Have you ever spent hours researching the best viewpoints and photography spots of a place, only to have your plans ruined by the weather upon arrival? It’s happened to me many times before, and now that I moved to Scotland, I can see it becoming a more common occurrence.
Well, I can’t really say I’ve become used to photographing cities and landscapes in dreary weather conditions – I still sulk like a child at the sight of an overcast sky – but I have discovered a few ways of taking advantage of pregnant clouds and smoky haze to produce beautiful (and often eerie) photos.
Whether you’re out exploring a city or trekking through sweeping valleys, you don’t really need clear blue skies for amazing shots. In fact, you can get some interesting and dramatic photos when shooting in bad weather. The only thing you’ll need to worry about is keeping your camera dry.
Right, here are my 5 simple tips and tricks for capturing the beauty of a place in unfavourable weather conditions. If you haven’t done so already, I also recommend reading my post on taking better travel photos to familiarise yourself with, or revisit, the basics of good photography.
Recommended SLR Camera
The photos in this blog post were taken with my Canon EOS 1200D
, which I bought in 2015 and is still going strong, despite having been exposed to all sorts of elements.
This is a great DSLR camera for beginners – it’s easy to use and takes high-quality images.
1. Take advantage of wet surfaces
Cities tend to look dull and uninspiring on a rainy day. Buildings can appear flat in photos, especially when you have light grey clouds instead of dark, thunderous ones. In this case, you’ll need to get a bit creative and look at things from a different perspective. If you’ve just stepped outside after a downpour, your source of inspiration is simply water.
Surfaces speckled with raindrops and crisp reflections in puddles can yield some very intriguing shots. Look for raindrops on plants or man-made surfaces, such as wooden benches and glass panes, and just zoom in. If you’re sitting by a rain-spattered window, use it as your ‘filter’ for an atmospheric street photo.
Another great way of getting creative on rain-slicked streets is to look for photo-worthy puddle reflections. Make sure to capture both your subject and its mirror-like reflection in the same shot. Oh, and don’t forget to take your camera out with you on your evening stroll – street lights and lit-up buildings will amplify the drama in your reflection photos.
2. Shoot in black & white for added drama
Dark ominous clouds hovering over mountains or cities will make your photos more dramatic. To be honest, I do prefer thunderous skies than clear ones when I’m out taking photos, as long as I’m not too far from the nearest shelter. Besides creating a beautiful contrast, the presence of heavy clouds in your photos can also evoke emotion.
To heighten the strong mood created by spectacular clouds, I normally shoot in black and white (or apply this effect during the editing process). This works well when the clouds serve as the backdrop for a striking building, or when they roll dramatically over coastlines and mountains.
3. Increase the saturation and contrast when shooting landscapes
Subdued, earthy colours aren’t a bad thing at all – in fact, they can trigger emotional responses, such as a sense of nostalgia or dreaminess. However, you might also want to take a few shots that enhance the colours and highlight the details of the landscape. An easy way of doing this is by increasing the saturation and adding a bit of contrast. Vibrant foliage looks great against dark skies.
Be careful not to go overboard with the saturation and contrast as it will make your photos look unnatural and amateurish.
4. Do not use flash
As you may already know from my previous post, I hate seeing people using flash in daylight. While it’s true that you don’t get a lot of light on cloudy days, taking photos with a flash will not solve the problem. It will just make your subject look flat.
Instead of compensating for the lack of light by firing the flash, use a slower shutter speed or increase your ISO. If this doesn’t work, you can fix any underexposed photos by adjusting the brightness and contrast during the editing process.
5. Look for colourful and interesting objects
Many places tend to look gloomy on an overcast day so it’s easy to overlook the colourful objects and interesting details that would normally catch your eye when the sun is out. If you get tired of snapping photos of dull, grey buildings, focus on their architectural features instead, such as inscriptions above the door, intricate carvings around windows, or unusual knockers.
While you’re bound to come across quirky objects in a city, you’ll need to look a bit harder when walking through villages or remote places. Look for interesting textures and patterns such as the deep furrows of tree bark, sand waves on the shore or peeling paint on the facades of old houses or boats.
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