No matter where you live, bad weather can make for a great story. Watch the local news and you’ll often see examples of this. From the polar vortex to the summer heat wave, there are endless possibilities to photograph. On a slow news cycle, the weather can even be the lead story. For budding photojournalists, these present a great opportunity to build a portfolio.
The Impending Storm
As a storm front approaches, conditions are typically still favorable for photography. Use this time to search for signs of what’s coming next. Dark ominous clouds, or a fisherman fighting heavy waves are good examples. Be observant of the way people are reacting to the news. If the supermarket is sold out of bread and milk, this may make for an interesting photo as well. The idea is to get out ahead of the story, documenting the moments leading up to the storm’s arrival.
When the Skies Open
When the conditions eventually worsen, photography can be difficult. You’ll need to take extra steps to keep your gear dry and yourself safe. An alternative to expensive waterproof housing is a clear shower cap. Place it over your camera and lens and shoot through it. Have a charged phone, emergency roadside kit, granola bars and drinking water. These can make all the difference should you get stranded. While shooting outdoors in the rain is challenging, the results can be dramatic.
There’s always a calm after the storm, but exactly what you’ll find depends on how bad the conditions were. A gentle rain can leave behind beautiful drops on colorful flowers. Puddles can also yield interesting photo opportunities as they reflect the surrounding scenery. As you search through your lens, slow down, and really tune in to the small details that help to tell a bigger story.
Should there be a serious weather event, you may find downed trees and power lines. This makes your job considerably more dangerous. Remember, you want to capture the news, not become it. As you look through your lens, be cautious not to step on any wires. Although the winds may have passed, heavy limbs can still come down. I look for examples that reveal the extreme power of Mother Nature, like this tree that split completely in half.
Note the 5 W’s
As you head out to capture these images, it helps to keep notes for your captions. Rather than using my smart phone’s precious battery, I prefer to use a small notebook and pen to jot down any pertinent info. A good caption includes the five W’s – who, what, where, when, and why. For example, “The powerful Nor’easter resulted in extensive damage including this vehicle on Smith Street in Wantagh, New York on March 15th, 2013.”