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.
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.