February 2015 Road Trip | Grand Canyon B&Ws

The sunset on February 27th was nice, but not as epic as it could have been considering how much dramatic weather was swirling around. And just after sunset, it started snowing moderately fiercely. The Forester (stock road tires) actually slid around a bit for the very first time! (Well, on paved roads. Getting to White Pocket a year ago was a whole different ballgame!)

The next morning, waking before sunrise, it was completely dark, grey, and still lightly snowing outside.

It was also nice and warm in bed.

Get up and go, the little voice said. (Also, my wife Joy said…) Bad weather is awesome. YUP, it sure is!

The sun is “the little ball of hydrogen that could”, …and clouds, unlike ancient monuments of solid rock, are fleeting.

So, set your alarm clock. Brave the elements, I say! (Weather sealing or not!)

I think this is why my mantra as a landscape photographer is sometimes the opposite of what most people say. Here’s my way of thinking:

              Hope for the worst, and prepare for the best!

That is to say, I have found that almost all of my favorite images have been made on days when the weather was either bleak, or ominous, or at least un-predictable. So, instead of looking at the weather report before going out (you do look at the weather before you go out, right?) …and deciding to stay at home just because it might rain on your nice expensive camera, I say, go out and brave the elements, protect your gear as best you can of course, and just see what happens. Be prepared for something truly amazing to happen.  Be prepared to capture beautiful, fleeting light.

Another thing I’ve come to assume is, bad weather makes for great black & white imagery.  90% of the time, a grey, overcast morning is just not going look very exciting.  In fact, color might actually be detracting from your image’s interest.

If something in your image (including color) isn’t working FOR your image, it’s probably working AGAINST your image.

Plus, burning and dodging the heck out of a color image usually tends to just make it look like a bad HDR, whereas folks like Ansel Adams and Clyde Butcher have spent the last half-century proving that burning and dodging a B&W image is one of the greatest photographic art forms there is.

No, I’m not encouraging folks to completely obliterate every last “flat” tone in every corner of every image until there is a near-white and near-black tone everywhere.  In fact, just the opposite.  I feel that subtle, faint tonal transitions are one of the most difficult things to master, and yet one of the most beautiful and satisfying elements to see in a B&W image. Besides, a winter storm almost always involves limited visibility, and lots and lots of grey.  ;-)

Please feel free to comment if you have any questions!  (All images were made on a Nikon D750 and a Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR.)

=Matt=