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5 Hints for Turning Bad Weather into Great Images

Karyn Planett

Just as bad experiences make great stories, “bad” weather makes great, moody photos. All you have to do is figure out the light. Think of all those shots where shafts of sunlight zap down between menacing, slate-grey clouds.

It’s so Hollywood.

So just because the weather isn’t great, don’t give up on capturing some great shots. Use these tips to get the most out of a shooting day–no matter the conditions:

1.    Often the beginning and end of storms offer the richest colors with a warm sunlight against a dark sky.

2.    To add drama to your storm photos, keep the horizon low in the frame, making the dark clouds appear even more ominous. Additional objects add depth to your scene and will also put your sky into some sort of context, so include buildings, landscapes, mountains, birds, planes, whatever.

3.    Fog creates mood and a sense of quiet and gives your landscape images a surreal feeling. It’s mysterious. It shrouds everything. So if it’s a soupy day, grab your camera and fire away. First, find something immediately identifiable like a steel bridge or a lone tree and shoot it. Be sure to include something of interest in the foreground. If you don’t have a strong subject or foreground, your image will be lacking perspective and won’t have any sense of depth. Look for things that trail off into the distance, like roads and fences or even ponds, where the distant details are swallowed up by the fog.

4.    Rain is another opportunity for photographers. Start by setting your ISO between 400 and 800 with a slow shutter speed, like 1/60th of a second, to capture the falling drops. A slower shutter speed will record the rain as spiky streaks. A flash, on the other hand, will freeze the rain’s movement. And for a really dramatic effect, you can also pan down with the rain. Raindrops bouncing on the pavement also add movement. Find your background, set up, wait for someone to walk into your frame, and fire away. It’s great if your subject is fighting the rain with an inside-out umbrella or struggling with a blowing raincoat. And if it’s raining at night, go out and shoot the city streets with the reflected lights in the puddles and people scurrying from doorway to doorway.

5.    If you’re from L.A., you haven’t had a lot of practice shooting snow. So just follow a few simple tips and see how you do in this alien environment, remembering that hot cocoa is your reward. Start your ISO at 400 depending on the available light. If you want big fluffy flakes, start at 1/125th, then graduate up to 1/500th. At 1/60th, the snowflakes will start to blur. At 1/30th, they’ll start to turn into foggy streaks. Bracket, but overexposing is the way to go when it comes to snow. Meter on your hand with the light source behind you to get a starting point, then work up and down from there. If there’s a little dollop of color, use it. A fire engine red parka, a school bus yellow snowmobile, a high viz orange truck. Try panning in the direction of the snowfall, isolating individual flakes for a bit more drama. A burst of flash can literally pop a single snowflake in place, isolating it and highlighting it against a background. 

Want more travel photography and writing tips from Planett Traveler? We’ve got a whole book of them, compiled from a lifetime of traveling and capturing my experiences. Take a look at

9 Tips for Better Street Photography

Karyn Planett

Without question, this is my favorite type of photography. I love the grittiness, the bald truth of street shots, the unexpectedness. You never know what you’ll happen upon, so keep your camera ready to fire off a shot at a moment’s notice.


Just know, though, that street photography is a different animal. It’s about composition and an interesting subject, so anything that looks like a camera function will harm the authenticity of the shot. The distortions of extreme wide-angle or telephoto lenses, flashes, filters, and “effects” detract from the photojournalistic style you’re trying to create. Here are some great ideas for using discipline to capture the beautiful unpredictability:


1.    Choose the right lens. Street photography is where you want to use a lens between 35mm and 50mm. It’ll help you capture the “look” that’s closest to what your eyes are seeing.


2.    Think small and plan a manageable photography route. Don’t try to cover and photograph a whole city; it’s too overwhelming. Instead, concentrate on a small section of a street, or a corner, because that’s where street pictures happen.


3.    Put yourself in a place where there are plenty of people about, and you should be able to take a good street picture at pretty much any moment. You’ll soon develop a sense of whether a particular place is going to deliver or not. It’s a bit like getting a few bites when you’re fishing. So, if there’s a buzz, then hang around. If not, move on.


4.    You don’t want to be a distraction for your subjects, so wear dark clothes, as bright colors make you stand out. Keep your elbows in when shooting and have the camera preset.


5.    Don’t play around with exposures too much; be ready to shoot and go.


6.    If you wear the camera around your neck, keep the strap high so there’s less movement bringing the camera up to your face.


7.    Stand close to people and shoot with a small, slightly wide angle. Curiously, you look more conspicuous when you’re standing across the street. Remain unobtrusive as opposed to unseen. People become more suspicious if you try to take pictures sneakily or if you look nervous, whereas if you act as though you’re doing your job and you project a more positive demeanor, you’re less likely to encounter problems.


