Autumn is well underway and with it come Atlantic squalls and coastal storms - a great opportunity to capture some incredible images, writes David Chapman...


In Cornwall we are really well-placed to experience and photograph stormy weather, but getting a good photo of a storm depends on a fair amount of planning and careful thought.

I am always watching weather forecasts to see when a storm is imminent and when it strikes it is important to note which direction the wind is coming from. If the wind is coming from the north then it makes sense to head for the north coast, for example Godrevy, Newquay or Portreath would be good. For Porthleven a south westerly is essential.

Planning doesn’t end with wind direction. It is best to get out when the tide is high, so make a note of tide times before setting off and if the storm coincides with a high spring tide then there is even more potential for drama. Sometimes the factors for a successful shot simply don’t come together, for example if you want a shot of Portreath breakwater with waves breaking over it and high tide is late in the day then the sun will have dipped below the hill to the west, so you’ll have to wait for another storm!

So the availability and direction of sunlight is another factor to consider when planning a storm shoot. Dull, flat light doesn’t do a storm justice because the white waves lose their sparkle often merging into each other. It’s much better to have bright white waves and a dark sky, usually a feature of a day when there is sunshine and maybe showers.


When composing the photo it’s usually best to have a recognisable feature in the image so it is possible to see how big the waves are. This is one reason why lighthouses and breakwaters often make good subjects for storm photographs. Remember the basic rules of composition: don’t put the focal point in the middle of the photo, instead set it off towards one corner and fill the space with something else such as waves or a rocky foreshore.

On a practical note I would say that a tripod is an essential piece of equipment when photographing in a strong wind. I tend to hang onto my tripod to add weight to it whilst taking the photo, this also helps me stay on my feet!

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On an emotional note there is something quite moving about experiencing a ferocious storm; it makes me feel alive but also very much aware of my own mortality and insignificance. The task for a photographer is to translate some of that emotion into a final image.