Bad Weather Makes for the Best Photographs!

Weather Talk

POSTED: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 11:34am

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 12:57pm

Knowing how to compose a photograph in changing weather helps you capture amazing pictures!

For the most part our skies over the Borderland are defined by blue skies and plenty of sunshine. This usually means a ridge of high pressure is in control. Today we have our traditional dusty haze common during our “windy season”. These days are not the best for photographs unless your subject is the dust or you are snapping the photo at sunset! I have become somewhat of an amateur photographer over the past year or so. In today’s “Weather Talk” I will talk about what I have learned so far in taking good weather and landscape photographs. I will briefly talk about your equipment, the composition/lighting of the photos and capturing that “unique moment in time” that different types of weather can give you.

If you can believe I just use an Apple I-phone 4s for most of my photos! Ok now, do not stop reading; cell phone camera technology has come a long way! I am told by my talented professional photographer friend Lilly that I need to buy a new Canon EOS digital camera that costs around $7,000! Maybe…I will slowly work my way up to that level. Any good digital camera will work. I have a very old Pentax ME Super film camera as well. The price of film has really gone up since there is not as much demand. I took a photography class in college and learned how to develop my own film. The chemicals and set up can be somewhat costly as well. I love the look of film, but you have to have the time. Digital is right now and when you are learning, you cannot beat instant results!

The higher quality equipment with greater “mega pixels” does help the quality, but it is the composition the photos that is the most important.

In most cases I avoid putting the horizon in the middle of the picture. This creates a symmetrical balance that is perceived by the brain as boring. I like to look for a dominant feature to quickly catch the viewer’s attention. This can be a conspicuous object like a rainbow, an interesting cloud or the whole colorful sky! When orange and magenta clouds dominate a darkening sky, I compose two-thirds sky, one third landscape. When the landscape is more interesting, I do the opposite.

Lighting is so important. Just always remember have your back towards the sun, so your subjects are well lit. In weather or nature photography that is not always necessarily the case. Sometimes the sun can be to your right to catch more of a deeper blue color to the sky. Even photographs with asymmetrical balance can be boring. When the sky does not contain dramatic, I often add a dominant feature like a tree or a statue. I make many photographs at sunset or sunrise, when I am up that early. The sky is so much brighter in the background of the dominant feature like a tree, the tree appears black. The silhouetted features, trees, statues, even building are very dramatic and conspicuous with the brighter sky backdrop.

The light has to travel through more atmosphere at sunrise or sunset so the light is scattered into many different, brilliant colors. The yellows, oranges, reds and purples are amazing, especially so hear in the desert. Read my “Weather Talk” Once in a Red Sun or Blue Moon ;

The best weather photos come when there is bad weather. Some of these shots are so rare, they may not happen again the same way in a million years! Low clouds, a lonely thunderstorm cell in the distance, silhouetted by the setting sun. Just make sure you are dressed for the weather. Have your rain gear for your camera and equipment as well as for yourself. You have to compose winter or cold weather photographs somewhat quickly, so you do not freeze. Hot weather photos are set up pretty fast too…so you do not melt in the summer sun.

Rainbow photos are easy to take by almost anyone. I always include the one third of the horizon. This makes it more interesting and gives the viewer a clue to where to find the pot of gold!

Lightning photographs are tricky and can be a bit dangerous. Unless you are psychic and know exactly where and when the lightning is going to flash, you must use a time exposure. You need to set up your camera on a sturdy tripod and open the shutter for as long as it takes to catch a flash. The longer your exposure, the more flashes you are likely to capture! It is better and easier to photograph lighting at night than it is during the daytime thunderstorms. At night there’s no chance to overexpose the landscape in the scene. If you have long exposures in the daytime, you have to have smaller apertures.

Tornadoes are rare here in the Borderland. I do not have to overstate the danger of catching photos of these deadly weather phenomena! I have seen a few tornadoes in my day and it is the debris that makes tornadoes the most dangerous. If you have a long telephoto lens and you are sure the tornado is traveling away from you, then maybe. There are plenty safer, more beautiful weather situations to shoot for me!

Now you can go out and take photos to your heart’s content! Remember to have a decent camera, set up an interesting composition, and watch your lighting and find different types of weather. You shall then have excellent photos to impress your family and friends! If you do have some amazing photos email me at and I will put them online on in my weathercast! I always give the well deserved credit to the hard working photographer!

Chuck DeBroder, Chief Meteorologist
KTSM, NewsChannel 9, NBC, El Paso, TX Chuck DeBroder NC9 @wxchuckNC9

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