Bad Weather Equals Great Photos

Sometimes the best time to grab your camera is when most people consider the weather bad.

Fog, rain and even snow can make great photos.

I really like the effect of light through fog. It allows you to see the beam of light clearly. It makes a very powerful photo.

Lighthouse in Fog

Rain also has its own strong points.

Rain tends to increase the natural color saturation. Wet objects often seem to have deeper color and more contrast in photos. No wonder a common technique in the movie industry is to hose down a road or parking lot with water before shooting a scene.

Of course bad weather also has its own photography obstacles.

Water (in any form) is not great for your camera. You need to keep the camera dry and make sure you do not get water spots on the lens when shooting. In a pinch, a plastic sandwich bag placed over your camera can help keep it a bit drier. Use a rubber band around the lens to hold the bag on. There are also many weather and waterproof cases available, so expensive and some very affordable.

Cold weather can affect camera batteries. A spare battery kept warm close to your body can become an important cold weather accessory. Tripod legs seem to become the coldest objects on earth. Wrapping foam around tripod legs and make a tripod much more comfortable to touch in cold weather.

Always be careful when  moving your camera from a cool temperature to a warmer or more humid environment.

This will cause condesation on or inside your camera and this can lead to corrosion and shorten the life of the camera or break it altogether. The can happen from cold outdoors moving indoors or even from air condition indoors to hot or humid outdoor weather in summer. Keep your camera in a plastic bag for a period of time for changes in the environment like this. No bag handy? Leave it sealed in your camera bag.

The photography above is the Wind Point Lighthouse in Racine, Wisconsin.

A few days earlier, I had been to the lighthouse during the day doing a portrait for a friend. I suddenly had a desire to photograph the lighthouse in fog. Just a day or two later, the weather was rain and fog. Looked to me like a short trip to the lighthouse would be perfect.

There is a lot of light shining on the lighthouse itself.

This caused a slight problem. The additional light was being pickup up by the fog and made the lighthouse light seem much dimmer by comparison. The beam from the Wind Point Lighthouse on a much higher axis and appears washed out by the ground lights. I found as I got farther away it appeared a bit brighter. I ended up nearly standing in Lake Michigan.

I ended up using a Canon 24mm-70mm zoom wide open at an aperature of 4.5.

I used the bulb setting for the shutter and held the shutter open while the beam from the lighthouse swept a limited arc. This kept the ground light from washing the beam out. This was about 5-6 seconds.

The image above recieved  very limited adjustment in photoshop.

Mostly a bit of color adjustment to compensate for the three different colored light sources. I also did a little dodging and burning with the tools in Photoshop to bring a bit more of the beam. Contrast was adjusted in Canon Digital Photo Professional as well as some additional noise reduction in addition to the noise reduction done in camera in the Canon EOS 5D DSLR. A tripod and remote release were also used.

There are many ways a photo like this could be enhanced in Adobe Photoshop.

Multiple exposures or the same exposure processed differently could be combined. Using layer modes and layer masks the beam could be brightened or added to. This would allow the beam to be even brighter while keeping the ground lighting darker. This technique can be even more effective if multiple exposures are made with this purpose in mind. Digital photography has added many more options than photographers had in the past.

I am very happy with the way the image of the lighthouse looks now.

Of course, I may decide to do more with it later. But for now, I like the way it was captured in camera.


About James Thoenes

James has spent most of his life involved in photography. He is now dedicated to producing portraits that his clients will treasure for the rest of their lives.