Shooting the Storm
Some of the best images you will ever take are when you least expect it, or at least in situations where things seem less than promising, at least at first.
One of the ways to improve the odds of getting an amazing shot is to move into an environment where outside your comfort zone; shooting bad or stormy weather is one such situation. First you must steel yourself; girding your loins to stand in the face of wind, rain, hail, snow and worse with your camera bare to the elements and then to attempt to capture images of nature at its rawest. It’s true that here in the South of England where I live our climate is, well, rather safe; rarely do we get weather that is anything worse than damp, grey or moderate sunshine. Snow? Occasionally. Hurricanes? Well that’s debatable, but there was the so-called Great Storm of 1987. And so…
It was a couple of weeks ago, (Monday 8th February in fact) and the forecast announced winds gusting to over 70-mph, seas with waves of up to 5-meters and an onrushing tide. Throw in the sun doing its damnedest to squeeze through the wind whipped clouds and it was a perfect chance to get something other than a simple, gently swelling seascape, something a with a lot more liquid grunt and gristle. So I headed to coast to The Warren Country Park, an area of natural beauty on the coast under the White Cliffs near Folkestone, Kent.
I Was Not Shooting Alone
I was not alone; one after another, photographers and curious onlookers arrived with their cameras that ranged in size from top-end pro DSLRs to simple smartphones. But all were in for a treat as waves smashed against the concrete apron designed to stop the base of the cliffs sliding into the sea and so sending waves booming skyward some as high as the fore-cliff, so easily 30-feet.
Moving along the sea wall required nerves of steel as wind lashed foam and spray coated everything in sight, good dodging skills were a must as waves were breaking over anyone that braved the walk to get a closer view. Keeping the camera kit dry was a test, my tripod-mounted camera blew over at one point too, as a massive gust of wind caught in the camera strap, which acted as a sail; I was not happy but luckily there was no damage. I gritted my teeth and pressed on and so here are a few images and how I shot them…
Things to Consider
Photographing the seascapes can present real challenges for any camera. Due to the sheer amount of sky and the reflections of it from the surface of the sea, there’s a tendency for the camera to “think” it’s far too bright so it will underexpose each image if left to its own devices. Reflections mean highlights can be completely blow away and if it windy and raining you need to have a way to protect your camera and use a fast enough shutter speed to make sure you don’t get camera shake, vital when using longer focal length lenses.
And so, I set a half stub of extra exposure for the images here and then brought highlights back afterwards in post processing. Some shots I used a -8 neutral density filter on but even that was not dark enough to allow me to use exposures over 1/10th-second. In the end, I reverted to exposure compensation and bracketing by +2 and -2 stops to see what I could get that way and then use post processing to bring in any highlight and shadow detail that needed some extra TLC at the end.
Picture 1: The Big Wave
Picture 2: Photographer Braves The waves
Picture 3: Uprooted Tree
Picture 4: Slow shutter Breaking wave
Picture 5: MArtello and the storm
The moral here is a simple one. Just because it is raining or windy does not mean you cannot get out there take photos. Yes you’ll need to protect your kit against the very same elements but if you do brave the wilds of the weather no matter where you live, the results are really worth the effort.
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