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Published on: Mar. 20, 2012

Thunderstorm at Dunn Ranch

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Big Spring

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Western Kingbird

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Tufted Titmouse

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Camera in Snow

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Dew Drops on Grass

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Spring is upon us; flowers are blooming and birds are singing. The return of warmer weather inspires us to get outside and pursue activities such as nature photography. However, spring can also mean rainy weather or even unexpected snowstorms.

When rough weather approaches, most people pack up their photo gear—and miss great opportunities. These weather patterns offer some of the most unique situations for nature photography.

It’s not spring without rain, but you can still enjoy outdoor photography as long as you keep yourself and your camera dry. Rain fills intermittent streams and creates waterfalls that do not exist during dry weather, or swells those that were only a trickle. I have seen many incredible images taken during the rain, especially in landscape photography, where you can see raindrops in the photo! Rain brings color saturation, especially in high-contrast subjects such as flowers. Water drops on a flower or a leaf can lift a subject from the ordinary and make for an eye-catching and dynamic photo.

Shooting during cloudy weather can be as exciting and rewarding as on a bright sunny day. Overcast light can help render subtle detail and bring out the best color, especially with flowers. Clouds act like giant umbrellas that soften light that would otherwise cast too much shadow and harsh highlights on the subject. Often people will overlook overcast weather, but for me it is a great opportunity to create some very nice images.

Snowy days, however, are by far my favorite. White snowflakes add dynamic elements to a scene that might otherwise be ordinary or uninteresting. I spend a lot of time outside during snowstorms because it results in nearly endless possibilities to create stunning images, especially of wildlife. Birds will concentrate on feeding and ruffle their feathers to keep their bodies warm. This makes them much more interesting to photograph. The snow also reflects a lot of light, helping illuminate subjects. It gives a nice contrast to the landscape, especially with trees that are covered by fresh snow. Both landscape and wildlife photography can benefit from the effect of snow.

Keeping your gear functional while shooting in this type of weather is critically important. I carry a plastic bag (trash bags work well) to keep my camera dry and a cloth to wipe water off my lens. Also, when you go back inside after shooting in cold weather, remember to leave your camera and lens inside your camera bag for a few hours. This allows your camera to slowly warm back up to room temperature and will help keep condensation from forming inside your camera and lenses. As with any outdoor activity in inclement weather, be sure to allow yourself extra time when traveling and use caution when hiking, especially around water or slippery slopes.

The next time you plan an outing and then hear about rough weather in the forecast, don’t let it deter you. Explore “bad-weather” photography—it is a great opportunity to create some of your most memorable images.

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