Photography Workshops –
What do we do when the weather turns bad?

One of the things about running photography workshops, and also attending them, is the question of weather. What do we do when it turns bad? Well, in most cases bad weather doesn’t have to be a washout (pun intended), but can actually work in our favour, if you know how to work with it. While most people start to get worried when looking at the gloomy forecast, I’m usually the opposite, I’m looking to see how gloomy it is going to be!!!

So here is what I do when the weather forecast looks bad:

Shooting interiors

Of course the worst thing is when we get a rainy day with a pure white or grey sky where the light is flat, but even then there is always something to photograph. In the absolute worst case we can always go inside somewhere and photograph beautiful church interiors like this one at Saint Peter’s Church in Radovljica, where I often go when the weather turns bad on one of my Slovenia workshops. Here I went to great lengths to show my participants how to get interesting shots of the frescoes on the vaulted ceiling:

Beautiful frescoes on the vaulted ceiling of Saint Peter's Church in Radovljica, Slovenia.

Beautiful frescoes on the vaulted ceiling of Saint Peter’s Church in Radovljica, Slovenia.

Shooting architectural features from underneath a shelter

Doorway at Saint Peter’s Church in Radovljica, Slovenia.

One day on one of my private photography workshops we couldn’t go into the church because there was as wedding on, so instead we stood underneath an archway opposite, set up the cameras on a tripod and went over the fine art of making a tight composition on the church’s interesting doorway. We looked at how to frame your composition tightly in order to exclude any nasty looking parts of the building, and also how even the slightest of movements can change the composition dramatically.

Also, we looked at how to expose correctly in order to maintain a nice white facade, whereas under exposure can render the white a dirty-looking brown. Notice also how the wet ground looks nice and shiny.

Head for water

Well, why not? It’s raining anyway. But by water I really mean waterfalls and fast flowing rivers. My photography workshops in Slovenia nearly always take in Vintgar Gorge, a beautiful 1.6 km long gorge that has been carved through the vertical rocks of the Hom and Bort hills by the Radovna River. It culminates at the equally lovely Sum Waterfall. Now these kinds of places are actually worse to photograph when it’s sunny because the white water from the rapids and falls becomes too bright to photograph, and looks nasty when you do. White water needs to be photographed in the shade, or on overcast and, yes you guessed it, rainy days. So where better to head.

Just remember your umbrella

I always advise participants to bring a raincoat, but also an umbrella, one that folds up nice and small and fits neatly into their camera backpack, and tell them that it’s for the camera! Some are surprised by this, but they soon see its value. The photo below was taken on one of my autumn workshops in Slovenia. It was raining hard, but we each took turns under the umbrella to capture this beautiful autumnal scene:

The Soteska Vintgar gorge, Gorje, near Bled, Slovenia. The 1.6 km long Vintgar gorge has been carved through the vertical rocks of the Hom and Bort hills by the Radovna River.

Find a shelter somewhere

At Lake Bohinj I took a couple to a small wooden jetty at the start of which there’s a roof. Although it’s cramped, it did allow them to set up their tripods under the roof and photograph the church and bridge. A great opportunity to capture people walking across with colourful umbrellas:

Church of Saint John and bridge between Ribcev Laz and Stara Fuzina, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Rainbows

We all love them, don’t we? My kids do. Wouldn’t you love to photograph a rainbow over a beautiful landscape? Well, in order to do that you have to head out when the weather turns bad. On a one to one workshop at Lake Bled once, we were out beside the lake just as a huge storm was approaching. My participant was questioning whether we should head back. But as I watched the storm, I could see that the best light was going to happen now, and if we left we would miss it. So we opened our umbrellas and prepared for it. Just before the storm hit, a beautiful rainbow appeared over the island church. A stunning moment that would have been missed had we run for cover somewhere. Instead, we huddled under our umbrellas when the rain hit and waited it out. It didn’t last long.

Beautiful light across to the beautiful Lake Bleds island church as a storm blows in and produces a rainbow right over the church and surrounding hills, Slovenia.

