Ideal conditions are always welcome when it comes to photography; especially when working outdoors. But getting those perfect conditions day-in and day-out is a rare, if not impossible, occurrence. Working in a studio can stabilize your environment, but it can also limit your options. So what do you do on the days when Mother Nature decides to do her own thing?
Some photographers might stay inside and wait for the weather to change. Others embrace the adverse conditions and head out with the mindset to improvise and be a little creative with what you have to work with. Rain, fog, snow, wind or other conditions are often a big deterrent for many photographers, but it shouldn't be. Many of these conditions can results in some incredible results with a little planning.
Blindly venturing out in adverse weather is not a gauranteed recipe for success. Surely it will force you to think outside the box, but without some preplanning it could end up making for a miserable experience or even damaged gear. So be sure to consider the conditions and ensure you either have weather proofed equipment, or find ways to protect it from the elements. But it's not just your gear. You may have a great idea in mind, but cold, wet conditions can impact your ability to see it through if you (and any model you might work with) are not dressed accordingly.
Snow is one of those elements that can yield amazing results with just a little creativity and thought. The above is a photo I took on a snowy night. As it began to fall, I immediately knew I wanted to try something with the conditions outside. So thought up a concept, recruited my wife, got geared up for the cold conditions and ventured out. The goal was to use a speed light to backlight my wife under an umbrella to accentuate the falling snow. The result above was achieved by placing the speed light on a stand about 10 feet behind her and pointed it directly into her umbrella and back in the direction of the camera position. The speed light not only illuminated her umbrella and silhouetted her figure, but also offered a nice rim lighting effect around her while also casting sharp lighting on the falling snow. I placed her under the street light to add an additional lighting element and some further visual interest to add to the narrative of the photo. This took all of ten minutes to shoot, but only because I had a plan before venturing out.
Fog is another weather condition that can offer some great atmospheric depth and add a little creativity to your photography. There's a certain mystical feel to the fog; a sense of wonderment that is difficult to achieve without it.
The shot above is of a pier I have photographed many times before, but the fog that morning introduced an entirely different feel to the location. When I initially arrived, the fog was so dense I couldn't see the end of the pier. The scene was so covered in fog and mist that it almost looked like a black and white photo - lacking any color of any kind. But I waited long enough for the sun to rise and it paid off. The fog began to thin in small pockets and the photo above shows how the sun peaked through the fog and introduced some amazing soft colors above the horizon line. The added bonus was the gentlemen who walked by my tripod and out onto the pier. His figure added a sense of depth and scale that otherwise would have been lost in the shot. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting up and out and see what presents itself to you. But don't be fooled into thinking something will happen on each outing, as I can attest that's it's a game of patience and persistence. There will be shoots that you'll return from empty-handed.
The key is to not shut down when the weather opens up. There are some great shots to be had in challenging conditions. It's just a matter of getting up and out, and doing so with a vision in mind and a little prep work to help things go smoothly.