Make the Invisible Visible

Short of shooting roofs flying off buildings and trees ripped from the ground in a hurricane, how can you photograph wind? And why would you? As wind increases to hurricane force, the wise take shelter and let the guys in the working TV and press shoot the storm. (They presumably have health insurance provided by their employers) Images of the devastation after the wind has settled down are more dramatic and useful. (Storm images are used to advertise hurricane preparedness brochures, insurance flyers and to promote safe behavior during hurricanes or tornadoes).

The illusion of motion in a still photograph adds an exciting dimension to an image…witness the fashion ads where longhaired models look like they are standing in a wind tunnel. A high-powered fan is de rigueur for any studio that shoots models. Myself? I think the blowing hair look has been a bit overdone as an effect in fashion images.

Capturing images of the wind blowing is an elusive task. Think about it: unless the wind is actually moving something, the camera can’t tell a windy day from a calm one. A roaring wind is the easiest to shoot as trees bend into the wind and umbrellas are ripped out of hand and turned inside out as they tumble down the street.

One trick that is occasionally successful to show the effects of a breezy day is a slow shutter speed with the camera focus on trees or tall grasses moving in a light wind. Catching a kite in flight is an image that works on several levels: it demonstrates air currents, the kites are colorful and keywords such as freedom, childhood and play can also be attached to expand the usefulness of the image.

More exciting and also sometimes more challenging is to take photos of the sports that depend on air currents such as hang-gliding, parasailing, gliding in an ultra light, skydiving, hot air ballooning, wind surfing or sailing. Remember: use as long a lens as you can to get in close to the hang-glider or wind surfer to nearly fill the frame. The excitement of the sport is lost when the object is small in a field of sky or ocean.

Wind can be overwhelming in its power to destroy but it is also a source of clean energy. In some areas of the wind turbines are being included as part of the design of buildings. Kits are available for installation of wind turbines for residences here and here. Keep your eyes out for these devices which will surely become more and more popular.

When the wind slows down to a breeze, its gentle touch adds relief to a hot day at the beach. Using an electric fan as a prop gives instant recognition to the fact that it is a very hot day. Ensure that a model's hair is moving or papers are fluttering so the illusion of the fan's usefulness will be lost.

Look around you the next time you step outside into a blustery gale and take some shots of the invisible wind.

Keyword do’s: Add concept words that relate to the image such as ‘powerful’, 'destructive', 'windy', 'energy' but only if they apply. Obviously a wind turbine will be keyworded 'energy' but an image of a breezy day at the beach will not.

Keyword dont's: The wind may be howling at 80 mph when you take a photo but if your image doesn’t show anything that indicates wind, don’t keyword the image “wind” or “windy”.

Photo credits: , Christian Wheatley, Cocohibb, Carolyn Fox, Gvictoria, Joseph Campbell, Mylaphotography, Peter Elvidge.

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May 13, 2008


I often enjoy taking long exposures to show motion, and your tips here on wind are really great. I do believe wind and environment are becoming big issues and have noticed a lot of companies incorporating small turbines on company roofs as a means to show some green credentials, even though it's just a small measure! Hopefully this is the start to more commercial awareness to these issues... Many thanks :)

May 09, 2008


Thank you all for your nice compliments.

May 09, 2008


Reading your blogs is one of the best ways to learn about Dt, about photography, about keywords, etc. Thanks a lot!!!!! :)

May 09, 2008


So good.
The advice has reminded me some new methods of life recording.

May 08, 2008


Great ideas, as always! Thanks.

May 07, 2008


That sounds like an interesting assignment. Reminds me one of my favorite quotes: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye..." Well, okay. Worth to wait a windy day and go out with the camera. Thanks for the article!

May 07, 2008


great blog and good advice on keywords! thanks!

May 07, 2008


so true, thanks for the info............paul

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