Summer can be a tough season for nature and landscape photographers. Hot weather with often empty skies can be difficult, but it also offers opportunities. As we sometimes say: ‘Bad’ weather does not exist. You just have to use your imagination and do something with it! In the Netherlands we just had about 4 weeks of clear skies and hot weather. But I actually photographed quite a lot, so I figured it would be nice to list some things that I did during these weeks myself.
Here are a bunch of tips for photographing with the warm weather and empty skies:
1. Take your shots in the early morning or late evening. The golden light can be beautiful with empty skies, with the last one or two hours (or the first) often having that soft golden light. I personally prefer the very early morning. Simply because it’s so quiet outside and I can enjoy the stillness of nature. There is something about hearing the landscape waking up around you. Another big advantage is that on hot days, the morning is usually much cooler and pleasant to walk around.
2. Take a forest walk and follow the light! I love photographing forests with amazing morning conditions: spectacular light rays, fog, it’s beautiful. But forests are actually always beautiful and pleasant to photograph. The great thing about forests on a sunny day is that there is still a lot of shade. It’s cooler than any other place in nature. I often walk around for a few hours in a forest and just look where light hits. Once you get the hang of it it can get super addicting: The light hitting just 1 leaf on a tree, or the light hitting just small patches of a tree trunk, or hitting a side texture of a tree. There are so many possibilities. Try underexposing a lot so that your shadows are almost completely black, and ONLY expose for the highlights. You suddenly start to zone out these small things in the darkness. It’s addicting!
3. Look for the little things! This is kind of a follow up from the last tip. But look for the smaller things everywhere where the light its. Textures, but also small beautiful leave, a summer mushroom, a beautiful flower, it can really be anything. This is something that I also often do in forests, but also in local parks, or even on the street.
4. Animals. In spring and summer there are always so many animals outside. It’s also the season in which they get their babies. I often enjoy spending some time with them and trying to capture the connection between them and their mothers. Going back to tip 1: I usually photograph them in the golden light either in the morning or late evening. The shots get that extra magic touch with the golden light.
5. Flowers. This is kind of similar to tip 3 but I wanted to mention flowers separately. In summer season there are always many flowers, both in the wild and in flower gardens. I always enjoy photographing them. You can use them in compositions with your wide angle, or take your telephoto lens (like a 70-200) to photograph them with this beautiful soft background. And if you want to get really close: use your macro lens. Playing with a macro lens and flowers in summer is something I can do all day. Extra tip: You can even do this in the middle of the day with harsh shadows. Simply take a white umbrella and put it over the flowers to diffuse the light.
6. The Blue Hour! A photographic term for the deep blue light about 30 minutes after sunset. This is a beautiful time to photograph with clear skies. Both for landscapes and cityscapes. In fact, I love my cityscapes during blue hour. The balance between the city lights and the blue ambient light makes a city really come alive in a photograph. I often see beautiful little streets in small towns in my homeland the Netherlands. I usually mark them and come back late evening to photograph them in summer. Another great addition is that people often have beautiful flowers outside of their homes in summer. I love photographing little flower streets!
7. The Night. Weeks of warm weather and clear skies can be ‘boring’ . But use it to your advantage: At night it’s much cooler and the atmosphere with clear skies can be magical. With this kind of weather there are also often interesting things happening in nature: Think of sea sparkle at the sea, or noctilucent clouds at night. The night is also great to photograph the milky way in summer, or a landscape with a full moon. I also enjoy planning (full) moonrises or moonsets with objects / buildings. There are tons of possibilities. You can do all of this with an app called Photopills (there are also other alternatives). But be careful: before you know it you’ll be addicted and do nothing else :)
8. Go to the Beach! Top tip if you want to bring your partner. He/she can enjoy the sun and you can take some photos. I enjoy photographing all the different textures on the sand on the beach. Again, preferably later in the evening (a few hours before sunset) or early morning. The golden light can cast beautiful light over the sand and exposure all the different ripples in the sand. Photographing ripples and sand textures can be very addicting! But in general: there’s always interesting stuff to find at beaches because of the tide: seashells, starfish and interesting objects that end up on the shore.
9. Keep an eye on the weather. Of course this is kind of obvious. But even with clear skies, things like humidity and wind can be different every day. I always love to photograph on very early mornings with the fog is covering the countryside. This happens often when humidity is above 95% and there is almost no wind. It’s very easy to predict the day before with your local weather forecast. I actually recently got my own little weather station. It’s fun!
10. See possibilities, not problems! Put your mind to it! We photographers can get grumpy from this hot weather with clear skies for a long time. With the wrong attitude you get nowhere. In my opinion, there is always something to photograph. I hope that with the above tips, examples and advice you will find your own passion in photographing in these conditions!
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