Photographing the weather
13th March 2012
Our fascination with the weather in the UK is perhaps born from its unpredictability.
While Scotland is renowned for its 'dreich' weather, its natural, soft light and the ever-changing elements are often perfect for photography.
The second installment in our series of Blogs focussing on the Blipfoto community sees us speaking to Blipper Martin Shields - an award-winning photographer. Having worked in press photography for over 30 years, he's spent the last two decades at The Herald newspaper in Glasgow.
The weather plays a huge part in our daily lives, so the media takes great interest in it. For that reason, Martin's spent many a day capturing pictures to illustrate its power and beauty. Here, he shares some tips with us on how to make the most of the weather.
Rain Rain Go Away Come Again Another Day.
I feel like saying that on many an afternoon. Not just because I don't like rain, it's fine when I'm off, but at work heavy rain, high winds, deep snow, hailstones and even blistering hot days mean weather pictures.
Newspapers have a great interest in the weather. Everyone reads the forecast, watches it on TV and listens to the weather men and women telling us what we need to wear for the next couple of days.
Press photographers will record the rain pouring down on shoppers and blowing their - hopefully colourful - umbrellas inside out. I have my own spot, I go to on the corner of West Nile Street and Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, where there is a wide ledge to shelter as the street, which becomes a wind tunnel, blows the good citizens of Glasgow back the way they came.
My picture of lightning was taken from that very spot. That was an exercise in good timing and a bit of luck. Thankfully no one was zapped.
Snow is another great picture maker. The last couple of years has shown our homeland to be a winter wonderland even from space - remember that fabulous photograph of the whole of the UK covered in snow captured by Dundee University's satellite receiving station?
The snow always makes colours standout from the plain white as the picture of the woodpecker with the red tail and the wee lad with the red jacket show. The swans on the black water with the white of the banks makes a really contrasting image.
I loved this picture I took of a solitary figure crossing a frozen River Clyde in Glasgow after the city had practically shut down and many motorists were stuck in their cars for hours. I thought the head dipped down summed up the feeling of the few that returned to work.
The extreme cold can also give amazing sunsets and colours in the sky which can show up the detail in buildings.
This shot of Govan Town Hall, near the home of TV character Rab C Nesbitt, looks like downtown Istanbul with its spires pointing up into the deep red sky. I was down at the Glasgow Science Centre looking at the frozen River Clyde when I looked behind me and saw this amazing site. A 300mm lens just added to the compression of the shapes.
I enjoy using my macro setting on my compact when looking at a frosty morning. I loved this shot of the spiders web with all the frozen droplets.
Wind can be a hard thing to photograph as by its nature it's invisible. I was once asked to photograph high winds in the dark! Try explaining that wind is see-through and dark is well... dark.
The effects of wind are easier to show. Fallen trees, walls blown over and the high waves at the seaside always make good shots. However I tend to stay on the safe side and not ask members of the public to do daft things for the benefit of the camera which might put them in some danger. An angry sea can be pretty dangerous if you fall in.
During the strong winds experienecd across the UK at the start of January I was told about the roof of a block of flats in Glasgow that had blown right off and onto the smaller houses across the street. The owner of one the houses said he thought the chimney had come in. It raised a smile but the results could have been so much more deadly. The residents were very lucky indeed.
At the Herald and Evening Times newspapers in Glasgow, where I have worked for the last twenty years, we have a picture of the day on our letters page. Many of the readers send in photographs taken in a variety of locations around Scotland. Dramatic skies and snow covered peaks feature quite a lot. Feel free to share some of your Blips with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Martin recently featured in STV's programme Weatherwatch, talking to forecaster Sean Batty about photographing the weather. You can view the show here.
If you have any questions for Martin (on press photography or on capturing the weather), leave them below and he will try and answer them for you.
All pictures used in this Blog come courtesy of Martin Shields, The Herald and Times.