Bad weather in January and February Part 1

This week there has been really bad weather in the region: strong winds, big waves, storms and lots of rain. The perfect time for keeping warm by staying at home you would think. Not for us special breed of photographers though. For us this is the the chance to take dramatic photos of sea and sky, always being very careful and not taking unnecessary risks of course. We, photographers, will go outside in the bad weather with the aim of coming back with a top-notch photograph. ‘The One’, is the term used by some. I’ve heard some photographers even print them from time to time.

Wave hits the seawall in Santander

Anyway, the thing is, this week when the bad weather was approaching, my sister and I decided to go outside to take some photos. I’ve seen people contemplating this many times and it’s always the same process. They look out the window from the comfort of home and say: ‘It’s just cloudy and ugly out there, it’s not worth it’. You need to be very strong and have faith that you’re going to get some great photos, if not you’ll end up sitting on the sofa and believe me, there are long odds of getting ‘The One’ from there. And I know that.

We spent a lot of time just waiting for a series of waves to come. It’s easy if you bring your tripod, so once you have composed your image you can just wait with your finger over the shutter or remote control. We were very patient but somehow we missed the biggest waves as they managed to appear in those moments we took our eyes off the sea. It happens.

Usually with these weather conditions dramatic skies are assured. We were lucky because the sun appeared, and although it was covered there were small blue patches and some orange and yellow coloured high clouds.

Paying attention to the shutter speed

Often Aperture Mode is the default setup of my camera. I like to have control of the depth of field when I’m photographing landscapes. Although you can still use it when taking photos of seascapes you have to be careful if waves are your main subject. Whether you are using a tripod or not, the shutter speed will determine if the water appears frozen in time or if some kind of motion is sensed when viewing the photo. As an example, the first photo above was taken at 1/1600th of a second and the wave appears completely still.

However, in the photo below the conditions were much darker and the shutter speed was 1/125th of a second. I had to put the ISO up a bit to 200 to avoid blurring the image. I was shooting handheld and I wanted to keep some depth of field by using an f/5.6.

Big wave in Sardinero beach

Playing with the exposure compensation button of my DSLR

You should trust the light metre of your expensive camera, but because it’s expensive, it also has an exposure compensation button (usually you’ll recognise it because it has a plus and a minus sign on it). Sometimes the really clever built-in computer in your camera will overexpose or underexpose an image under tricky light situations. On a dark, cloudy evening like the other day the camera will try to overexpose and part of the sky and the sea might appear burnt. Dramatic situations sometimes need dramatic setups, so I turned down the exposure of my camera one full stop and a bit more and colours in bright areas popped up. It was almost dark so this results in a more realistic, more attractive looking picture without the washed out look that the camera was giving me instead.

Did I get ‘The One’? To be continued…

Storm passing Mouro Island

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