5 Weather Photography Tips (IV)

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Self-Portrait in Ottawa

A lot of you have been asking me questions about photography and how to achieve certain effects. While I’m by no means an expert, I’m an avid photographer and I had to chance to experiment a lot. I’m also always a teacher at heart and yes, I like talking about photography, because I’m sure I can give you some tips and learn from you as well.

So I decided to start the Saturday Series again, this time with a focus on photography. A new “lesson” will be published every Saturday, for a total or ten posts. Enjoy the “Ten Photography Tips“!

You heard me complaining about Canada’s extreme weather more than once, but to be honest, I enjoy it. First, you never get bored; second, it offers some great photography opportunities. Stormy skies, snowy mornings and rainy days are a chance to get some great shots. Yes, staying in is tempting as well… but you can always have your hot chocolate when you get back home!

So here are five tips for those interested in weather photography:

1. Be prepared: When the weather is nice, you can always sit on a bench and comfortably switch lenses, adjust your settings and take a break. But in extreme weather, be prepared to get wet and cold… and to be in a hurry to get some nice pictures! First, make sure you dress accordingly. Nothing is worse than standing under the rain with wet feet, or to lose feeling in your fingers because it’s too cold. The key is to layer up and to wear waterproof clothes. Good shoes are essential too: I usually stick to sneakers (or comfortable sandals in the summer). Photographers do walk a lot and the last thing you want is a blister because that could ruin your day. It was bitterly cold the night I shot the Olympic Torch Relay last year in Ottawa and trust me, I learned my lesson! It took me two hot showers to warm up.

2. Protect your gear: You will face a few issues when taking your camera out when the weather is bad. First, your lens can fog up with condensation when temperatures change rapidly, such as going from a cold place to a warm place and vice-versa. This is what happened to me when after shooting the first snowfall on the year, I jumped on a bus. My lens was all fogged up, although the effect was interesting. Second, batteries lose their charge much more quickly in cold weather. When I’m not using the camera, I usually remove the battery and put it under one of my gloves to keep it warm enough. Cameras don’t like to get wet although you can probably get away with a bit of misty rain. I always carry a plastic bag to protect it if I need, and I do put the lens hood on.

3. Focus on the small things: I always enjoy focusing on the little details that tell a lot, such as these scarves covered with snow, these frozen power lines, a fir tree coated in ice, rain drops on leaves, footsteps in the snow or a ballet of umbrellas. Learn to see what other people don’t! And don’t be afraid to get close to your subject to fill the frame. A strong focus is the key here.

4. But don’t forget the big picture: After focusing on the small things, think big and take a few grand overview pictures that illustrate your theme. A flooded street with cars in Brazil, or a rainbow over the forest. A thunderstorm in Buenos Aires or a stormy sky in Paris. A snowy road during a blizzard or snow drift.

5. And pay attention to people: During bad weather, people are often oblivious to what’s going on around them. They focus on themselves and on going from point A to point B, or on performing their daily chores. This guy crossing the street, walking in the slush, means “winter is here” to me. These guys hurrying across the street with their cup of coffee, or this girl bringing back the precious beverage at this office didn’t seem to enjoy the weather much. This guy shovelling the snow was so focused on his job that he didn’t even see me. This woman clearing the water on the cover of her stand at the Byward Market barely paid attention to pedestrians (and quite a few got splashed!). I always enjoyed observing the umbrella dance on a rainy day at the Byward Market.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I was rapidly browsing my GReader and I read “5 top pornography something”

    You and your trick titles Zhu!


    (it should’ve been “Me and my tricky mind” I guess!)

  2. There’s nothing like a good hard winter in my opinion. The only proper one I recall from my British childhood took place around 1981, when we had snow for weeks on end and were able to go tobogganning down the (no-through) road outside our house.

    Recently I’ve had an increasing yen to move up into the arctic circle. If I could get a job as a writer I’d be able to do this as Norway, Sweden and Finland are inside the European Economic Area, meaning as a Brit I have visa-free freedom of movement between my own country and these places… Just imagine it. Endless summer sun. And the further north you go, the longer the endless midwinter night!

  3. Good tips from an experienced photographer. You remind me that I do not include people in my photos often enough. I am shy about including people in my pictures although I know it usually adds interest. It didn’t used to bother me but nowadays there is more concern about privacy issues.

  4. I love the winter photos of downtown Ottawa! Reminds me of home…
    My favourite is the one of the two men leaving Starbucks with their coffees. It strikes me as deliciously ironic. Coffee beans grown in the tropics, marketed by an American West Coast company, forming an integral part of these Ottawans’ day. Coffee? Worth it! They’re ready for anything now.

  5. those are all great photgraphs, zhu.
    one of my favorite “bad weather” things to do is photograph at night. when road surfaces are wet, for instance, they reflect light. it makes for some interesting shots.

  6. @Mr. G – definitely your dirty mind, latino 😆

    @Gledwood – I think I would find endless days in the summer and endless nights in the winter very tiring… That said, the scenery must be amazing.

    @Tulsa Gentleman – Privacy issues is important. I always try to portrait people in a good light, I don’t want to take embarrassing shots.

    @Margaret – People here are so addicted to coffee… Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Bridgehead, Second Cup, we have a coffee shop at every corner!

    @Sidney – But but… you are missing picture opportunities! 😉

    @khengsiong – You should, it’s very fun.

    @Seraphine – I agree and I should take more of these! Reflections on the pavement are always a favorite.

  7. Those are excellent tips. My greatest problem is motivation. Most of the times I bike and so I don’t want to take the camera. But now I have arranged to fix my camera bag to the front of my handlebar – hopefully that will make it easier to bike with a camera. 🙂

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