How to Photograph Landscapes in Summer Storms

Summer storm season is just around the corner. I enjoy watching nature and her power, so it's always a treat to see a storm brew up and move through, as long as there's no destruction left in that storm's wake. Up here in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, a thunderstorm can pop up without much warning unload her furry and move on in a matter of minutes. I adore the drama in a good storm and have indeed chased my share of thunderstorms up and down the mountain highways. If you, like me, enjoy capturing a good mountain storm, remember these tips next time the weather turns dramatic. 

1. Be Prepared

A landscape photographer knows that she must prepare for all types of weather. Even on a sunny day, I never venture out without adequate supplies tucked into my backpack. My necessities include a waterproof rain cover for my backpack, a rain sleeve for my camera, a medium-sized, highly absorbent towel, an umbrella, mittens and a toque (that's Canadian for a winter hat).

During a storm, I want to ensure that my gear will stay dry and that I will stay warm and comfortable. When I'm prepared, I can stay out in the elements even when they are less than favourable. I might miss out if I'm running for shelter, and I don't want that.

ISO 100, 27mm, f13, 1/5sec

2. Be Patient 

One of the lessons that landscape photography has taught me is the importance of patience. I can tell many stories when I've ventured out into less than favourable weather conditions and stood in awe when a slight shift in weather resulted in a spectacular and dramatic sky. I've also waited inside my vehicle while a storm passed and been delighted when it lifted only a few minutes before sunset. Yes, there have been the opposite outcomes, too, but more often than not, it pays off to be patient.      

ISO 100, 22mm, f13, 0.5sec

3. Embrace the drama 

Drama in weather photographs exceptionally well. Look for opportunities to embrace the drama within a summer storm. A fast-moving storm has the potential to leave behind a colourful rainbow. Every storm is different, and I think it's fun to watch and photograph the power within summer storms. 

ISO 100, 32mm, f14, 1/20sec

4. Head into the forest

Sometimes the weather socks in and there's nothing but rain and dreary flat skies. It's during this time that I like to head into the forest in search of a waterfall or two. I think waterfalls photograph exceptionally well during flatter light. On a stormy summer day, think about exploring inside a forest instead of looking to photograph wider scale scenes. 

ISO 100, 16mm, f13, 6sec

5. Reach for your telephoto

When the weather is not cooperating, it can also be useful to reach for your telephoto. You'll be able to isolate a detail within nature surrounded by dramatic weather. This variety is beautiful. There's more to landscape photography than the wider scale scenes that I know we all love. Make an effort to photograph some details too.

ISO 800, 200mm, f5.6, 1/800SS

Don't be afraid to embrace landscape photography this summer, even amidst a storm. Remember to always be aware of weather alerts and cautious of unsafe situations like lightning, large hail and possibly worse. Safety first.

Look to embrace the drama within the summer storm season or look for alternative landscape scenes like waterfalls, forest scenes or telephoto details when the weather is not quite cooperating. Above all, enjoy the beautiful and constantly changing landscape scenes that come along with dramatic summer weather.  

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