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Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Beauty & Challenge Of Winter Storms

Difficult weather produces uniquely compelling conditions for photography, as well as dangers that need to be observed

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When photographing storms, if you concentrate only on the grand landscape, you may miss those superb, intimate scenics that are at your feet or right behind you. Check the area around you for intimate scenics that you can convert into striking images.

The winter sun moves across the sky at a lower angle than summer, so sunset light often lasts longer and can be very subtle. If the storm clears, don't pack your gear. You may get that magical subdued evening light, giving you the opportunity for beautiful softly lit, color-saturated images with a completely different theme than your violent storm-filled images.

To see more of Dave Welling's photography, visit his website at www.strikingnatureimagesbydavewelling.com.

How To Find Them

Heavy snowstorms in Yellowstone, the Tetons, Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite usually occur in January and February. Winter weather creates dramatic images anywhere, but in the desert Southwest, the arid landscape makes a stunning contrast against a snowstorm. Places like the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Zion, Bryce and Arches in Utah are particularly popular photo destinations.

Many national and state parks, and national wildlife refuges include weather information on their websites. You also can call the parks and refuges and speak with people there about the conditions.

When you narrow down a time window, check forecasting sites like weather.com, NOAA weather and Weather Underground. Try checking three or more sites to get a forecast consensus to improve your chances.

Relying on only one site, I made several "winter storm forecast" trips to Bryce when it looked great for snowstorms and got skunked several years in a row. Then, I expanded my site searches and also called the park when things looked promising to get a local perspective. The North American Nature Photography Association has 2,000 members scattered throughout the U.S., and they often share information on local conditions.

Be prepared and flexible, so you can chase storms on short notice. Using these tricks on my eighth trip to Bryce, I photographed some of the most spectacular storm light and conditions I've ever seen there. Also, scout your destination for those great image locations.

Finding the perfect photo site before dawn in a snowstorm can be frustrating. I missed the best image of winter sunrise alpenglow on the Tetons I've ever seen because I couldn't find the right turnout in the deeply plowed snow.


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