Most people that love shooting landscapes know when the golden hour is. It's widely known that an hour before and an hour after sunrise or sunset produces very colorful warm images with strong side light which gives your images a three dimensional look. But this does not always produce dramatic images that jump off the screen or print. Weather plays a huge part in determining how an image will look at certain times of the day.
In the spring and summer thunderstorms roll through and if caught at the right time of day can produce very dramatic images. It's important to always be aware of the weather and what it's doing and what it is predicted to do so you are prepared to make that iconic shot. My favorite subjects are storm fronts and and thunderstorms. Dramatic clouds have always been a favorite subject of mine. Tracking thunderstorms by radar is relatively easy now with GPS on our phones with weather apps that do this. The shot below was made after tracking a thunderstorm and getting to the right place just as they were moving through.
As you can see the clouds are very dramatic. The light is starting to come down on the horizon but not at sunset. Prior planning as to where to go made this shot successful. As Ansel Adams once said, "There's nothing worse than a bald-headed sky". I have always remembered that and keep it in mind when making images that use the sky as the main ingredient.
I have always felt that if you seldom carry a camera then you will never be ready when that iconic photo presents itself. The photo above is just such a case. I had the full arsenal with me as I came home from work. The weather that day was interesting with a cool ocean breeze coming in under a warmer land and producing this wonderful fog along the shore. I knew this was going to happen after listening to the weather report in the morning and knew that the wind was going to shift to an on-shore breeze in the afternoon. I hoped that sunset would give me something so after work I tried to think of places to go that would hopefully give me something. Little River in Gloucester is right near the highway so it was an easy task to stop by on my way home. I was blessed with this lovely scene as the sun came down and the fog moved in.
Paying attention to what the weather is going to be can help produce the most dramatic images in your portfolio. I have been chasing sea smoke for most of my career. Back in the 80's the best shots for the day's paper were the dramatic B&W images of sea smoke as it rolled across some of the harbors of the North Shore. The shot above of Thacher's Island was made a few years ago but is still my favorite. Sea smoke happens when the air temperature is much lower than the sea temp. The morning this image was taken it was -9 degrees to the sea temp. of 40-45 degrees. I made the shot about an hour after sunrise. This usually occurs in January as the sea temperature is still somewhat warm but the air temperature can be very low. By listening to the weather report the night before I was able to determine that this condition was going to happen. So I was ready.
Winter always produces some great images. The weather is always changing and listening to the weather report will give you a good idea of what will be going on. Rapid temperature changes will always give you something. The photo above was made after we had a light fog and mist moving through after a light snow. I think you know what I mean as a snow comes through with a rising temperature and then it starts to become a light rain and then a mist and fog. Then very rapidly the temperature drops, freezing everything. That was the case here as the water froze to the trees and the mist became a light snow again for a brief period of time.
So as you can see weather plays a huge role in dramatic landscape photography. I am always keeping an eye on it so that I can make that next iconic image that will spruce up my landscape portfolio.