In the first of this two part blog series on weather photography, we ask Robert Canis, professional weather and landscape photographer, to tell us the story of exactly how he captured some of the awe-inspiring shots you will see below.
Currently residing in the UK, long-term Nikon user Robert has over 20 years of experience shooting all manner of weather landscapes from storms to sunsets and even moonrises. He has won a number of prestigious photography awards such as the Environmental Photographer of the Year and was the recipient of the Royal Photographic Society’s Gold Meal in its Annual International Exhibition.
“I often ignore weather forecasts and ‘just go and see what happens’ and this was one such occasion where it paid off. I headed to a local nature reserve, took my kit (2 bags – one for landscapes, the other for wildlife) and from the comfort of my car did a spot of bird watching. Before too long, clouds from the east approached and morphed into the most incredible formations. I stepped from my car and while hand-holding the camera began shooting, relying more on instinct than conscious thought process. Throughout the shoot I used a wide-angle as it was all about the sky but felt it needed scale and a sense of place so I composed the image to include the bridge. “
“The perigee moon or supermoon, as it is so often called, was very much in evidence in the UK this summer and with a clear sky forecast I headed to the North Kent Marshes. I wanted to give the moon perspective, a sense of scale and put it into context with its surroundings. With the moon due to rise 30 minutes after sunset (perfect as the sunlight wouldn’t overpower the moon) I arrived in plenty of time and with compass in hand, predicted as best I could where the moon would rise. I have to admit, the speed at which it rose took me off guard a little and I had to work quickly or else it would be too high above the barn and the connection would be lost.”
“Dungeness, in Kent, UK, is a wonderful place for photography with abandoned fishing boats and decaying huts strewn across the vast shingle beach. I had experienced some incredible ‘red light’ 30 minutes previously and with the sun rapidly setting and interesting clouds forming, I set about searching for a suitable subject to act as my focal point of interest. I noticed this boat on the precipice of the bank and so hurriedly made my way down to the water’s edge to look back up at it. It was windy and in order to inject a sense of movement into the clouds I fitted a neutral density filter onto the lens thereby increasing the exposure time which produced the blurry clouds.”
“Poland’s Eastern Carpathians are one of Europe’s most wild areas with mountains clad in old growth beech forest. The previous evening our group had literally been chased down the mountain by an approaching storm. With thunder and lightning all around we made it back to the minibus just in time before the most incredible storm struck. It was dark and far too dangerous to hang around so we headed back to the hotel where it continued for the next five hours!
\The following morning we made our way to a nearby vantage point. It was clear with barely a breath of wind and all we could hear were the calls of corncrake and warblers. The morning was rapidly warming and with the meadows soaked from the previous night’s rain the fog was thick. For the next hour we experienced the most dynamic conditions with fog continually thickening and thinning.”
“It was a late summer’s afternoon and heavy rain and strong winds had swept across the marsh. With barely any warning a rainbow appeared and arced over this remote barn in the centre of the marsh. I wanted to illustrate the intensity of its colours in contrast with the receding, dark storm clouds and so used a telephoto lens. It was far too windy to use a tripod and so I placed a heavy duty rice-filled beanbag on the car bonnet and moulded the camera and lens onto that. It was only when I enlarged the image that I could make out the distant spot-lit wind turbines at the base of the rainbow.”
“In order to obtain the best views of a mountain range, it is inevitable that a long steep walk is required. It was late spring in the Eastern Carpathians and with temperatures in the mid 20s degrees C walking with a heavy backpack and tripod was hard going. However, the prospect of capturing this wild area at sunset spurred me on and with the landscape all around me slowly being bathed in sumptuous warm light, adrenalin coursed through me and for the last 20 minutes, the pack felt almost weightless.
There is a feeling of exhilaration and wonderment when you reach the summit and with time to spare I sat on a rock and took in the spectacular vista. Eventually, I pulled the camera out of the bag and set about securing a number of images with a wide-angle lens illustrating a jagged, rocky feature. I then switched to the telephoto-zoom to create the mountain layering effect which compresses perspective making objects appear closer to one another as well as making the setting sun more prominent. A neutral density graduated filter was fitted to even the exposure difference between the sky and mountains.”
In the next edition, we will be ‘cranking it up’ a notch by asking how extreme weather photography legend Jim Reed captures tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards. It’s certainly going to be a whirlwind tour of how you can get out there and shoot weather at its most fierce!