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How to Stay Productive in Bad Weather for Landscape Photography

Extended periods of poor conditions for landscape photography can leave you feeling unproductive and stuck inside. There's plenty you can still accomplish no matter the conditions, and I've got a few ideas to get you started.

After what feels like a month full of poor weather, it can feel a bit suffocating if you're trying to get out and add photos to your portfolio. Recently I wrote about why it's good to just go out and shoot no matter what the conditions are, and this will be somewhat of a continuation of those ideas while incorporating some more tangible things to work on while you're waiting for the weather to change. One of the reasons those beautiful sunrises or sunsets we capture feel so special is because of all the times the weather never cooperates. This is something any seasoned landscape photographer must adapt to and not get distraught over.

I personally feel much better when I can turn poor conditions into a productive day. This can involve pushing myself to just go find new compositions, using the weather to my advantage, working on old photos in my catalog, or even learning something new.

Location Scout

overcast black and white tree
Overcast days can look great in black and white

After another week of poor weather, I couldn't wait any longer for the conditions I wanted. I decided to just go find a shot I had in mind even though I didn't expect to actually take any photos because of the weather. Location scouting is important for developing a portfolio and I've written about it in the past if you need some tips for doing it yourself. Typically, I always drive to the mountains to look for new spots, but a shot I'm searching for now is a lone tree or set of trees in a field or on a hill somewhere. This is important when developing your style and expression in landscape photography. Many times, when we start out, we simply just go to beautiful spots and snap photos, myself included. It wasn't until much later in my career that I started thinking about photos I wanted and looking for them.

What better day to look for those shots you might have in mind than a rainy, overcast day? I was lucky enough to stumble upon a place I didn't even know existed, and the only reason I found it was because I pushed myself to just get in the car and drive around. Sometimes not having a destination means you can find anything or nothing but not be let down by the results. It's about the journey, driving around, listening to music, and enjoying whatever it is you might find.

Bad Weather Can Be Beautiful

bryce canyon rainy day
Bryce Canyon on a Rainy Day

Unlike Colorado, there are many places around the world that have rainy overcast days more often than not. While those conditions might make it harder to actually get out of the house; sometimes, they result in beautiful scenes. Overcast and gray skies don't warrant any spectacular golden hours, but they do make colors flourish, and that soft, even light can make some scenes stand out.

I could probably write an entire article on what type of images work well in soft light. If a scene has rich colors, like the desert in the above photo or the green plant life surrounding a waterfall, it looks spectacular when there is little contrast and it can make the color or texture of the scene the focus. The hard part is just pushing yourself to leave the house and go shoot, but you'll find yourself expanding what you typically shoot while also continually building those spots you can go back to.

Black and White Water Lily
Black and White Water Lily

The absence of color also works quite well in overcast conditions. The majority of the black and white images I've ever taken were on overcast, rainy days. Black and white photography is an entire art in itself. I'll gladly say I'm no expert in the medium, and it's something I personally need to put more time into. I'd love to know your experience in shooting black and white images. Do you have more success in high-contrast scenes or overcast days?

Edit Old Photos

Sometimes, we just can't get ourselves out of the house because the weather is extreme enough that it's not logical to leave. It might be obvious, but one of the most productive things you can do is go back and edit some older photos. My catalogs are still filled with shots that might have more potential than I gave them when I first went through them. Editing photos can also help progress your skills in the field, as you'll start to notice mistakes you made or things you should change the next time you're out. You also might find some old shots you took that you'd love to go back and retake with fresh eyes and new ideas.

If you're feeling unmotivated to edit, you could try to learn something new and get inspired to edit some of those old photos. Personally, my editing has grown quite a lot in the last few years, meaning those photos I took three to four years ago might come to life with new knowledge. A prime example of this happening for me was when I learned about the power of radial filters and I was able to take a really flat image to something that's now in my portfolio.

Conclusion

Obviously, this isn't a strict list, and there are tons of things you can do to stay productive, especially if you're running a photography business. That said, I wanted to focus on things that personally fulfill me and keep me motivated for future work. I don't find a lot of enjoyment in sitting at home, responding to emails or working on my website; I'm sure you can relate. I always have to remind myself that this journey is a marathon and not a sprint. We don't have to take incredible images all the time, and there are a lot of other ways to build success for your future without ever even snapping a new photo.

Overall, I hope this at the very least inspired you to go find a new location or edit some old captures in new ways. I'd love to hear your own advice on what you enjoy doing during those extended periods of poor weather. As always, thank you for watching or reading.

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2 Comments

Catherine Bowlene's picture

Huge thanks for mentioning the editing of old photos as a way of staying productive! Sometimes I feel like a slacker for working on some of my old pics and trying some new photoworks effects on them instead of creating new photos. I know it helps me to master my skills but it still feels like falling behind. Good to have a reassurance that it's not.

Alex Armitage's picture

Catherine, I feel behind because I haven't taken the time to edit many of my photos! haha. Being productive or at least feeling productive is largely dictated by your own fulfillment and feelings about what you're working on. Sometimes I feel like I need to get out more but I always know I have more stuff to work on when I want to as well.