Bad Weather = Great Light for Landscapes

There is an old adage among nature and landscape photographers that bad weather usually equals good light and great photo opportunities.  When the weather turns nasty most people head for cover to watch from the comfort of a nice warm, dry place.  If this is you then you’re missing some wonderful opportunities to create bold, dramatic and/or unusual images.  The best light and conditions for landscape photography is usually in front of an impending storm or on the back side, as things start to clear out.  If you can time a clearing storm or weather front around sunrise or sunset than your chances of getting some magic increase greatly since the light during these times of day tends to be warmer and more dramatic anyway.

Here in Vermont we don’t usually get the bold and dramatic skies that the western states are known for.   Couple that with a general lack of big, sweeping views to a very distant horizon and it can be tough to take full advantage of stormy skies and low angle light.  Last week we had some crazy thunderstorms roll through central Vermont late in the day.  What made these storms so interesting were the ominous, low level clouds that rolled in with the storms.  It also coincided with some low angle late day light which helped give the clouds and landscape a beautiful glow as the the storms progressed east.

red barn and rainbow image

© Kurt Budliger Photography

I quickly saw the potential and since I was driving home from Burlington and was lucky enough to have my gear with me, I went for it.  I missed catching the storm as it arrived in Montpelier, but as the storm began to clear I quickly noticed a beautiful rainbow forming.  I sped like a madman down the back roads of central Vermont to find a suitable composition before the rainbow vanished.  I was finely able to frame it with a nice red barn but it disappeared before I got to one of my favorite farm scenes.  Once I arrived at my intended spot the rainbow had all but vanished.  But what was left in its wake was even more intense; the most sinister clouds I’ve ever seen on the east coast were trailing this monster storm.

Since the dynamic range of the scene was far greater than what a digital sensor is capable of recording, and for some reason I didn’t have my grad nd filters I shot multiple exposures and hand blended them in Photoshop.  This is actually a technique I find myself using more and more now rather than using grad nd filters, especially for really uneven horizons like the last 2 barn shots.

clearing storm vermont landscape photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

clearing storm vermont landscape photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont barn at sunset

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont barn at sunset

© Kurt Budliger Photography

So next time the forecast calls for unsettle weather make sure you are prepared with a couple of go to spots/compositions and of course make sure you’ve got your gear in the car.

~ by kurtbudliger on May 20, 2010.

63 Responses to “Bad Weather = Great Light for Landscapes”

  1. Beautiful! You have inspired me. Thank you.

  2. I really like your images. You captured the clouds perfectly. Very nice!

  3. i like taht first picture very much, very striking colours.

  4. Excellent photos. Some of my favorites outdoor shots are from the plains right before and right after those nasty tornado-type storms.

  5. Thanks for the tips and examples. I love the B/W of the clouds. I have not played with black and white clouds yet. Just a new photo taking lover on the Oregon Coast. 🙂

  6. Wow, thanks for all the great comments folks, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave them!


  7. Beautiful images and wonderful descriptions of how to make the most of this kind of weather event! I will be sharing this blog with my sister-in-law, also a photographer.

  8. So true about bad weather. It is great for setting the mood of a picture. The clouds look so ominous in these pics, yet somehow very peaceful…Great photos!

  9. Absolutely beautiful photographs. I think a lot of people wait for that perfect sunny day, which you’ve proven can be quite the mistake!

  10. Wow…….some of the finest landscape shots i’ve seen in a while. Bravo!!

  11. Gorgeous shots.

  12. Wow! These are gorgeous. I am a New England native, long-time California resident, novice desert photographer. I look forward to reading your blog thoroughly. Congratulations on making the dashboard!

  13. Hey there! I love, love LOVE your work!!!

  14. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Wow I’m overwhelmed by all this love 🙂

  15. Those are some fantastic photos. Thanks for posting them. We amateurs don’t always think picture first. I guess I should start changing my mindset, because these are really great.

  16. reminds me of something my dad once told me, that the reason we had such beautiful sunsets was because of the air pollution…

  17. These photos are really great. I appreciate all. The colors are really fantastic. Thank you for your work.

  18. Stunning! Is there a feature on your camera that auomatically photographs at different exposures? Or does this have to be done manually with a tripod? Sorry if this sounds like a silly questions, but I’m a newbie with the photography stuff 🙂

    • Thanks Maddy! There is a function on the camera that once set will take multiple exposures in succession, it’s called auto exposure bracketing. The key is to have the camera mounted on a tripod so that all the compositions are perfectly aligned. I actually don’t use the auto bracketing function but tend to do it manually, on the fly.

  19. Thanks for sharing your expertise and these wonderful photos!

  20. Wow, great work!

  21. Beautiful shots. The clouds look amazing. Very nice

  22. Those clouds look amazing!!

  23. These are just stunning! I totally agree with you… it was super cloudy/rainy on my wedding day and the pictures turned out amazing (who woulda thunk!)

