Five simple methods to improve your storm damage photos

Article first published as Five Tips for Shooting Better Photos After a Hurricane on Technorati.

With weather this awesome, it’s only natural that photographers (amateur and professional) want to get some dramatic shots of the storm and its fury. From downed power lines to beached ships, there’s no lack of subject matter. But, there are a few tips that will insure you come home with better shots.

Disclaimer – if there are still gale force winds blowing outside, it’s not the right time to be out taking photos. No photo is worth having your head gashed open from wind-borne debris. Besides, if you can’t stand still to take the shot, it probably won’t be in focus anyhow. When the weather does start to calm down, you’ll have a much better chance of bringing back those dramatic shots you want.

Tip #1 – Stay away from the waves – shoot with a telephoto lens from a safe distance. It should be obvious that waves can be unexpectedly large, but I know of two photographers who crept too close and had their camera swept away when a rogue wave hit them without warning.

Tip #2 – Wrap you camera with a rain-proof jacket, covering everything but the lens glass.  A decent cover can be had from Op/Tech for $3.00 each that will cover lenses up to 18” in length. Once the electronics in your camera get wet, the shooting comes to a halt. The Op/Tech covers come two to a pack for $6.00 and you might also use the second one at the beach for blowing sand.

Tip #3 – If you are shooting stationary subject matter, not moving people or cars, shoot RAW format and shoot HDR exposure sets. Later, in post-processing, you’ll be able to bring out much more detail in the clouds, and get far more dramatic imagery.

Tip #4 – If you are shooting through a glass window or a car windshield, manually focus your lens on the subject matter instead of using auto-focus.  Auto-focus will focus on the rain drops on your window, nine times out of ten.

Tip #5 – The second part of tip #4 is to shoot with a wide lens opening like f2.8 and hold your camera against the glass to reduce the distortion from the raindrops. The shallower the depth-of-field of your lens, the less annoying the rain drops will be as they run down the glass in front of you.  The wide lens opening also gives you higher shutter speeds to stop the motion of blowing trees, etc.

Shooting smart after a storm can increase the number of keepers. Good luck.

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