Seek Weather for Better Landscapes

A well-lit landscape doesn’t necessarily mean it’s interesting to look at. I remember going on hikes, taking a bunch of pictures, coming home and tossing most out because they were so bland and boring. I couldn’t figure out why and how other people were taking fantastic pictures at similar locations when my stuff was so blah. Was it the camera? Was it me?

As it turns out, it was me. Or rather, it was my propensity to go on hikes when weather was fair. Because, of course, I wanted to have easy, mud-free hikes. If the weatherman predicted bad weather, I didn’t go hiking because “blergh, cold, wet, yuck!” I was literally a fair-weather hiker.

I also often got late starts on hikes, which meant I’d be shooting in midday sun.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out.

Guys, don’t be like Jen. Jen is a dunce.

The best weather for landscapes?

If you haven’t figured out the message of this article yet, it’s not clear, bold blue sky, that’s for sure.

If you go on midday, sunny hikes…

Midday hikes are unavoidable sometimes. Maybe you’re hiking with buddies or little kids. It’s understandable. Work around it.

a dry meadow surrounded by a mountain range
A Streamboat Springs meadow in late fall

Minimize the Sky

Compose the scene so that the sky is a minimal part of the image. If you read this next part in Morgan Freeman, that might help remember it: Observe the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds is your bestie when it comes to figuring out how to compose a scene. Chances are if you took an art class, your teacher mentioned this rule at some point. For the uninitiated, the Rule of Thirds is a composition guide for photography. Basically you break up a scene into grid of 9 boxes, and try arrange certain parts so they align along the guidelines.

Rule of Thirds grid

In certain scenes, a vast blue sky lends to the feeling of barrenness. All encompassing. Enormous. Distant.

Embrace that.

a flat, empty beach with a distant hill running into the ocean

Even in the above image, though, the sky doesn’t play a significant role in the composition. If I recomposed so that the beach was just a third of the scene instead of two-thirds, something like this…

beach scene, recomposed with large sky
Same picture as the above one; I used Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill to extend the sky, and cropped the beach

It wouldn’t work well because the distant beach is so flat and plain. I’ve lost some of that sense of vastness. Boring scene, IMO. By cutting out the bulk of the sand, the interesting details for the eyes to explore are gone. It’s easy to swipe past. Nothing captivating about this scene.

So, in short: rule of thirds, minimize the blue sky, maximize the land.

Convert to B&W

Alternatively, shoot with converting to B&W in mind. Strong, harsh lights can make for dramatic, interesting shadows in some landscapes. Headsup: It doesn’t always work, though. It’ll take practice and trial and error to learn what sort of midday lighting will work for your B&W landscapes.

a slab of rock rises up into the sky

Look for Clouds!

In contrast with the above beach scene, this is far more interesting to look at.

A wet beach with a distant hill running into the ocean

Clouds! Weather!

Weather transform any and all landscapes. I now love going out in bad weather, whether it’s snow, rain, or fog. (Though I’ll probably complain and huff and moan about it).

Bad weather help set mood that you can’t get via editing alone.

Danger – this definitely wouldn’t have the same vibe if the sky was sunny blue.

flock of seagulls flying up from beach in a big swarm
I seriously thought they’d shit on me. @jenphotographs

Ethereal – taken right after a rainstorm passed.

person small dog strolls steaming fog beach

Dreamy – taken on an unexpectedly cold morning

fog lingers around massive red rocks

What do you think? Agree, disagree? Let me know in the comments.

Did you like this post? Pin it!

pinterest graphics weather better landscapes photography


This Post Has 2 Comments

Leave a Reply