Get Fab Photos, No Matter What the Weather

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If you wait to whip out your camera on days when it's only cloudless-blue-sky perfect, you might be waiting for a while — not to mention missing out on some amazing shots, particularly when it comes to the most breathtaking nature or landscape pics.

Why imperfect weather is actually A+

Here's something to consider: perfect weather is...well...boring. Where's the drama? Where's the oomph? You want your photos to make an impact and "bad" weather — or just the threat of it! — is actually great for this. There are almost no conditions that will keep me inside. A little rain? Sounds like a perfect day to photograph waterfalls to me. Hoping to capture the colors of autumn? An overcast, rainy day gives the foliage an added saturation and vibrancy. Whether you've got rain and storm clouds or snow and wind on a frigid winter day, the irony is that some of the most miserable weather can also be the yield the most dramatic conditions to make landscape photos, with soft or diffused light that you don't see at other times — not to mention, the most amazing post-storm rainbows you'll ever see.

How about cold? Bundle up and head out. Personally, I won't let the cold keep me and my camera inside either, even if it's 10 below zero but the sea smoke on a lake in New Hampshire is rising just so...

Watch the storm radar

When planning a landscape photo shoot during a storm, I use an iPhone weather app to check the radar and track where the edge of the storm will be at sunrise and sunset. For a sunrise, I look for the leading edge of the storm; for a sunset, I look for the trailing edge.

If the weather cooperates, I could end up with an amazing, fiery sky as the sun causes the underside of the clouds to glow, as in the shot below. (Of course, you'll win some and you'll lose some. Sometimes the storm clouds will pass through more quickly than expected, blocking out the sun and preventing it from putting on a show. Better luck next time!)

Be ready for the elements

This may seem obvious but you'll be about 100 times more comfortable if you invest in the right gear — and, um, bring it along. (That pricey rain coat won't do you any good in the trunk of the car.)

There are numerous (some expensive) rain covers available to fit most cameras. (I personally use a plastic shopping bag if I need to cover my camera. Usually, unless it's raining steadily, I just keep a small, absorbent microfiber towel handy to blot up the rain drops.

Speaking of keeping rain off the front of the lens, if your lens came with a hood, use it. If not, consider buying one. Lens hoods are great for keeping raindrops from getting on your lens's front element and ruining a shot. Be sure to check the front of your lens often, too. There's nothing worse than getting home and noticing all of the shots that were ruined by a great big raindrop on the front of the lens. 

Keep your eye on the temperature

Most camera manufacturers tell you the range of conditions their equipment can handle, but I don't think it's quite so black and white. For example, my Canon 5D Mark III has an operating range of 32 F to 104 F, but I've subjected all of my cameras to temps as low as minus 10 with no ill effects.
When you're in the extreme cold or snow, be sure to use a towel to gently blot or brush the snow off of your camera and try to avoid exhaling on the viewfinder or the lens. If it's cold enough, it can fog up and then freeze and this can damage the surface.

Bring extra batteries when photographing in the cold. Low temperatures will shorten the life of your camera batteries, so spares are key. Tip: Keep your spares in an inside coat pocket to keep them warm and prolong their life in the field.

The truth is, some of the best landscape photos are made under the most adverse weather conditions, so don't be afraid to get out, get wet, and get that shot.

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Dan  Bailey
with Dan Bailey
Everyone is always asking me what piece of fancy gear will make their photos better. The truth is, while new equipment is nice, it’s unlikely to improve your work on its own. In fact, extraordinary photos are made all the time on basic equipment (you've seen those iPhone ads!). Instead, I clue newbies in on the real secret for awesome shots: Make more photographs, don't snap more frames. Commit that motto to memory, grab your camera, and let's get started.
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Get Fab Photos, No Matter What the Weather