After seeing my images from a recent trip, a photographer friend commented to me that I seemed to always get great weather. I wish! The trick I’ve found is to plan for all eventualities and improvise on the fly. Don’t get me wrong, bad weather has its place. Overcast conditions and light rain are great for photographing gardens and the soft even light of cloudy skies makes for wonderful portrait lighting. But for most travel subjects great sunlight can turn a dismal scene into something spectacular. As the English landscape painter JMW Turner said on his deathbed: “The sun is God”.
I once spent 10 days on assignment for an airline in Mauritius and 9 of those days were spent in post monsoon drizzle and I didn’t do anything but look around, take notes and worry. On the last day the sun shone through and I was ready. I scurried about the island to all the places I had scouted out beforehand and shot the entire assignment including posters, brochures and advertising in one day. That’s not luck but good planning.
If I am a week in a destination I assume at some stage the weather will be less than ideal. I’m thankful for that as I can relax, visit galleries, enjoy restaurants and even take a rest day which I have found is essential once a week to keep interest levels high. I have lists of good and bad weather activities and just shuffle them around according to what I see outside on any particular day. Weather forecasting is now reasonably accurate and apps like The Weather Channel break each day down into hours so I know when I should be outside experiencing great light and when to cool my heels indoors. For this reason I often book accommodation in the centre of cities so I can immediately take advantage of quick changes in the weather or spectacular light that might appear after a heavy storm.
In Stockholm recently I had a number of bad weather days during which I was delighted to be able to take the time to see Sebastião Salgado’s brilliant Genesis exhibition at the huge Fotografiska museum. The next day I knew from forecasts that I might get a small window of good light before the rain returned. When the sun appeared, I was out of bed before the crowds emerged and managed to capture in a matter of hours a city I had walked around for days beforehand.
There really is no such thing as bad weather when you travel though - just opportunities to look at destinations in different ways.