The joy of bad weather photography – By: Steve Damascus
Cold, rain, fog, wind, snow. These words are unlikely to send a photographer reaching for their camera. But, if you brave the elements, and take proper precautions, you may be rewarded with some amazing photos!
A friend called me on a recent Saturday morning and said “it’s such a nice day, sunny and 75 degrees; not a cloud in the sky… let’s go out taking pictures!” That’s great. By and large, most people only venture out-of-doors when the weather is nice. I mean, who wants to get rained on or feel their way around in the fog? It’s just normal, right? People go for walks in the park when it’s nice out, not during a blizzard! But, for me, it’s often been just the opposite.
Many years ago I was lucky enough to come across the wonderful photography book “Darkroom”1 by Lustrum Press. In it was a section devoted to a photographer named Jerry Burchard. His work caught my eye because his photos were all taken at night. That was his style and that was when it dawned on me that using my camera at times other than those ‘perfect days’ could give me a view into another dimension. Sadly, Jerry is largely unknown today, but if you ever get a chance browse through a copy of “Darkroom.”
With respect to the more technical nature of my ‘inclement weather’ outings, I normally work hand-held. If I use my film camera I shoot 400 ISO film, often at 800 or 1,600 push-processed (AgfaPan 400, processed in Rodinal (both are sadly gone from the market), Tri-X and HC-110, dilution ‘B’, D-76 1:1 or Ilford XP2). I normally use my Nikon 28-85mm zoom and shoot hand-held but do often take tripod if it’s very dark.
When shooting digital, I use a Nikon D-70 or D-200 and the Nikon 18-55. I feel the wide-angle/short telephoto zooms provide a good working range. I like the wide effect when photographing in the man-made caverns of a large city. I like the short telephotos for pulling in foreground detail while nicely blurring backgrounds.