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Shooting with the Weather in Mind

Looking to capture more creative photos? Try shooting in unpleasant weather.

F4 | 1/200th | ISO 200

Wildlife photographers often ask me “how do you decide when or where to go out?” And although the answer varies, there’s two things I’m always concerned about: weather and lighting conditions. 


Most photographers head out on beautiful, sunny, clear days. And although it’s more comfortable to be in warm weather and be able to use high shutter speeds and low ISO, images can appear mundane. If you are able and are safe, I challenge you to seek out unpleasant weather. Here’s why:

1) Rain Creates Atmosphere

F4 | 1/320th | ISO 1000

It’s true that camera gear and water don’t mix well but rain brings a certain atmosphere to your image. Water can be used as an element and varying shutter speeds can enhance the composition or story within your photos.

I photographed this Orange-crowned Warbler during a particularly wet Spring in 2022. Despite the rainy forecast, I knew that migratory songbirds would still be out foraging. With the right set of rain gear, I was able to spend hours in the field following the warblers around and came home with this image. I love the sight of Bigleaf Maple leaves drenched in water and of course, the dreamy pose of the bird.

2) Wind Creates Unique Poses

F5.6 | 1/2500th | ISO 800

Wind gusts create unique poses, especially for birds in flight. Wind can also slow down fast birds such as aerial insectivores; giving you more time to photograph these small but speedy critters.

F4 | 1/2500th | ISO 1250

Although it wasn't ideal to have 40km wind gusts on your face, I bundled up in the right layers and staked out one spot to photograph these marine ducks. It may not seem like it, but there were a lot of conditions that needed to align for this image of White-winged Scoters.

a.     The tide had to be high enough for me to photograph the ducks from the shore

b.     Stormy and windy conditions were needed for dramatic waves to be formed

c.     There had to be a clear sunset so that the light can penetrate through the water and

d.     Finally, the Scoters needed to continuously swim in front of me so that I would get repeated opportunities to photograph them

Recognizing these weather conditions and factors can help you narrow down and prioritize which subject to photograph when unique conditions are on the forecast.

3) Snowfall adds Drama

F4 | 1/2000th | ISO 2500

Fresh snowfall only occurs a handful of times around the Greater Vancouver Area. I try to make the most out of it by photographing subjects that I know will be active in the snow. It’s also a great opportunity to produce high-key style photos.

This image of a snow goose in flight took several hundred tries. Snow Geese tend to gather in flocks, taking off and landing in groups. I framed this individual against the white sky, overexposing the image until only the darker parts of the geese were visible. The key to spending time out in these cold conditions are warm gloves, warm layers, some sort of waterproof seat pad and a warm drink!

4) Sunrise IS the best (in my opinion)

F4 | 1/1250th | ISO 400

Between sunset and sunrise, I’ve always been a fan of the latter. Yes, it’s more difficult to get up early in the morning but you’ll often arrive at a quieter location. You also might get lucky and catch the nocturnal animals making the last rounds at dawn. Additionally, photographing at sunrise means you are working down your ISO as opposed to increasing your ISO levels at sunset.

I ran into this hybrid coyote early at 4am. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one looking for shorebirds on the mudflats. I quickly adjusted my settings to capture the canid as she trotted along this beautiful sunrise light.

F4 | 1/1250th | ISO 200

In my experience, the window for getting a backlit shot like this only lasts about 30 minutes after dawn or dusk and getting a cooperative subject to be in the frame is half the battle. Nonetheless, I managed to capture this image of a Sanderling foraging around the beach with the rising sun creating a golden atmosphere.

As always, please share with your friends and family if you found this blog useful or informative. It really helps me reach a broader audience! and of course, if you have any questions please feel free to comment down below.

Until next time, happy birding :)



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