This is a question I thought I knew the answer to. For several years I believed that there was only one type of suitable weather for the landscape photographer: a mixture of blue sky and scattered clouds. I even had a name for it, ‘Simpsons Clouds’, in honour of the opening titles of the animated cartoon series. It would be the type of weather that gave me the best chance of capturing a brilliant, colourful sunset. This, I thought, was the only type of weather that mattered.
Overcast skies? Terrible! Cloudless skies? Even worse! If either of these weather patterns were predicted I often wouldn’t bother venturing out with my camera all. I knew they wouldn’t give me the warm, golden light which I thought was so essential for landscape photography. So why bother?
On one trip to the Northumberland Coast I spent several days cooped up in my accommodation, disappointedly looking out the windows at the flat, overcast sky, wishing for the sun to come out. Prior to my trip I had already conjured a vision of the image I wanted to capture: a golden beach leading up to Bamburgh Castle, and a brilliantly colourful sunset sky overhead. But it was never going to happen, and I was becoming a bit depressed.
After a few days, frustrated at the amount of time I was wasting sat indoors, I realised that Mother Nature wasn’t prepared to give me the weather I wanted. So I decided to try to clear my mind of my expectations and stop worrying about the lack of ‘perfect’ weather. I packed my camera bag and headed to an overcast beach to just take some pictures – anything would do. I spent a few hours photographing rocks on the beach and long exposures of the sea. It was great to be back outdoors, and I began to enjoy the process of capturing images again. I forgot all about the lack of golden light and instead focused on types of photography I hadn’t done before. The images I created have ended up becoming some of my favourites and they are now hanging on my wall at home.
Before my trip to Nortumerbland I guess I was too fixated on weather forecasts. Will there be a sunrise? Where is the best place to go? What time should I get there? I would even became upset when the perfect weather, promised dutifully by my mapping and weather apps, failed to materialise. This obsession over weather patterns began to spoil the enjoyment of my hobby. But through my experience in Northumberland I learned an important lesson: never let the weather stop me going out with my camera and taking pictures.
Since my trip to the northeast of England I have developed a greater understanding of the types of photography best suited for the various types of weather. For example, on cloudy days I might take photographs of flowers or waterfalls, where the low contrast is desirable. On bright days I might experiment with black-and-white or abstract imagery.
So, what is the best weather for landscape photography? The truth is that there really isn’t such a thing as ‘best weather’. There is only preferred weather for the type of photography I wish to undertake on that day. Rather than becoming too fixated on what the sky is doing, I find it better to be flexible and adaptable to the types of images I am happy to capture, and to experiment with all types of light. That way, every day, and every time of day, presents a new opportunity to go out with my camera, learn, and have fun.