8.    Morning and evening are particularly nice times to shoot, especially in the summer months, as the light is more flattering.

9.    When people spot you taking a picture of them, smile. It works!



Want more travel photography and writing tips from Planett Traveler? We’ve got a whole book of them, compiled from a lifetime of traveling and capturing my experiences. Take a look at


The "Before" Photo

Karyn Planett

This wild turkey and his mates pass through our way every year about this time.  This whopper is a Meleagris gallopavo male gobbler, who we’ll call “Tom”, has approximately 5,500 feathers and weighs in at a mighty 17 pounds.  Even at that weight he can still fly to the tops of mighty oaks especially when looking for his favorite hen, or two as the case may be.  So, how come he’s our preferred meat-of-choice for Thanksgiving?  It’s said that the early Colonists to America successfully hunted these birds during the Fall of 1621, and for that they were thankful.  So, just because of that little factoid, this guy is our true American icon.  Therefore, we celebrate by eating him.  I guess we should all be thankful we’re not eating Bald Eagles!
Happy Thanksgiving  

Hemingway's Six-Toed Cats

Karyn Planett

In Key West for Thanksgiving?  Don’t pass up the chance to visit the Hemingway Home, sanctuary to a curious collection of 6-toed cats.  It’s claimed they’re descendants of a fluffy white feline named .. ahem .. Snow White that was given to Ernest, the lauded author, by a passing ship’s captain.  These cats, known as polydactyls by scientists, were known by a whole host of other names by Hemingway who named them after famous people.  That tradition still stands to this day.  Enjoy these famous little felines then head to the waterfront for a stunning sunset and a tasty sundowner.  

The French Tricolour Flies Proudly

Karyn Planett



The French flag features three bands of color … the red and blue are considered Paris’ traditional colors.  The white stripe was added to identify with the nation of France, according to Lafayette, while some historians claim it relates to the French monarchy instead.  Other theories exist about the symbolism and the religious significance but one commonly-held belief is that these colors represent the trio of components of the French motto .. "liberté, égalité, and fraternité" … "freedom, equality, and brotherhood”.  Whichever you choose to believe, believe in the resilience of the French people and their ability to rebound from the recent events in Paris.  It remains the same magnificent city I visited as a 6-year-old as well as many, many times since.


Karyn Planett

Or, 7-5-3, in English.  This is an annual Japanese festival that occurs officially November 15th every year.  On this day (or on the closest weekend), 3-year-old boys and girls, 5-year-old boys, and 7-year-old girls are taken to local Shinto shrines in traditional dress where they pray to the Shinto god of good health Ujigami.  The little girls wear kimonos.  The boys don hoary and hakama, many for the first time.  Today, though, some sport western dress instead.  The 7-year-old girls wear obi sashes for the first time rather than a plain cord.  And to reward her efforts, Asako receives special sweets making her day even more exciting.  

Iceland .. the Fire, the Ice and the Steed

Karyn Planett

Iceland did, indeed, cometh as did rain in every form .. spitting, blowing, drizzling, downpouring, dropleting, and the like for five soppy days as we explored the entire 832-mile ring-road perimeter of this island nation. The endless stream of water from the heavens above is what blesses this landscape with a color wheel of green in every hue from Lime Gatorade to Dollar Bill, Range Rover to Mojito Mint. Made even more vibrant by an obsidian-black volcanic backdrop, I definitely got my money's worth. So do moviegoers who watch Star Wars VII, Pawn Sacrifice, Burial Rites, Jupiter Ascending, Interstellar and others all filmed on location in Iceland.

Along the way I felt as if I was always poking about the tips of volcanoes and ice bergs. Volcanologists told us that Iceland is basically one honker volcano plunked down smack in the middle-ish of the Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Some experts count 130 of them that exhibit some sort of volcanic activity or relative inactivity. And who can forge the Eyjafjallajökull blast off in 2010 that was so massive it threw a proverbial wrench into flights to and from Europe for longer than an Italian vacation in August. But the granddaddy of them all was in 1783 when 1/4th of the island's population (small to begin with) perished from the Lakagígar eruption when half the island's animals died from ash, poisonous gas and famine due to habitat destruction. Some claim it even affected world temperatures resulting in crop failures as far away as India.

Well, honey, that was then and this is now and what's there to enjoy are thermal pools, face-of-the-moon landscapes, and glorious produce grown in thermal-heated greenhouses. 

Then there's the ice-blue ice that's sprinkled about the countryside and beaches, lakes and mountaintops  .. even blue bergy bits broken off from glaciers grinding and finding their way to the sea. The Ice Lagoon is sort of the vortex of it all with chunks of ice bobbing off a black sand beach against a backdrop worthy of a Mad Max 3 shoot. 

