by Jemma Brewitt
on October 30, 2017
5 min read

There’s no such thing as bad weather – only different types of lighting” – John Gravett

“90% of photography is in the mind, and if you set out with the view ‘it’s so dull, I won’t get any good pictures’ then that’s a guarantee – you really won’t. I do my best to keep myself in a positive frame of mind, in fact, I’ve done such a good job on my positive mental attitude, that I quite enjoy photographing landscapes in the rain.”

John Gravett definitely has his head around shooting in the rain. Here are some submissions of Africa’s Photographer of the Year and tips on capturing exquisite shots in miserable weather conditions:

Jon Kerrin: Lightning storm over False Bay

1. It’s all in the mindset

Don’t let the weather get you down. Try to leave the door with a positive mindset, one where you are eager to use the weather conditions to your advantage (the rain can help capture amazing landscapes, after all). Use the dull lighting to your benefit by adding dramatic elements to your work.

Lightning and storm clouds in Namibia

D. Mendzigall:

2. Waterproof from head to toe

To keep the spirits high, it’s important that you keep dry. Make sure all your clothing is waterproof, these include: a jacket with a hood, waterproof and warm shoes, fisherman’s neoprene gloves (as fleece gloves get soaked) and an umbrella (if it’s not too windy). Ensure your camera bag is waterproof, and protect your camera with a waterproof cover or rain sleeve. Nikons are known to be remarkably well sealed against water as well as many of the lenses having rubber seals around the lens collar. Carry a microfibre cloth on you for drying general surfaces, especially on humid days when condensation can form inside the waterproof covers.

Rhino with storm clouds

Chris Minihane: Lone rhino on the shores of Lake Nakuru, Kenya

cloudy sky

Agnes Schildorfe: Kokerboom in Namibia Southern Africa

3. Shoot complementary subject matter

Although bad weather is not great for orange sunsets and blue skies, it can work well for certain subjects. Waterfall, stream and forest scenes can often come out striking when taken on overcast days and some intimate subjects, such as wildlife subjects, work best in flat light. “In bad weather photography, a little bit of a drizzle can enhance the quality of the scene, darkening bright rocks and saturating colorful foliage (remember to use a polarizer to remove glare from wet surfaces and bring out the best colors)” says photographer Ian Platt.

Nicky Elliot: Pesky flea in the ear – Zambezi River, Zimbabwe

Boats on the sea shore

4. Your tripod is your best friend

Exposures need to be longer on gloomy, rainy days due to low lighting levels and so a tripod will come in handy.

Thibault Ray: Crazyness

Dod on sand dunes in Cape Town

Neil Preyer: Mhali – my golden retriever on the dunes of Noordhoek Beach

5. Make the light work for you

Gloomy skies can be the perfect complement to your shot. Try and use the bad weather to your advantage by using it to enhance the mood of the photo. For example, grey stormy clouds can work well over blue waters.

Seagulls flying in black and white

Anthony Siton: Feeding birds

Chapman's Peak in the rain

Michele Alexander: Four seasons in one day at Chapman’s Peak

6. Work in black & white

Photographs taken in bad weather can often look amazing in black and white. Due to the dim lighting, a lot of the colour can be taken away from objects and therefore a photo can look more effective and striking when in black and white. This also places more emphasis on the texture, tones and the mood.

Mist over Lion's Head in Cape Town in black and white

Sebastien Mau: Lion’s Head needs a hair cut

Elephant herd waking in black and white

Chase Wells: Elephants of Amboseli

7. Wait for moments of clearing

Often a bad day of weather will vary and you’ll find moments of short, unexpected clearing. Therefore it is advisable to be on location as long as you can, ensuring you are ready for these periods of clearing. Be ready to snap when a small gap forms in the clouds and if you’re lucky you may even catch a rainbow.

François Jorion: Rainbow in Kenyas savannah

François Jorion: Rainbow in Kenya’s savannah

Cloudy sunset over the sea

8. Shoot in the morning and the evening

Ian Plant advises the following, “If you shoot during the morning or evening twilight, you’ll get lots of blue light filtered through the clouds, much more than during the rest of the day. This type of bad weather photography can help add some much needed colour to a stormy scene. Just remember to set your white balance to the daylight preset or cooler to keep the blue colour, as your camera’s automatic white balance might try to warm up the scene and render it as a neutral grey.”

Rhino mother and baby during sunset

Chris Minihane: Mother rhino and baby head home after a long day of grazing

A few words from David Gravett: “The important thing to bear in mind when shooting on rainy days is to go out with an open mind – you’re going to have to work with the conditions, rather than battle against them. Provided you learn to do this, you’ll return with more unique images and been able to capture a feeling of the elements.”

Zebra running in dust

Zhayynn James: Dust Travellers