Working with the weather we are dealt...
As photographers we always envision (and pray for…) that perfect sunrise or sunset photo shoot with perfect cloud formations to breakup the blank skies as we wait for the sun to be at the right position and set the sky on fire. We arrive at the hangar well in advance of the optimal light in order to give ample time for getting the aircraft out and towed into position (and then the inevitable 3 or 4 repositions to adjust for the construction site or other unplanned background eye sore!!!). We check the weather starting 10 days out and then re-check its every 1-2 hours over the next 2 weeks as the percent chance of precipitation goes from 0 to 100% usually 37 times... at a minimum. Even on the ride to the airfield we are looking up at the skies to see what is going on above and starting to think of how we are going to handle the weather.
No matter how many apps we download I have yet to find one that can guarantee the accuracy of the weather forecast so we have to learn as photographers to deal with the weather we are dealt and take advantage of the fact that some “bad” weather can make for some really cool images.
If and when the weather does roll in take advantage of the soft light that the overcast skies will create. I will still often shoot at -1/3rd to 2/3rd EV and then open up the shadows in camera RAW if the underbelly of the aircraft was darker than I like. With today’s DSLR’s and even point-n-shoot cameras, bringing out that detail is real easy to do without creating a lot of “noise” in the image (and if does just use something like the luminance slide in Lightroom to knock it back down!).
The following series of images are examples of shooting with the weather we were given and making the best of an opportunity to work with some pretty amazing aircraft.
Lastly, waiting for the weather to pass often has its own advantages. The shot below of two VMFA-312 Checkerboard F/A-18 Hornets at MCAS Beaufort, SC was taken just past what would have been the golden hour one evening after an afternoon of pretty steady rain showers. We were just about to call it a night and were walking back to the vehicles from shooting touch and go operations at the airfield when fellow shooter Kent Weakley stopped us all in our tracks. The red glow of the sun well beyond the horizon was showing through breaks in the remaining cloud formations creating a very cool background. The lights from the hangar enabled us to shoot long enough exposures to bring out the colors in the sky with the only challenge being not to over expose the aircraft (creating hot spots). I placed my Nikon D800 with a Nikon 200-400mm f4 on a Really Right Stuff Ground Pod (with the BH-55 ballhead) while shooting in aperture priority with a -2 1/3 EV dialed in. I would normally have shot this in manual mode but the camera was already setup from our earlier static photo session and the crews were already walking out toward the aircraft so we didn’t have much time to capture the shot.
The moral of the story here is don't just stay in your car because the weather isn't what you had envisioned for your shoot, use what you are dealt to perhaps create a very different yet powerful image!