Beautiful light across to the beautiful Lake Bled’s island church as a storm blows in and produces a rainbow right over the church and surrounding hills, Slovenia.

Black and White photography

When the weather turns bad then there is often a lack of colour. So, why not forget colour and look at shades of grey? Rainy, cloudy and stormy days are often a great opportunity for Black and White photography. On a one to one at Lake Bled it had been raining all night and my participant was wondering if we could get any photos. When we arrived in the morning the rain had abated, but it remained cloudy and sunless. However, it was not a boring grey or white sky but quite dramatic in places with lots of contrast between dark and light. This is what we got:

Morning at Lake Bled's island church of the assumption of saint mary after a night of heavy summer rain, Slovenia.

Morning at Lake Bled’s island church of the assumption of saint mary after a night of heavy summer rain, Slovenia.

Morning at Lake Bled's island church of the assumption of saint mary and hilltop castle after a night of heavy summer rain, Slovenia.

Morning at Lake Bled’s island church of the assumption of saint mary and hilltop castle after a night of heavy summer rain, Slovenia.

In the city

One a private workshop in Ljubljana I used the rainy day to demonstrate how to use colourful umbrellas to mix colour and black and white:

Man holding a red umbrella and standing on The Butchers' Bridge looking over the Ljubljanica river towards the Trznica (market) Triple Bridge on a rainy day in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The wire fence on the bridge is covered with padlocks put there by locals and tourists. All this region was designed by Slovenia's most celebrated architect, Joze Plecnik.

Holding a red umbrella and standing on The Butchers’ Bridge looking over the Ljubljanica river towards the Trznica (market) Triple Bridge on a rainy day in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

When the light is not flat

While in some cases the light can be very flat when it’s raining, it’s not always the case, as we saw here at Lake Bohinj one evening:

Nice moody evening light over Lake Bohinj at sunset while raining, Triglav National Park, Slovenia.

And the rain can make nice patterns on the lake surface

Rain over Lake Bohinj, Triglav National Park, Slovenia.

And when the rain clears:

After the rain and the clouds begin to break up, the landscape can be quite dramatic. In these photos at Lake Bled on my one to one, the rain began to clear around 6pm, so we headed back to the lake for the sunset and this is what we got:

View across the beautiful Lake Bled, island church at sunset with the beautiful Karavank mountains in the background, Slovenia. Lake Bled is Slovenia's most popular tourist destination and the Karawanke mountains form the border between Slovenia and Austria.

View across the beautiful Lake Bled, island church at sunset with the beautiful Karavank mountains in the background, Slovenia. Lake Bled is Slovenia’s most popular tourist destination and the Karawanke mountains form the border between Slovenia and Austria.

Beautiful light across the beautiful Lake Bled's hilltop castle and Mount Stol, the highest peak in the Karavank Mountains. Slovenia.

Beautiful light across the beautiful Lake Bled’s hilltop castle and Mount Stol, the highest peak in the Karavank Mountains. Slovenia.

On one of my Jurassic Coast weekend photography workshops once, we headed out to Durdle Door after the rain cleared and got some quite dramatic light:

Durdle Door beach as the afternoon cloud breaks up, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.

Close up of Durdle Door as the last wisp of light disappears over the horizon at dusk, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.

Between rainstorms

On this day I’d been using a great app called “Storm Radar” to plan the day. We managed a few hours at Lake Bled before the storm hit, then headed to the church for a while. Using the app I was able to determine the best location for the sunset, at which I knew a good view to photograph. So we whizzed off there. We were between storm fronts, one behind to the south and one in front to the north. Where we were standing it was not raining, at least for an hour. We got some nice light and shots before the southern storm moved up and hit us.

View of the the church of saint John in the shadow of Storzic mountain, Brnik, near the Ljubljana airport, Slovenia.

Think twice before getting worried:

So next time you’ve booked a photography workshop and weather looks bad, don’t despair. If you have a good workshop leader then you should be able to get the best out of it regardless.

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