Weather or not ?

Our British obsession with the weather is something of a cliché but photographers have very good reasons to ‘chat about the weather’.

As a child I noticed that both of my grandfathers were outside men, keen gardeners who grew their own veg. Although they liked to listen to the radio, they had their own way of telling the weather. They liked to go outside! They would look, listen and feel: looking for clouds and shadows, feeling the wind direction and temperature on their skin and hands. One lived near the sea and used the seaweed to assess the weather (a piece of seaweed becomes slimier when humidity is high apparently).

Times have changed! We now tend to look at some kind of a  screen for the weather forecast and use apps on our phone. So much choice – how do you identify something that suits you best?

There is the standard weather forecast after the news (ITV’s seems friendlier in tone …) and the week’s forecast is included in the programme Countryfile. Forecasting the weather in this context underlines its relevance as it is an important tool for farmers, just as the shipping forecast is important to fishermen. They need to know the weather conditions both to make a living and for their own safety. Similarly photographers need to be aware of the weather, though ‘good’ weather and ‘bad’ weather will mean different things to different people depending on the kind of image they are aiming to capture.

Phone Apps I use

I use the Met Office app on my phone and computer. This includes wind direction and speeds, especially useful for coastal shots as high winds can give rise to technical problems. There is a clear indication of sunrise and sunset times, and a UV forecast (do I need sun tan lotion?). Personally, I am also interested in their air pollution figures as I prefer to be somewhere where I can ‘breathe easier’ e.g. Ashdown Forest has consistently good air quality. I am a seaside kid at heart and love the fresh air. There is a ‘weather warning’ facility.

My favourite app, however, is that provided by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute which is global. This will particularly appeal to those who are very visual, as photographers are likely to be. It gives images of the current weather with clear visualisations and wind/temperature graphs. There is a ‘weather warning’ facility which can give you notice of the weather coming your way in the next 1.5 hours – this is very usefully indeed. My colleague needs to be informed of the pollen levels for health reasons and it reports on this as well. Do browse and see what you think. 

Taking the right equipment and wearing the right clothing are other factors to consider. Knowing what sort of weather you may be meeting is crucial to your preparation and planning. At its basic level this may mean not leaving your coat in the car several miles away! I have several  Paramo jackets suited to different temperatures which are comfortable and work well for me. It is worth researching to find out what suits you best and, of course, it is your choice as to ‘weather or not’ you use any of the above!


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