So January and February have come and gone and for the most part the weather has been pretty awful....well no pretty about it. Instead of lovely crisp winter days we have been subjected to torrential rain and gale force winds as the UK is battered by storm after storm. Over the past two months I've headed out in some abysmal conditions all in the good name of photography. Now I've never considered myself a fair weather photographer and as much as I love a bit of 'mood' in my images, even I have been yearning for some calmer settled weather after being well and truly roughed up by Mother Nature of late. In these circumstances I can appreciate it can be difficult to roll with the punches and keep your motivation intact. I can't tell you how many times I've sat in the car or sheltered under rocks or behind walls questioning why I do this and is all the effort worth it? Well in my opinion it is definitely worth it, so before you decided to hang up the camera until calmer times, just think again and let me explain and illustrate, with a few images I've been lucky enough to capture in challenging weather, why I keep heading out in these conditions time and time again.
Low Fell Golden Hour - 60-70mph winds made this a very difficult shoot. It was hard to even stand at times.
So this ultimately begs the question..........why on gods earth do I put myself through it? Well it really is pretty simple. Apart from being a little insane.....the main reason why I put myself through it is for that one tiny glimmer of hope that something amazing might just happen. It's what we photographers thrive upon, trying to find that magic moment when there seems like there is no hope at all. When nature flashes a brief smile at you and then in an instant its gone as quickly as it came. Being witness to these unique, fleeting moments in time and being able to immortalise them for all to see is hugely satisfying and so very rewarding. The buzz of catching that one tiny moment of beauty amongst utter atrocity is thrilling, exciting and can bring superb highs. It's these types of highs which keeps me coming back for more time and time again. When it all falls into place, well there is not better feeling. I think naturally as people we live for these type of releases and highs and, for me, photography does this and even more so in the face of adversity. I love that feeling that I've had to really work for an image. I've conquered all that has been thrown at me and I've come away with an image and a huge sense of achievement. The age old saying really does apply......you have got to be in it to win it and that is so very very true.
Comb Beck Buttermere - This shot was taken in a rain and hail storm, it was a nightmare keeping rain off my lens and filters
I've always been of the opinion that in the most 'adverse weather' you can truly create some wonderfully powerful images with a real 'Wow' factor. This is another reason that spurs me on when others may turn back. As with light, weather is a key element in adding depth and interest to your landscape images, it's what we photographers look for in order to create scenes which are atmospheric, dramatic and crammed with interest. You maybe at the most stunning location ever, but if it is devoid of light and atmosphere you are likely just to be photographing a pretty place and not creating a image with real impact which encapsulates the viewer and stirs their emotions. There is no greater compliment as a photographer when somebody connects with your image, they understand it and they feel what you felt. As pictures are 2D we really need to use every trick in the book to add depth and interest so they spring off the page and get people's attention. Weather is up there with the most important elements we use to create these type of images. My favourite type of weather to shoot in is sunshine after the rain when there are stormy clouds and golden light, the combination of these conditions really can give superb contrast and add real pop to your images as the warm intense light plays off against the moodier darker skies. I would much prefer shooting in conditions like this over clear blue skies, when the light can be too harsh and there is little interest.
Spot light on Torver Common - taken from Beacon Fell, the light breaking through the storm clouds. Taken in wet and windy conditions
I also enjoy the challenge of shooting in tough conditions as, I believe, it really helps to improve your photography skills. Its all well and good being in these positions, but if we are unable to get the shot then all the effort is for nothing. Wind, rain and snow all offer significant challenges when out on shoot and we have work with these elements in order to get the best image we can. For me, wind and rain pose the biggest challenge. Strong winds can make it difficult to keep your camera still and this could introduce camera shake, which will leave you with blurred or soft images, which is an absolute killer. In order to counter act this I would minimise the use of filters and anything which reduces your shutter speed, don't be afraid to bump up your ISO to achieve quicker shutter speeds if necessary, modern cameras can handle increased ISO well and you shouldn't introduce too much noise. Anchor your tripod well and keep it as low as possible and if that doesn't work, then ditch the tripod all together and go handheld if possible. The biggest issue with rain is keeping your lens or filters dry and free of rain spots. If possible keep your camera covered when it is not in use, a good old polly bag does the job in these circumstances. If you have a lens hood then I would recommend using it, this screws on to the end of the lens and shields the front element and can help to minimise rain on the glass. Modern camera's have a degree of weather sealing but I'd always air on the side of caution especially in heavy rain. Always have plenty of cloths and even a small towel will help and before you press the shutter, always have a wipe.
Deepdale Beck - Taken in wind and driving rain, also dropped my phone and filter in the beck.
Ok so I've spoken about the positives but inevitably there are negatives and I do think it is important to address them as they certainly need consideration. The hardest part, for me, is having the desire, determination and commitment to get out in such conditions knowing full well that you may get very little reward for the considerable effort. I've come away empty handed on many many occasions with only a very wet set of kit to show for it and that can be morale sapping and leaving you pretty deflated. Standing for hours in cold, windy and wet conditions isn't particularly enjoyable, in fact its bloody awful and can cause you a lot of physical discomfort, so you have to be prepared for this. Of course heading out into conditions like this can present a level of danger, especially if your up in the fells. Weather at altitude can change rapidly so I have to stress that you must be prepared with the right gear for the job in hand and plan ahead as much as you can. Always let people know where you are going and when you will be home. No photo is ever worth putting yourself into danger or harm for. Choose your locations carefully, for example, if the forecast is for winds of 60mph at ground level then you can imagine how strong it would be a couple of thousand feet up. You've got to protect your equipment as well, camera, lenses, filters are all very expensive bits of kit and taking them out in adverse weather means you are introducing them to elements which can cause damage. I've seen many pictures of broken camera's, lenses and filters having been dropped from height or submerged in a stream or Lake. So we have to look after our gear as well as ourselves when out in these conditions, stay safe kids.
So there you have it, these are the reason I head out, you may think I'm absolutely insane but if you are willing to put the effort in and brave the weather then you can, on occasion, be rewarded with atmospheric and dramatic images. So get that rain jacket on and embrace the weather. You never know you may just enjoy it.