Print this page

Mike Grandmaison: Weather Conditions and Photography

Mike Grandmaison: Weather Conditions and Photography


Landscape photography is a combination of skill, artistry, vision, dogged perseverance, and sheer luck. A particular scene can seem uninspiring one minute, and transformed completely in the next. In order to capture the most inspiring images, I need to be highly attuned to the constant changes in light and temperature, for a key contributing factor to the indefinable magic of a particular scene is the ever mutable weather.

When the sun shines, it can lift our spirits. Feeling the warmth of the rising sun on my face at first light certainly makes up for having to get up at ungodly hours. The light is warm in color, casting long shadows, often creating quite a dramatic look, especially if the sun is peeking through a small gap in the clouds. While the moment may be all too brief, the sky may come ablaze with color as the light spills over the clouds. Although it is possible to capture this phenomenon at sunrise or at sunset, I prefer sunrise because there are fewer people about and it tends to be a much more peaceful time of day.

As morning progresses, the color of sunlight becomes cooler. Shadows can become a problem as the sun reaches high noon. Many photographers simply don’t shoot during mid day because they feel it is simply too dull a light. Personally, I feel it depends a lot on the subject itself. Harsh light can work well for desert situations for instance, where shadows may indeed be an important element of the composition. Similar situations occur in winter. I may not welcome an overcast sky on the beach but that softer, more even light illuminates, very attractively, smaller subjects like wildflowers where there is a lot of detail and nuance in color.

At night, the moon, the stars, the planets, and the Milky Way offer a look at the world through space and time. When storm activity occurs on the surface of our sun, the result can be a spectacular display of aurora borealis, or northern lights.

With inclement weather, opportunities for dramatic and unusual imagery increase. Sun bursting through dark, ominous clouds can be stunning. Photographing under a light rain saturates the intensity of colors. I might get soaked but the stunning images I can capture make the discomfort well worth it.

While wind is one of my personal nemeses, because it creates challenges in producing sharp images, used creatively through the use of blur technique, it can offer interesting possibilities. Pushed to the extreme, with very long exposures, movement can all but be made absent.

Fog is one of the weather conditions most revered by photographers. There is a subtlety and softness to the images that is hard to replicate. As the fog moves about, each moment can bring a different image. If you are lucky, you might also spot one of those rare “white rainbows” called fogbows.

In the northern hemisphere, as the result of the yearly orbit of the earth around the sun and the tilt of the earth’s rotational axis relative to the plane of the orbit, seasons differ markedly as the intensity and duration of sunlight varies. This creates opportunities for capturing delicate lime-green foliage in the spring and multi-colored foliage in autumn.

For those of us who live in a part of the country where winter is present for long periods of time, frost and hoarfrost cover plants and even entire landscapes with a magical coating of crystals. These conditions don’t normally last long, often disappearing within the first hour as the sun rises and melts the frost. Sundogs and sun halos show up a few times during the season and proper clothing usually makes the experience more enjoyable. Sometimes, the wind chill factors are just too extreme to enjoy the great outdoors but, 'if you ain’t there you won’t get the image!'

There are many other weather phenomena to capture like iridescence, noctilucent clouds, sun pillars, crepuscular rays (God rays), and rainbows. With an open mind, a sense of adventure, and a little luck, a world of beautiful landscapes await the avid photographer.

Last modified onWednesday, 01 April 2015 07:02
2013 © Turnstone Press