  24. great pictures!! congrat!

  25. I love the fierce weather for photos
    black cuillin

  26. AMASINGLY BEAUTIFUL pictures, thanks!

  27. nice-bad-weather light shots!

  28. Wonderful skys! You hit the timing just right to hold all that wonderful color in the land and pull in the sky!

  29. Your photos are a delight. They really take me back to the days when there were more honest to goodness farms dotting the countryside. Nowadays, it’s all alpaca farmers and turtle farmers and whatnot.

    The Codger

  30. was just in Brazil driving across a few states – the storms there were unbelievable – and the light – amazing.

  31. these are absolutely incredible. makes me miss the ohio farm. we have lots of bad weather up here in alaska (knock on wood, none since “summer” began) that always makes for amazing photography.

  32. Beautiful work!

  33. The second to last photo is my favorite. It’s really difficult to get a “bulls-eye” composition like that to work, and you managed it beautifully.

  34. This is absolutely beautiful, I love your photos! The colors are brilliant and the black and white one is great with the clouds overhead. Great job and keep it up!

  35. Beautiful photographs. The barn shots are downright glorious.

  36. These are phenomenal pictures. There are plenty of storms in the mid-west that provide some awesome backdrops (before and or after) the storm. I’m not a photographer but can attest to this after being fortunate enough to have a camera with me to snap some pictures of really dreary / chilling storm conditions. They don’t compare to the awesome shots you managed to post here. Great job.

  37. Beautiful pictures!

  38. Wow….Just wow.

    I have to say I’m a massive fan of the black and white photo with the clouds that look somewhat like they are slanted. I’m a big fan of black and white photography in general, and also bad weather/clouds.

    Do you display in any galleries in Australia?

    Consider submissions.

  39. guess by now you don’t need more praise, though your shots deserve it. so is photshop hard to learn? what’s this blending about?

  40. Your photos are beautiful! On your first one I noted what looks like a faint double rainbow? Just off to the lift top… The black and white is nice too…I have a few I’ve tried to work with on my flickr link….but I really like yours. I hope you con’t to enjoy your photos! I love our spring thunderstorms when our dogwood trees are in bloom…you are right storms make great photos……

  41. I like to photograph storms.

  42. Beautiful. Now I found another inspiration 🙂

  43. I took a picture of a double rainbow two days ago here in Nicaragua, thinking the same thing. Now that the rainy season has started (6 months rain, 6 months drought here), I finally get dramatic light again. How exciting!

  44. Amazing Shots!!

  45. Beautiful picture. Reminds me to a blog post I made recently. It’s a double rainbow too. Feel free to visit my blog and read the posting, here:

  46. Wahoo, your pictures are beautiful, and I agree, clouds and sun make very nice light for photography

  47. Not into photography – admire it not great at taking pictures! But am an amateur artist, so the same rule applies. Just love towering, lowering skies! I live in a mountain range in Spain and the cloud formations before storms are spectacular and so are the rainbows!

  48. Wow, that barn would make a great studio and/or gallery… In any type of weather!!! 🙂

  49. wow! i´m so impressed!

  50. nice tip.. and nice pics also.. thanks

  51. saw this on the wordpress page – nice topic, impressive pics.. greetings, a photographer from Germany

  52. Country roads and farms create such peaceful images. Thank You for sharing.

  53. These are beautifully composed photos Kurt! So many people think you need a perfectly sunny day for good photography. Not true and your images are an attest to this. Photography is one of my passions as well. Keep shooting!

  54. These are beautiful photographs! Thanks for sharing these.

  55. Great pics! I love that barn. It’s the first one I’ve seen that has a bridge

  56. Awesome photos. Sometimes the clouds, storm and light just cooperate for a stunning photo, or in your case, photos. Great job with the post processing too. What you did with the different exposures is really HDR. I mean that as a compliment. It has such bad connotations and shouldn’t when done as tastefully and subdued as this.

    Favorite is the first one with the barn and the rainbow!

  57. These photos are incredible. And thanks for the tip, this is something I had never thought about, but it’s obviously true.

  58. Dude, an amazing set of shots. And, holy crap, that’s quite a following you have on this site!

  59. Thank you for that tip about the weather. Residing in West Tennessee we have ample inclement weather–tornado watches and warnings, as well as thunder and lightning storms. Delighted to have found your Web site with exquisite images, I will follow your blog and on twitter. Warm regards, g.

  60. I really love these photos! Wonderful colors and detail. 🙂

  61. I stumbled upon you”re Blog and really enjoy it. I love to hear what photographers are doing in other parts of the country. Great info and photos, well done.

  62. Wonderful shots! Congratulations!

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