What­ever the weather

The weather de­fines the mood of any land­scape. Tony Woro­biec re­veals how to make the most of what­ever it throws at you

Amateur Photographer - - 7 Days - Tony Woro­biec Tony Woro­biec FRPS has had 16 books pub­lished, the most re­cent of which is Pho­tograph­ing Land­scape What­ever The Weather (RHE Me­dia Ltd, ISBN 978-191022642-1). He has won awards for pho­tog­ra­phy in the UK and in­ter­na­tion­ally, and has had his w

Don’t let the va­garies of the au­tumn weather put you off. Now’s the time to get some su­perb im­ages, as tony Woro­biec ex­plains

Weather is the defin­ing qual­ity of any land­scape, and the wilder it is the more in­ter­est­ing your pho­tographs will ap­pear. It gov­erns the two most im­por­tant fea­tures of land­scape – no­tably, light­ing and mood. As we slip into win­ter, the weather cer­tainly can prove more chal­leng­ing, and the temp­ta­tion can be for some to pack their cam­eras away. The pur­pose of this fea­ture is to urge you not to give in and to em­brace what the forth­com­ing months have to offer. Whether the skies are grey, it’s throw­ing it down with rain, or you are en­veloped in fog, in­stead of view­ing this as a prob­lem, count your good for­tune and em­brace these ex­cit­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Grey skies

When the skies ap­pear fea­ture­less and over­cast, it is tempt­ing not to ven­ture out, but the im­por­tant point to re­mem­ber is that you can­not change the weather, but you can change your lo­ca­tion. Once you un­der­stand this sim­ple prin­ci­ple, no day will ever be wasted. While the idea of a grey sky con­jures up a cer­tain neg­a­tiv­ity, it is im­por­tant to ap­pre­ci­ate that it also evokes a spe­cific mood that can work well in cer­tain land­scape sit­u­a­tions. For ex­am­ple, aban­doned places or ar­eas that ex­ude pathos work far more ef­fec­tively when pho­tographed un­der a grey sky. The skill is to match the lo­ca­tion with the avail­able weather. Grey skies can be any­thing from flat, fea­ture­less cloud, to some­thing more dra­matic. Viewed pos­i­tively, each of­fers fab­u­lous op­por­tu­ni­ties

‘Re­mem­ber that you can­not change the weather, but you can change your lo­ca­tion’

for ex­cit­ing land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy. From a tech­ni­cal stand­point, shoot­ing un­der grey skies is rel­a­tively easy – with a re­duc­tion of con­trast, it will prove con­sid­er­ably eas­ier to keep the his­togram within the 0-255 tonal range.


While I am sure many of you will share my en­thu­si­asm for grey skies, I sus­pect fewer will be as keen to pho­to­graph in rain. If you are dis­cour­aged, don’t be, be­cause some truly awe­some im­ages can be taken when it’s wet; it just takes a bit more com­mit­ment. In com­mon with grey skies, rain of­fers many va­ri­eties, each pre­sent­ing unique chal­lenges. We can ex­pe­ri­ence a gen­tle rain through to a full-blown del­uge. Ob­vi­ously, when con­sid­er­ing the lat­ter, it’s bet­ter if both you and your cam­era re­main dry. It is dif­fi­cult to muster the en­thu­si­asm to take pic­tures once you are drenched and, on a sim­i­lar tack, most DSLR cam­eras are vul­ner­a­ble to heavy rain and can sus­tain se­ri­ous dam­age if they are not ad­e­quately pro­tected. The top-plate and the back of your cam­era are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble. If you are driv­ing and it is pour­ing with rain, it is very easy to dis­miss a po­ten­tially ex­cit­ing shot. If, how­ever, you are al­ready wear­ing your wa­ter­proofs, you will be more in­clined to stop.

