Most of us plan our outings, photographic or otherwise, around bright sunny days. Nothing beats a beachside barbecue under the bright blue skies of summer. Yet such an idyllic scenario is far from ideal for taking photographs of consequence. The naked sun of high noon presents considerable challenge for most subject matter. The high angle of the sun and its sheer power tends to leave people looking ghoulish, with deep dark shadows in the sockets of their eyes or under their noses and behind their glasses. Moreover, subjects may be caught squinting, wincing even, under the undiluted glare of the summer sun. For this reason, wedding photographers inevitably hope for overcast conditions when faced with an outdoor shoot. Light cloud cover helps to disperse the rays of the sun, spreading the light more evenly over the subjects, reducing values between brightest highlights and darkest shadows to something which the camera sensor can handle.
Landscape photography too rarely stands up well under the harsh light of midday. As with people shots, the high angle of the sun inevitably renders unpleasant, high contrast shadows. Furthermore, since most people are typically out and about when the weather is at its best, most photos taken at that time tend to seem simply ordinary if not banal.
The wow factor derives from stunningly unusual, one-of-a-kind scenes and these are best found under the less than ordinary conditions of sunrise or sunset or during more freakish climate and weather conditions. Even on cloudy days at dusk or dawn, the sun often peeks through a tiny window between the horizon and the layer of cloud, frequently with stupendous effects. Shadows too are dramatically elongated when the sun is positioned at a low angle. The color of light takes on pleasantly reddish hues as the sun refracts through the thicker segment of atmosphere despoiled by industrial haze.
Your next assignment is to start hunting the edges of the day. Take your camera out when the weather is not at its best. Be careful, rain can ruin your photographic equipment. You must keep your camera dry at all times. Yet the conditions immediately after a storm are often ideal. More distant clouds and rain can often provide a dramatic backdrop to whatever subject you choose to shoot. Explore puddles on the road and the reflections within them. Wet surfaces often sparkle with light and can be a continuous source of inspiration. Backlit fog has a transforming power and, of course, you may even be lucky and capture the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
Remember: staying snug in bed at the break of dawn; staying home when the weather is at its worst virtually guarantees that you missed the shot. The photo action is happening out there; you have to be out there to get it.
Climbing onto a slippery roof with photo gear and tripod is a bad idea at anytime. During a thunderstorm it's sheer foolishness. As this shot demonstrates, the weather itself can sometimes be the subject.
The conditions for this shot happen rarely, perhaps never again. Motionless air allowed a light mist to accumulate at the ocean surface, the cold of midwinter had the jogger huffing and puffing with the weak sun at dawn lighting it all up, imparting a rich and dramatic glow to the entire scene. This shot, taken in Vancouver's Stanley Park, could not have been recorded in another season or at another time.
A lull in a gale had us crawling out of our cramped little tent in Gwaii Haanas National Park to stretch and catch a glimpse of dramatic skies. This scene can only be captured under the worst of all possible conditions.
A winter fog bank with deep shadows behind it provides a perfect foil for the Bowen Island ferry as it putts, glinting with highlights, into Snug Cove.
All photographs were taken by Brian Grover.