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  • Writer's picture2 Galleries - 4 Seasons Photography


One of the most variable aspects of landscape photography is the weather. You can understand the principles of the camera, composition, and lighting, but getting the shot is still dependent on the weather.

Having an understanding of why different conditions occur, the weather becomes something you expect.

Essentially, there are two basic weather systems:

  1. High pressure systems that have a clockwise circulation of relatively cool, drier air, and,

  2. Low pressure systems with an anticlockwise circulation of warmer, moister air.

These weather systems move in a general west-to-east direction. The warmer, lower pressure air at the leading edge of a low, rises up over the more dense air of a high to form clouds, while the leading edge of a high, pushes in under the edge of a departing low.

The age old saying "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky in morning, shepherd's warning" reflects the basic principles of these two weather systems. As the sun rises in the clear air of a High in the east, the warm, red rays of the sun light up the over-running clouds of the Low. The result is a beautiful sunrise, but only because of the clouds that are running ahead of the coming storm system. When a low is passing by late in the day, and the clear air of a High is pushing in behind it, the clouds will begin to break and, as the sun sets, the light shining up on the clearing clouds will create a nice, dramatic sunset.

Fog, frost, and dew are all related to the relative humidity of the air at night. Warmer air can hold more moisture than cooler air, while the air cools overnight, the moisture content doesn't change, only the ability of the air to hold that quantity of moisture. When the air cools down to a point where it can no longer hold all of the moisture, dew or frost - and possibly fog - will form, especially in valleys and near bodies of water.

There are many variables in determining weather conditions, so you need to think ahead, always be prepared and keep checking behind you - landscape photography is not about being in the right place at the right time, it's about putting yourself in the right place at the right time!

That's what we here at 2 Galleries - 4 Seasons Photography aim to do on our landscape workshops. We understand the local weather patterns and can (within reason, you understand) make our own predictions regarding photography conditions at specific times of the day at specific locations.

Local weather can play a major part, especially when photographing in and around a mountainous area. Since both air pressure and temperature decrease with altitude, tall mountains create their own weather patterns, and this opens up many possibilities for special cloud and weather related photos, especially during changes in weather systems.

The Maniototo, one of my favourite photographic haunts, is well known for it's big skies, majestic mountains and lenticular (UFO or spaceship-shaped) clouds. These form as wind pushes layers of warmer, moist air up into the cooler temperatures above tall mountains. They can stack up over the peaks in layers that can be thousands of feet high, and are especially dramatic when highlighted with the colours of sunrise and sunset light.

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