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How to Photograph the Wind

written by: Ryan C.•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/20/2009

Have you ever been outside taking pictures and been frustrated over the wind? Don't bother fighting the wind when you can photograph it! Here are some tips to photographing the wind.

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    Introduction

    Dani the Girl (#76086) by mark sebastian The opportunity to photograph the wind usually arises when you least expect it or maybe you wanted to photograph it on purpose. For me, it always seems to start blowing when I want to do a close-up macro of a flower or bug. It can be quite frustrating sometimes, so let us go over some tips on how to make the best of a situation or find new ways to approach wind photography.

    Photo by: mark sebastian

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    Stopping the Wind

    Blowin' in the Wind by zedzap 

    One way to capture the wind is to use a fast shutter speed to stop or freeze the wind. But I thought you said we weren't going to fight the wind? We aren't. We are going to stop the motion of the wind to give a desired look. This can be done, depending on the speed of the wind and your subject, using a shutter speed of something faster than 1/125 of a second. You will likely have to play with the shutter speed and ISO in accordance with your shutter speed to get the picture to look how you want it. This technique works well on capturing a breeze on plants (trees and grass), flags, freezing the motion of waves and water, or hair on a windy day for some neat portraits. A fast shutter speed allows you to get in on the action and savor the moment.

    Photo by: zedzap

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    Embracing the Wind with Slower Shutter Speeds

    Pinwheel by d'n'c 

    To get a different perspective on the wind, try using a slow shutter speed. A shutter speed greater than 1/4 a second or greater (a 5-6 seconds) can smooth the effects of the wind to give a much different look as opposed to freezing the wind. Take the picture of the pinwheel for example. By slowing down the shutter speed, it allows you to capture a nice mesh of colors and conveys motion nicely. This technique works well on large fields of flowers, trees, and bodies of water. It will give your picture a dreamy look.

    If it is a bright sunny day, and you find yourself at your lowest ISO (presumably 100) and your smallest aperture (f/22 or sometimes f/32) and you still cannot get the shutter speeds down, you may want to consider a neutral density (ND) filter. A ND filter blocks out light but does not alter the colors or appearance of the picture, hence the name neutral. A 3 or 6 stop ND filter can play double duty and allow you to smooth out waterfalls and help blur your background in outdoor portraits.

    Photo by: d'n'c

    Wind is a funny thing, you cannot see it directly, but you can certainly feel it and now know how to capture it. I hope this gives you some new ideas and ways to approach it.