Ice and snow

I am strug­gling to think of any se­ri­ous land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher who would not be ex­cited by the prospect of ice and snow; a snowy

scene re­tains a charm few can re­sist. Pre­dict­ing snow is not too dif­fi­cult and, to its credit, the Met Of­fice’s pre­dic­tions of­ten prove sur­pris­ingly ac­cu­rate. If you are for­tu­nate enough to be out shoot­ing in the snow, look for sim­ple de­signs. Land­scape of­ten as­sumes a mar­vel­lous graph­i­cal qual­ity, par­tic­u­larly if the snow is mod­er­ately light. Farm tracks, ploughed fields, rem­nants of har­vested fields – all leave dis­tinc­tive marks that offer amaz­ing pho­to­graphic po­ten­tial. If, by way of con­trast, you ex­pe­ri­ence a much heav­ier snow­fall, look for the op­por­tu­ni­ties for a min­i­mal­ist land­scape. The land­scape will ap­pear over­whelm­ingly white, with just the odd dark area punc­tu­at­ing the light. The high-key na­ture of the im­ages also helps to con­trib­ute to this min­i­mal­ist ap­proach. If you have me­tered your land­scape cor­rectly and checked the his­togram, you will see that the tonal val­ues are bunch­ing to the right. With a very lim­ited tonal range and very few vis­ual el­e­ments, you should be able to pro­duce im­ages of stun­ning sim­plic­ity.

Mist and fog

OK, time to be re­al­is­tic – there can’t be many pho­tog­ra­phers who would think to place mist and fog un­der the um­brella of ‘ bad weather’. Even the most

in­ex­pe­ri­enced land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers get ex­cited by it.

As fog tends to re­duce colour sat­u­ra­tion con­sid­er­ably, a much stronger em­pha­sis is placed on the im­age’s tonal val­ues. Con­se­quently, im­ages taken in fog can of­ten be very suc­cess­fully con­verted to black & white. If, how­ever, you choose to re­tain the colour, the hues will ap­pear won­der­fully sub­tle. When pho­tograph­ing in fog, you can ex­plore a vis­ual phenomenon known as tonal re­ces­sion. What this means is that dis­tant ob­jects ap­pear con­sid­er­ably lighter than those closer to the cam­era; this is es­pe­cially ap­par­ent when pho­tograph­ing a clus­ter of trees. The tonal in­ter­play be­tween the trees in the dis­tance and those nearer the cam­era can prove par­tic­u­larly trans­for­ma­tional. Be­cause of the re­duced vis­i­bil­ity, im­ages tend to be sim­pler and more graphic in na­ture.


Wind is a con­tra­dic­tory phenomenon in­so­far as it is in­vis­i­ble, and yet you can see the ev­i­dence all around you. Shoot­ing in the wind cer­tainly has its draw­backs. For ex­am­ple, if you are us­ing a tri­pod and aren’t suf­fi­ciently shel­tered, the buf­fet­ing can cause cam­era shake, es­pe­cially when us­ing a long tele­photo lens. On a more pos­i­tive note, wind also in­tro­duces drama to the land­scape and is ca­pa­ble of trans­form­ing the or­di­nary into the ex­tra­or­di­nary. From a tech­ni­cal stand­point, re­mem­ber you do have a va­ri­ety of shut­ter speeds to play with.

Land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers of­ten pre­fer to use the AV rather than the TV op­tion as they con­sider con­trol­ling depth of field to be more im­por­tant than shut­ter speed. When pho­tograph­ing in the wind, how­ever, it’s a good idea to make the shut­ter speed your pri­or­ity. It could be that you want to cap­ture some ob­ject be­ing blown in the wind that re­quires a fast shut­ter speed. Al­ter­na­tively, cap­tur­ing the mov­ing clouds might be an­other way of il­lus­trat­ing wind, which then re­quires us­ing an ex­tended shut­ter speed.

‘Fog tends to re­duce colour sat­u­ra­tion con­sid­er­ably. Im­ages taken in fog can of­ten be suc­cess­fully con­verted to black & white’

Waves off a jetty at Sid­mouth. When you no­tice the wind is up, why not head to the coast?

Groynes at Sand­send in North York­shire. When ex­pe­ri­enc­ing grey skies, look for a sub­ject that chimes with the mood

The River Stour, Dorset. In nor­mal con­di­tions it is pos­si­ble to see a clus­ter of houses to the ex­treme left, but here the mist has masked them

Snow has the ca­pac­ity to sim­plify the land­scape, of­fer­ing a won­der­fully min­i­mal­ist trans­for­ma­tion

The cloud­scape of a pass­ing storm pro­vides a good con­trast to the calm wa­ter in the fore­ground

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