Photographers, from hobbyists to professionals, will learn that weather conditions are essential for getting certain shots. For sunrise and sunset, you want just enough clouds in the right location of the sky so that the sun can light them up with colour. The requirements don’t just end there, though. You might want the clouds to be at a certain height, moving in a particular direction at a specific speed, etc. Photographers can be picky and demanding. Sometimes you have the free time, a camping site booked, or some other reason that you are going to go out – and it’s going to be in questionable weather. For myself, there have been quite a few adventures for Milky Way where I had the time, the location and Milky Way alignment so I decided to take a chance.

Clouds rushing around Mount Patterson obscuring the Milky Way and stars
Long exposure taken as the clouds rush by the Milky Way

Here is some of what you might go through on a night with questionable weather.


It can’t be that bad. You have the time to shoot; there must be clear skies even for thirty minutes somewhere! If you can, you check all your weather apps multiple times. If they are all conflicting, you recheck them all again in hopes that you missed something. Also, the forecasts are wrong a lot anyway – they must be wrong this time. It’s going to be okay.


You curse at the clouds. You swear at the weather. Perhaps you even berate yourself for your choice of location – there were probably clear skies two hours away in the other direction, but now you’ll never make it in time. If you went off the grid, you get mad at yourself for not staying somewhere that you could check the weather repeatedly.


The sadness overtakes you. Your location choice could have been the perfect spot and the perfect time. Nothing ever works out the way you want. The clouds are out to get you and ruin the thing you love the most. There is no point, and you should give up forever.


You start talking to the clouds and whatever (fake) weather gods you can think of. You just want a few minutes where the Milky Way core is not obscured. All your gear is ready and set up, and it wouldn’t take you long just to get that one shot. Your mind entertains the thought of a sacrifice to the weather gods as you stare at the friend you invited on this depressing adventure. Or perhaps you consider less drastic ideas like doing some sort of anti-cloud dance.

Blue hour at Berg lake with Mount Robson reflecting in the water
It looks so promising! The Milky Way will move past Mount Robson and the clouds are few.
Cloud obscure the Milky Way during questionable weather
Just kidding! All the clouds.


As your shooting window diminishes, you begin to accept that you won’t get your shot. The skies just won’t cooperate. You’ve left your camera running on a time-lapse just in case you could catch that one moment where the stars shine through enough. There is always another day, or next month or next year.

It doesn’t always end poorly when you go out not really knowing what you are going to get. If you don’t go out, you’ll definitely get nothing. Sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised by what the skies can deliver.

Misty night at Emerald Lake Lodge with Milky Way, Yoho National Park - Monika Deviat
It was cloudy at Lake Louise and in Field and looked hopeless, but at Emerald Lake the fog was just perfect! Potentially a once in a lifetime shot.

If you’d like to learn about night photography or improve your techniques, join me for a workshop. You’ll be ready to go with your camera even if the weather lets you down!

September 21, 2019 – The World at Night with the Camera Store
September 26-29, 2019 – Shoot Till You Drop: Waterton with Joe Desjardins