Landscape photography is defined by nature’s unpredictability, and many of us don’t have the luxury of making several tries to get the desired circumstances. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few techniques for creating distinctive photographs when the weather isn’t cooperating.
Landscape photography motivates us to go outside much too early in the morning, far too late at night, or in situations that most people would avoid. You’ll never be able to fully predict the conditions you’ll encounter no matter what you do; just because your weather app says overcast doesn’t mean the sun won’t shine through at the perfect moment, or that there’s a 100 percent chance of fog, but it never quite makes it to the composition you had in mind. This occurs all the time, and it’s all part of the fun and difficulty of photographing landscapes.
So, what can you do if things don’t turn out the way you planned? I don’t always take my camera out, but I do try to push myself to capture something, and these techniques have proven to be really useful over the years.
The Small Details
Unless you’re visiting a nearby site, you probably don’t have much time to wait for the ideal weather while exploring new places. I photographed Vestrahorn three mornings in a row, and the circumstances were different each morning. Vestrahorn is a prominent shooting destination in Iceland that was even mentioned in Photographing the World. The entire mountain range was shrouded by clouds during dawn on the third morning, which wasn’t a huge issue for someone who could picture it numerous times, but what if it was your last morning there?
I decided to swap out my wide-angle lens for a telephoto lens and concentrate on the finer features in the environment. Despite the fact that the conditions were not what I had come to photograph, they were nevertheless unusual. The clouds cast shadows across the slope and let’s not forget that I’m standing on a beach with black sand and golden straw piles. I discovered that the mountains were making things too simple for me, and I was having a lot more fun attempting to locate less apparent compositions in the area.
I was surprised to discover so many patterns in the sand, and I was able to catch this very intriguing moment of light. Can you spot the colored light in the center of the image that almost looks like a rainbow?
Because of the smoke in the sky, it was practically hard to catch anything with a big perspective as I captured the fall color shift in Colorado in 2020. I waited for 5 days for something clear, and the only day the smoke wasn’t horrible was when it was entirely cloudy. As a result, I found myself staring into the woods, ignoring the sky, and searching for little things all about me. It was difficult and irritating at times, but it forced me to search in places I would never have looked otherwise. This trip taught me a lot about searching for tiny details and fundamentally changed the way I shoot pictures.
Think About Your Edit
Imagining how you may process your photos is another method to look at things differently. My edits are frequently influenced by the circumstances I get from a place. Many photographers who visit certain geographic places demonstrate this in their work. If you follow a photographer from the United Kingdom, for example, you may notice that their photographs frequently feature dreary overcast light, foggy mornings, or rain. Someone who pictures the desert could use higher contrast, pink hues, or emphasize atmospheric layering in their shots.
As an easy-to-follow example, we’ll utilize the image above. Iceland is cloudy and wet most of the time. This implies that color in the sky, contrasting light, and anything with a lot of dynamism are rare. As a result, if you arrive knowing how you prefer to edit situations under similar settings, you’ll end up with a lot more good photographs just by understanding which scenarios work and which don’t.
“How am I meant to know what my edit will be like before even capturing a photo?” you might wonder. As you gain experience as a photographer, you will get this expertise. I understand that many of you reading this are new to photography and don’t have the capacity to anticipate an edit before capturing a shot. That means you’ll have to shoot images in a variety of situations and figure out how you prefer to edit them. Exploring these options is an interesting aspect of the learning photography experience.
Desaturating photos, altering their green hues on the tone curve, or adjusting the colors in the sky are all possibilities. The only way to master these strategies is to put in the necessary time and effort.
My final piece of advice is less concrete, but it may be the most significant in this post. Chasing light is the entire idea of being a landscape photographer, but you’ll discover that it doesn’t always appear. You may go halfway across the world with specific photographs in mind and never obtain the results you desire. This will happen frequently along your journey, and if you are repeatedly disappointed by not receiving the results you desire, you will lose interest in photography.
I recall going on vacations, rising up really early, and hiking kilometers in the dark without even pulling my camera out of my backpack. I allowed it to get to me, and it stifled my appreciation of the world around me, which is why I’m out there in the first place. Changing my focus from obtaining a photo for my portfolio to simply being present in the moment. This transformed the way I looked at landscape photography for the rest of my life. It also meant I was much more eager to repeat the act of traveling, getting up early, and hiking in the dark.
Occasionally, the clouds dissipate and the mountains emerge. The photo above was taken the same morning like the ones from Vestrahorn previously in this post. Enjoy the adventure, and the portfolio images will appear; all you have to do is be willing to keep going out and looking for them, with no guarantee of success. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you found something useful here. If you have any words of wisdom, please share them in the comments section!