Photographs of blizzards and heavy storms captivate the eye and stir the imagination. Learn how these experienced photographers brave the elements to capture stunning images of dangerous weather.

Ansel Adams reportedly said, “Bad weather makes for good photography.” True enough, he produced some of his most recognizable images in snow, rain, and wind. Weather we consider frightening and ghastly in person can become majestic and awe-inspiring in photographs. Stormy skies, dense fog, and roiling seas were trademarks of the Romantic era for this reason.

Still, as any photographer knows, cameras and storms can be a dangerous combination. A simple mistake can mean getting stuck in the cold, frozen and wet, with a ruined lens and little to show for your efforts. We asked eight photographers, ranging from landscape lovers to storm chasers, to tell us how to find beautiful moments in all kinds of brutal weather.

1. “Planning ahead and familiarizing yourself with the weather forecast and the potential hazards of the day is paramount.”

Todd Shoemake

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Plan Ahead

Image by Todd Shoemake. Gear: Nikon D80 camera, 18-55mm lens. Settings: Focal length 45mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f9; ISO 800.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This unforgettable day (May 31, 2010) featured a cyclic supercell thunderstorm that developed in southeastern Colorado and drifted into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Over its long lifecycle, this one storm produced four tornadoes, the strongest being an EF-2 rated (110-137 mph winds) tornado. I took this particular image as the aforementioned strongest tornado crossed U.S. Highway 385 near Campo, Colorado. Large hailstones (between the size of quarters and ping pong balls) were falling during the capture of this image. Fortunately, no injuries or fatalities occurred, but my SUV did endure some substantial hail damage.

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Follow Weather Forecasts Closely

Image by Todd Shoemake.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting in “bad” weather?

Weather safety cannot be stressed enough. Severe winds, large hail, flooding, deadly lighting, and even tornadoes are all potential weather hazards that can be encountered while storm chasing. Planning ahead and familiarizing yourself with the weather forecast and the potential hazards of the day is paramount. No nature, landscape, or other outdoor photographer should ever venture into the elements without first checking the forecast through the National Weather Service website or the equivalent for your specific country.

Also, knowing when to back off can be a potential lifesaver. Often, just putting some distance between myself and the storm is my best safety precaution, and I can compensate for the distance with a longer lens. Know when to take shelter in your vehicle or a sturdy building. If I’m shooting lightning storms, I will often use a window mounted tripod for my vehicle, as it is an effective tool that allows me to shoot safely from my vehicle and avoid being struck by lightning. No shot is worth your life.

2. “When there is extremely heavy snow, it is important to protect the camera body and lens from moisture.”

Sokolenko (Viktoria Ivanets)

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Protect Your Camera from Moisture

Image by Sokolenko (Viktoria Ivanets). Gear: Canon EOS 7D camera, Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens. Settings: Focal length 40mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f3.5; ISO 160.

What’s the story behind this photo?

When I saw a strong snowstorm in the weather forecast, I immediately thought that I should try to shoot it. Before this, I had no experience shooting in such difficult conditions, and therefore all I thought to do was to cover the camera body and lens with a cotton towel during the shoot.

That day, the streets became empty quickly because the weather was so harsh. The snow was strong and gusty, and I had to wrap myself up so that only my eyes were visible. The storm was so strong that when I opened my backpack to take out my camera, my eyes blurred with snow and my mittens became wet. But I was so interested in the process and the desolation of the streets that I wanted to continue to photograph, although the fear that the camera and lens would get wet and spoiled was real enough. But everything worked out! When I came home, I put the camera in a warm place and did not turn it on for three hours.

Pictured: [1] Sokolenko (Viktoria Ivanets). [2] Sokolenko (Viktoria Ivanets).

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting in “bad” weather?

Since the camera body is susceptible to condensation due to temperature differences, I do not hide my camera in a warm place during the shoot. When there is extremely heavy snow, it is important to protect the camera body and lens from moisture. On the occasion mentioned above, I got a set of cotton towels from home and wiped the melting snow from the camera and lens after every few shots. It is also important to think carefully about warm clothes.

3. “For shooting in snow or rain, use only a waterproof camera and lens.”

Scharfsinn (Evgeny Gerasimov)

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Check Your Equipment

Image by Scharfsinn (Evgeny Gerasimov). Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, Canon EF 70-200 4L IS USM lens. Settings: Focal length 150mm; exposure 1/800 sec; f4; ISO 640.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This winter, we traveled to Europe by car. We encountered a heavy snowfall right on the road. These were very difficult conditions for driving, but we were able to make some interesting shots.

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Experiment with Your Images

Image by Scharfsinn (Evgeny Gerasimov).

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting in “bad” weather?

Bad weather can be a threat to your equipment. For shooting in snow or rain, use only a waterproof camera and lens. If you do not have waterproof equipment, you can use a supermarket bag or any other waterproof material to protect the camera. Use a lens hood so that the lens remains clean, but remember that sometimes a few drops on the lens can give a special effect. Experiment.

If you are shooting in the cold, always put your camera in a backpack or bag when returning to a heated area, and do not remove it for several hours to avoid condensation. You can remove the memory card in advance to immediately start working with the photos. Check your tripod before using it in frost. Its plastic parts can become brittle and break. Wear warm clothes. Pay special attention to shoes. Legs freeze the fastest. The coldest temperature at which I photographed was -40С, and winter boots with a thick sole saved me.

4. “Let someone know where you’re heading and when you’ll be back.”

