Embracing Bad Weather

Often times we see a bad weather system moving in, get bummed and sit inside wishing for better photographic conditions. More often than not, bad weather actually translates into great photo opportunities.

This image was captured on a cloudy day. A 9 stop filter and polarizing filter were used to get a long exposure. The long exposure helped give the image an ominous feel by adding motion to the clouds.

Here is the same island with a wider view on a different day. On this afternoon, a  storm was developing near sunset at Ellison Island in Split Rock State Park, along Lake Superior’s North Shore.

Looming storm clouds can add a sense of drama, adding extra interest to your outdoor photography, like this image of an old fishing shack on Lake Superior’s North Shore. A storm had just started moving in near sunset.

Overcast, cloudy days can be terrific weather for shooting waterfalls, streams and reflections. The reason for this is the light becomes soft, diffused and the overcast skies allow you to get slower shutter speeds for soft, silky looking water.

This image was captured on an overcast day in Zion National Park. I used a polarizer to enhance the reflection and  definition in the sky.

Foggy days make for great, moody imagery. Walk into the forest on a foggy day and you will notice an ethereal effect that can really add some depth and interest.

Or, head out to some urban areas.

Sub-zero temperatures can add many different elements such as steam, sundogs, ice patterns, frost, etc.. which add depth and drama to make extremely dynamic imagery.

Storms that are clearing out near sunrise or sunset often make for the best light shows. As the sun is rising or setting it is low, near the horizon. The light is bouncing and reflecting through small particles and molecules which change the direction of the light rays, resulting in different colors. Add to this, some nice clearing storm clouds and you get an amazing light show. If you are lucky and there is a break in the clouds, you might see some nice sun bursts blasting through.

This entry was posted in How To, Lake Superior, Landscape, tutorial, Winter.


  1. Mary Amerman 05/23/2011 at 1:32 pm #

    Shawn, I only recently came across your work, and I’m so glad I did as you are among the best. Thanks for sharing your photographic wisdom. I can almost always find beauty in so called “bad” weather. Like the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” 🙂

  2. Shawn Thompson 05/23/2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Mary, thank you so much for the kind words. I really appreciate the compliment and you taking the time to let me know how you feel about my photography!

  3. K. Praslowicz 05/23/2011 at 1:52 pm #

    “The worse the weather, the better the photos” I forget who original said that. Probably someone famous. There is a reason I mainly do my night photography for nights when that is a snowstorm.

  4. Brett Nord 06/10/2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Couldnt agree enough with your comments in this post. As another local photographer, I can sympathize with the fact that our weather here in Duluth can be “un-predictable” at best. But, the secret you’ve let on to is that sometimes un-predictable weather can result in some very predicatbly good results.

    Keep up the good work!

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