressive.

6 Tips for Shooting Outdoors: a forgotten glove.

An utterly boring background and an ordinary picture. But the presence of a glove forces you to wonder how they got there.
Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1. 8 G, 1/1000 s, f/1.8, ISO 200

Don’t Fear the Rain

What does all this mean for you? Nothing less than the old adage that there’s no bad weather for a photographer. In fact, demanding weather is a challenge and an opportunity. So rain can be either an excuse to stay and take pictures at home or a reason to head outdoors for that picture that’s just right.

Last updated 21. December 2017

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Author: Lenora J.

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