NEW COURSE: MATT K’s Guide to Bird Photography… Now On Sale

It’s funny how things change. I remember back when I first started in photography and I’d travel some place to shoot. I’d look at the weather forecast and hope for blue skies. Today, it’s the opposite. Now when I look at forecasts I hope for some cloudy, and even stormy, weather. I tend to think that, when it comes to landscape photography, good weather can be, well… good for photos. But dramatic weather helps make dramatic photos. To me, dramatic weather can bring along dramatic conditions, light, and clouds. And when I look at what landscape photos really stand out to me these days (and their popularity to others), those are the kinds of photos that catch my eye.

Here’s a great example. I saw this photo from Sean Bagshaw on 500px.com the other day.

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Sean’s a great photographer and I’ve always liked following his work (click here to see more of it). Well, after I saw the photo, it immediately looked familiar since I’ve photographed from nearly the same exact spot a year ago. Here’s my version from last year.

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Now, it’s not horrible and I’m happy enough with it. It certainly won’t win any awards, but in the context of a photo book I put together from the trip, it works. But to me, it’s definitely not the photo that Sean had above. It doesn’t have the dramatic light hitting the trees and mountain that only the sun streaking through clouds can bring. I’m a sucker for light beams, clouds and atmosphere. I love it when light is only hitting part of a photo and this photo has it.

So What’s the Difference?
The difference between the two is one simple thing: the weather. And it’s the one thing that we (sometimes) have no control over. I say “sometimes” because we may be able to control what day we go out shooting, but that’s about it. I’ve said it before, but the weather is the secret key to a great landscape photo and, like it or not, you either have it or you don’t. All we can do is hope that our trip/shooting plans happen to coincide with it. I don’t know about you, but my travel plans usually pin me down to being in a location on a very certain day, and I usually don’t have much room to spare to try to go back to reshoot if I’m not happy with what I got.

The Takeaway From All This
But the takeaway from all this (I hope at least), is to look at some of those bad weather conditions as opportunities. Don’t just stay home if the weather looks bad. If you look at the weather forecast and it looks like clouds and rain, maybe consider going out anyway. You never know what you’ll get.

Every Once in a While You Get Lucky
All that said, I’ll finish on a high note in that every once in a while you do get lucky. It’s a lot like golf right? Most of us never make that amazing shot that we hope for. But man… when we do, it’s those shots that keep us coming back for more.

These photos were taken on a trip last year where the weather was looking horrible (and not a good horrible). And then, all of the sudden, on three separate occasions, the sun poked through the clouds to make some really nice (and much more interesting) photos then they would have been under perfect blue skies.

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Here’s to some crappy (but not really crappy) days of shooting landscapes 🙂 Have a good one!

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