Duncan Andison

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Let Someone Know Where You'll Be

Image by Duncan Andison. Gear: Sony A7rii camera, Sony FE 16-35 F4 lens. Settings: Focal length 16mm; exposure 1/640 sec; f8; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

We were in the Cairngorms. It was a bright, sunny day, but the wind was very strong, and there was severe wind chill on the summits. It was a day for moving fast, and there was no time to hang around. I spent most of the time running ahead or alongside while trying to keep as low as possible to ensure the sun would be behind the hiker. The route was relatively straightforward but covered about ten to twelve miles and 1100 meters of ascent. It was just another day at the office, spent moving fast, feeling the bite of the weather, and taking in the incredible views.

Pictured: [1] Duncan Andison. [2] Duncan Andison. [3] Duncan Andison.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting in “bad” weather?

Check weather forecasts before heading out, and avoid any high risk areas. Know your route and never rely on one device, electronic or otherwise. Let someone know where you’re heading and when you’ll be back. Carry a first aid kit, painkillers, etc. Be self sufficient and don’t rely on others to come and help you. Don’t skimp on boots; they’re the one item that can make or break your mood and ability to get up and down safely. You’ll need good clothing to keep the weather out. Plus, a comfortable backpack, approximately 35-40L in size. Use two cameras to avoid changing lenses. Saving weight with mirrorless cameras makes it easier to carry two. Finally, always be prepared to turn back. Know your limits and push them, but don’t break them.

5. “We always have two escape routes planned before even attempting to get out and take any photos…”

Cammie Czuchnicki

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Safety Comes First

Image by Cammie Czuchnicki. Gear: Nikon D610 camera, 4-24mm Nikon lens. Settings: Focal length 14mm; exposure 1/40 sec; f2.8; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This was a slow-moving storm we chased in Leoti, Kansas, in May 2016, and it is by far one of the most photogenic storms we’ve ever seen. We tracked it across the Plains of Kansas from late afternoon until dusk. One tornado was reported from it, and the structure was incredible, especially as the sun began to set. The wind and rain were so strong.

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Plan Escape Routes

Image by Cammie Czuchnicki.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting in “bad” weather?

We have our GPS location integrated within our radar feed, which allows us to always be aware of our position in relation to the storm. We always have two escape routes planned before even attempting to get out and take any photos; however, safely positioning ourselves to take photos is often a challenge. Apart from the tornadoes themselves, setting up shots in an area safe from lightning and giant hailstones requires good awareness of exactly what is happening. You can learn more at our website.

6. “All photographers should be careful; our health is the most important thing.”

Petr Monty (Montypeter)

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Wear Proper Clothing for the Weather

Image by Petr Monty (Montypeter). Gear: Nikon D7200 camera, Tamron 70.00-300.00mm f/4.0-5.6 lens. Settings: Focal length 185.00mm; exposure 1/20 sec; f5.0; ISO 640.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Despite the bad weather, I went for a walk with my wife and our little daughter. I had bought a new lens, so I was looking forward to taking some photos. The weather was really bad, and on our way home, and I tried a couple of shots of the nearby road.

Pictured: [1] Petr Monty (Montypeter). [2] Petr Monty (Montypeter). [3] Petr Monty (Montypeter).

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting in “bad” weather?

Bad weather is not a barrier for good photos. If all photographers worked only on beautiful, sunny days, it would be boring. All photographers should be careful; our health is the most important thing. Proper outdoor clothes are necessary in bad weather. I would also like to warn everyone to watch their equipment. Bad weather can destroy it.

7. “If it is very cold, it will not be possible to warm up with the camera in a warm place because the camera will instantly mist up.”

Alex Kich

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Prepare and Use the Right Equipment

Image by Alex Kich. Gear: Canon 5D mark 4 camera, Canon 85mm 1.8f lens. Settings: Exposure 1/400 sec; f3.2; ISO 1250.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo was taken during a sharp change in the weather. The snowflakes were large and heavy, and they beautifully decorated the trees. These two sisters went for a walk in the park.

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Consider the Lighting and Time of Day

Image by Alex Kich.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting in “bad” weather?

For starters, I always prepare my equipment for shooting under specific weather conditions. If the shoot takes place during snowfall or rain, I take a cellophane package in my backpack and simply place the camera with the lens inside, leaving only the front part of the lens outside. This protects the camera during a blizzard.

It is also extremely important for photographers to prepare with clothes. There is no guarantee that a successful shot will happen quickly, and it may be necessary to be outdoors for a long time. If it is very cold, it will not be possible to warm up with the camera in a warm place because the camera will instantly mist up. As for the time of day, it is better to work in the morning, when the light is reflected in snowy surfaces.

8. “As a reminder, stay safe and don’t take photos while driving.”

Sundry Photography

8 Photographers on How to Take Good Photos in Bad Weather — Practice Safety First and Foremost

Image by Sundry Photography. Gear: Sony Alpha a6000 camera, Sony E 35mm F1.8 OSS lens. Settings: Exposure 1/50 sec; f4.5; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

At the time of this photo, it was really pouring, and at one moment, I was even afraid that the roads would flood. Fortunately, I managed to get to this lake and park the car close to the shoreline, where I took some interesting shots through the windshield. It helped that I knew the place and that I was the only one there. For that reason, I could move the car around and try different angles.

Pictured: [1] Sundry Photography. [2] Sundry Photography.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting in “bad” weather?

I always have my camera with me in less-than-perfect weather conditions such as fog and rain. In these instances, I try to always stay alert and look for interesting subjects, even if I’m just driving to the grocery store. As a reminder, stay safe and don’t take photos while driving.

Top Image by Duncan Andison.