A Dark and Stormy Night

I’m sitting watching sheets of rain gust past me at 50-60 miles per hour over Lago Pehoe in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Of course, I am safely ensconced in my hotel, protected from the raging gale outside. The majestic old building creaks with each blast, however, and I can hear and feel each rolling breaker of white-tipped storm-borne fury crash upon the shore. Just another day in Patagonia.

I love storms—especially when I am experiencing them safely from inside a sturdy building. Really nasty storms, like the one I am watching right now, are best enjoyed and not photographed. Before and after a storm, however, when the clouds begin to gather or break—at these times great photographs can be made.

I’ve been leading my Epic Patagonia workshop (along with Richard Bernabe) for the past eight days, and dramatic stormy light has been an almost daily occurance. Luckily, we have managed to escape really bad inclement weather until today (our first truly rainy day of the workshop). So far, we’ve mostly benefited from exceptional storm light, and made some moody and colorful images along the way.

Last night, a storm was breaking over the mountains at sunset (paving the way for today’s nasty gale, or so it seems). The light never exploded across the sky, but rather painted some high clouds with pastel colors. While many of the workshop participants were hoping for the clouds to kindle with fiery reds and oranges, I prefered the softer, moodier conditions. The clouds had character and definition, creating sweeping and dramatic shapes, and I enjoyed the stormy darkness.

The final ingredient involved waiting for the right waves to fill the space in the foreground with shapes and tones that related to the rest of the image. The wind, which has been pounding us for the past few days, did not disappoint, and I didn’t have to wait long to get what I was looking for.

Stormy conditions can often be difficult and challenging to work in. Sometimes you might wish you were back in the hotel sipping wine by the lobby fire rather than getting tossed about by the wind. Just remember—that wine and fire will still be there when you get back from your photo shoot, except that you’ll be enjoying a few hard-earned wall hangers as well.

"Storm over Pehoe" by Ian Plant

Lago Pehoe, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (Patagonia). Canon 5DII, 24mm, ISO 400, f/11. 0.3 seconds. 

Ian Plant

Author: Ian Plant

World-renowned professional photographer, writer, and adventurer Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to and blogger for Outdoor Photographer Magazine, a Contributing Editor to Popular Photography Magazine, a monthly columnist for Landscape Photography Magazine, and a Tamron Image Master. Ian is also the author of numerous books and instructional videos. Ian leads photography workshops and tours around the world to help beginner and advanced photographers explore and expand their personal vision.

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