windblown snow at sunrise in Tuckerman Ravine
A little windblown snow to start the day.

Just say no to clear blue sky.

I love extreme weather.

There’s no better way to increase the odds of capturing exciting landscape photos than doing it when the weather is unstable and the sky isn’t just an expanse of clear blue nothing.

As you may have seen in my last post, when I started on my early morning hike into New Hampshire’s Tuckerman Ravine a couple of weeks ago, there really wasn’t a lot of hope that we’d even see the sun(It wasn’t until well after sunrise when we finally did). The forecast called for as least 70%-80% cloud cover at sunrise.

Funny thing though, that’s not the forecast I saw at all. I didn’t see “70%-80% clouds with almost zero chance of a spectacular sunrise,” all I saw was a 20%-30% chance of an amazing sky over the mountains when the sun came up.

Sure, in this case the sun was a little late to the show, but when it finally did make an appearance it did so in a pretty spectacular way.

Increase your odds of capturing amazing skies.

dramatic sunrise over the southern Maine seacoast.
When clouds and sun collide.

Besides the basic weather forecast, there’s really only two other things I look at when planning a sunrise or sunset photo outing, both having to do with clouds.

First, will there be any clouds, if so how much cloud cover is predicted.

The second, and probably the most important for me is where the leading or trailing edges of the weather front and clouds will be in relation to the horizon at sunrise or sun set.

Lets take sunrise for example. For the sunrise above, by checking the forecast for the day I made this photo I knew the day was going to be increasingly cloudy in the morning, with rain likely. Then, using a combination of the hourly forecast and radar features in the weather app on my phone, it looked like the leading edge of the weather front would be passing out to sea right around sunrise.*

Obviously this isn’t an exact science by any means, and I’ve gotten rained on and come away without the dramatic skies I was hoping for more times than I can count.

But when it works, you’re likely to be rewarded with some of the most dramatic fiery skies you’ll ever photograph.

For sunset I’ll be looking to see where the trailing rather than leading edge of the weather front will be in relation the the horizon as the sun sets. 

 

12 thoughts on “Bad Weather Better Photos

  1. do you aim for the leading/tailing edge to be at the horizong where the sun is, so that it can appear below, rather than be hidden by, the clouds?

    1. Exactly! The biggest reason being that if it works out right, as the sun gets closer to the horizon it will often create an amazing fiery sky like I was fortunate enough to capture in the second photo.

      I should have mentioned that when I always try to arrive at least 20-30 minutes prior to actual sunrise(as well as stay a good 20-30 minutes past sunset). A lot of times the best, most fiery skies will occur well before the sun actually peeks above the horizon. All of that will be included in an upcoming post on seascapes I’m putting together. Stay tuned…

      1. I look forward to that seascape post!

        One of the most glorious sunrises I saw was in winter when I was working in a highrise to the northwest of Mr Baker in Washington. Just before the sun came up, brilliant beams of orange and gold shot skywards — radiating out in all directions with the mountain as the central point. No one had a camera/phone with them so we all just watched in awe as the sun rose.

        1. Sounds like an amazing sunrise. Sometimes just sitting back and enjoying the show is enough. Of course It’s hard to convince yourself of that when your freaking out wishing you had a camera with you. LOL!

    1. That they are. One thing I do when the sky isn’t all that great is to look away from the sun. Sometimes, how the sun is illuminating the landscape behind you is where you’ll find your photograph.

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