Wet Weather Photography
Does our weather put a damper on your photography, or open up a wealth of opportunities, lets look at how we can plan to get out and take photos on more days.
Britain is an exciting place to photograph, with its variety of weather and the changeable nature of both weather and light conditions. Many from around the world have commented at how ideal Britain is as a photographic location, with its four seasons, and changeability. While some here may like the idea of continuous predictable dry warm days, there is a cost for this in a lower variety of plant life and unless irrigation takes place, few lush green areas.
The difficulty our weather often presents to us is that with other commitments, like work, family and having to just be somewhere else, we are unable generally to drop everything and take the best days and work on the wet ones, and while it does not rain hard on many days throughout the year, recent summers have had a lot of wetter days.
There has perhaps been a shift in the way that weather forecasts are now presented, it now appears that very many more days rain is being forecast, and many of us have spotted that on many of these days, it does not rain. With the absolute fortune that has been spent on weather forecasting, you might feel they should be more accurate than throwing a dice, yet the dice may have the advantage at this time. Over recent years many areas of the UK have experienced flash floods, and with instant media coverage now, we all get to hear about it. I think its the effect of this and the forecasters being ridiculed for not warning of sudden flash flooding, that has resulted in the switch to predicting rain on more days.
Weather forecasts we find are often quite accurate over longer dry spells, but in wet and in particular changeable or showery days, are of little value as presented on TV, as its far too much of a generalisation covering too large an area. Its also often noticeable that you get a national and local forecast that can be quite different.
Onboard the Raven one of the
that runs on Ullswater
It is very difficult to know what the weather will be on many days, in that as clouds go over often one valley will have rain and the next not, on occasions here we look out of our front window and its raining and the back and its not, this is we think to do with the shape of the hills around the town. We often see on the weather forecasts maps and forecasters saying it is cloudy and raining here, while we have perfectly blue skies, it appears they are on a different planet or perhaps London is a long way from Gloucestershire in predictive terms. Historically the forecast of the week ahead on the BBC programme Countryfile on Sundays, have often been the most useful, they tend to show what is happening more. The most useful forecasts we have discovered is one of the many choices available from the BBC Weather website, and shows the pattern of weather, both going back quite a few hours and showing actual radar satellite shots of clouds and rain, as at each hour, then the forward prediction of this at 3 hourly steps, for a couple of days and then a couple more days just showing day and night predictions. This can be stepped forward or run as a slideshow. This is updated constantly, and does change quite a lot, so you can't look at a particular shower prediction in an area several days ahead and expect this to happen, but at least you can see the sequence of what is going on and get a better understanding of the the pattern, allowing you to get some idea of what is likely a couple of days or so in advance, and perhaps prior to going out, an idea of if its likely to rain and if so at about what time. You can see this BBC section by clicking here, it will open up in a new widow. We have also added it to our weather page in the reference section.
Planning to get out and about in showery or changeable weather
In order to get out and take photos when we have the time available, we need to look at how we can use the forecast, and other actions we can take to allow us more chance of getting photographs and avoiding getting ourselves and our equipment wet.
Using the forecasting tool on the BBC website we have looked at above, its often clear that we are likely to have rain in some parts of the country but not in others. In order to be able to go in any direction we try to have at least 4 photo days planned, one north-ish, one south-ish, one east-ish and one west-ish. We can then look the night before and select from the most likely dry spots the best option to take. If its very changeable it may be that we check this again in the morning and switch to another day choice if this would be better.
We can also use the photographers calendar on this website, to see what is on and in the direction we would like to go, giving us other alternatives.
Photos only available in this weather
Some of the best cloud shots, and interesting views with interesting clouds, are often obtained on days when its changeable, when you might get a shower or two, but at other times you get large white clouds floating through a blue sky. In some days complete cloud can give you other benefits, for example soft diffused lighting, free of many shadows, and people have their eyes fully open, rather than squinting to keep out the sun or wearing sun glasses. Its also the ideal time to play with white balance and potentially to look at using effects that you can get. Its a chance to use the ISO settings, white balance and effects, and perhaps think ahead to how you will edit some of these photos, perhaps a little, warming, a little increase in contrast......
Planning to go out when showers are predicted everywhere
There are a variety of photographic opportunities that don't require us to be out all the time. In many of these cases we are inside a part of the time and outside some of the time, and providing we have shelter, we can have a good days photography although through the day a number of showers will go past us. Lets look at a few of these:-
On those really wet days
I have a special list I maintain of places that I could visit on wet days, and the weather will have no impact on me. For example visiting:-
The list used to be longer but with the recent rather silly concern about photographers potentially being spotters for terrorists, I have for the moment knocked off my list all those places where I might have enjoyed photographing in the past, but for now don't feel its worth the potential hassle. Generally its the large cities and airports that have got removed from my list.
Preparing for wet weather opportunities
If you are finding that you are just not getting out that many days when the suns not shinning and its a cloudless day then its probably through lack of preparation, if you have several lists of places and have done a little research, then you can get out at least half the days in any week, and get good photos. In many weeks it will be more days than this. This allows you to get out when others don't, and get the photos that others will have missed.
You could go a stage further and buy wet weather protection for your camera, and you and photograph then in any weather, but in this article we are not going that far, all we have covered here can be done without any protection. In practice I have a small collapsible umbrella that I can put in my camera bag, just in case, and I have a couple of descent sized plastic bags as well, just in case it really did turn into heavy rain when I am out and I could then put my camera and lens in it. My larger camera bag is also fully waterproof, with a waterproof zip and a cover that comes out to put over it in the very worst of weather, but I don't go out in bad enough weather to need that. On occasions I have used a large umbrella and photographed from underneath, while its been raining, but when its raining harder visibility then is often not that good. I have thought several times about getting one of the even larger umbrellas with drop down side walls that riverside fishermen use, but I don't have a great desire to photograph when its actually raining, just a desire to use more opportunities and greater proportions of our weather conditions that provide opportunities. If I had one I probably would not want to carry it.
Tourist sites don't make it easy for us to visit them, with their very restricted opening times. Why in this age is it that places don't open to 10am or 11am and need to shut at 5pm. If they were to open more, then on many potentially wet days people could decide to visit early or leave it later and work around the predicted weather. In addition we could either spend longer at each site or visit more, either case good for the tourist sites. In addition it would then be more worth staying in an area than driving back and out in another direction another day, producing more tourist traffic, trade and benefiting hotel and guest houses as well. I spent a few years living in the USA, and was often told by different people they had visited Britain but it was closed, and I understand what they meant.
There are very few days when you cannot take any outside photographs in Britain, and with a little thought and pre planning we not only get out and get photographs but also often discover opportunities and clouds that we just would not get if we were only sunny-day photographers, it also allows us to use more skills and develop wider experience.