Now toss in the iconic Icelandic pony seen dotted across the meadows and valleys and you've got a destination that offers something for everyone. These furry fluff-maned, 5-gaited, stout horses pass the day in carpet-thick grass with streams of gin-clear water trickling past. Long-legged colts tag along with the herd while young males buck and bite for dominance. Up close, I discovered many had Paul-Newman-blue eyes, the same color as the ice bergs, plus the gentle demeanor of an animal with no predators. Everywhere we stopped, they trotted up winnying for a nuzzle or carrot.

Iceland promised me much and delivered even more. Again, as this is my fourth trip here, I was stunned by what can only be described as the beauty of a landscape unique in the world. My photos attempt to capture this drama, but without the sound of a pounding waterfall and pumice-like stones crunching underfoot; the smell of wet hay and wet socks; the taste of sea spray and fresh-from-the-oven rye bread with cloudberry jam; and the feel of a horse's soft nose, I just simply can't do the destination justice. Best you go there one day to discover all this on your own.

We're off to explore Eastern Greenland next on The World. You can follow our progress on this link.

And watch for our collection of Iceland photos .. coming soon.

Iceland Cometh

Karyn Planett

Greenland, too. And, like always, I’ve left too much till the last minute.

So, how do I pack for summer in the frozen north? Good question. They, those snowbunnies and mogulmuffins who know snow say, “layers, think layers”. Of what?

They say "silk". Honey, if I’m buying silk, I’m wanting something cuter than those ghastly, saggy-butt LongJohn onesies you see in survival catalogs. Seriously. A hot, asymmetrical, accordian-pleat Issey Miyake kimono is more to my style. But how will that hold up if I’m chasing the Northern Lights at midnight? Not sure. Well, I’ve gotta figure this out because I leave today.

So, angst-riddled, I begin pulling out work-out tights. That should help, I guess. I know warm socks are a must, so I’m packing cute ones with Betty Boop and stuffing my boots with footwarmers. I need cute boots that’ll grip the lose volcanic grit, stay dry if by some chance I’m forced to ford a fjord, yet scream style in front of an evening fire. I also need to pack waterproof pants in case I’m bum-deep in snow at some point. Chances are pretty good since we’re driving from Akureyri in Iceland’s north to Reykjavik in the south. Why? I’m joining friends on a photo-safari with National Geographic photographer Raul Touzon. He likes to be out the door and in place when the sun comes up and when it sets and in Iceland and Greenland, that’s something like 4:45am and 10:15pm. Look on a globe and you’ll understand why. Or ask Mr. Wizard, he’ll know.

In Greenland, we’ll be on an expedition via ship skirting up the east coast then looping south around the tip to poke about the west. For zodiacs, I’ll need waterproof everything especially for my camera gear. Thankfully I’ll be sporting my waterproof, rescue-ready bright red parka so rescuers can find me if I get lost. Oh, and my Norwegian road crew high-viz green pants and jacket with enough pockets for lenses, moisturizer and cuticle oil (it’s dry in the cold), hand sanitizer in case I touch a seal, lip gloss and waterproof mascara should there be seaspray, and a touch of sunscreen.

We'll be scrambling over jagged cliffs, standing far too close to waterfalls, dodging in and out of geyser eruptions (FYI -- "geyser" IS an Icelandic word), and hopefully hopping aboard those fuzz-fur Icelandic ponies that roam about nibbling this, nibbling that and looking for hand-outs from passing cars. We're also going to the Blue Lagoon for the thermal waters and porcelain-white mud to be rubbed on everything except your unmentionables.  And, Lake Myvatn. You should read Lynn Cox's "Swimming To Antarctica". This amazing young American also swam 7 1/2 miles in Lake Myvatn with the water a shriveling 40 degrees. I won't be doing that.

I will send updates from Akuryri, Myvatn, Breiòdalsvik, Jökulárión, Vik, and Reykjavik. In the meantime, I'd like to buy a vowel.

Journal Entry #1

Karyn Planett

What kind of traveler are you?  Hmm.  What kind of traveler am I?  Well …

I am an “out the door long before daybreak” person who photographs night fishermen hauling ashore their meager catch, bakers pulling buttery croissants from hot ovens, and school kids dawdling along in matching uniforms. I’ve eaten in no-star back-alley dives and dined properly in three-star, starched-linen, rooftop hotspots with lots of look-at-me people in designer eyewear. And I always follow the map’s green route unless I want serendipity and curiosity to be my only guides.  In that case, I throw the map away entirely.

I’ve launched this website called Planett Traveler for people who want to get more out of travel than just a vacation.

I’ve traveled all my life. Everywhere. Far beyond all the bends in all the roads.

I’ve been served tea by Balinese royalty and been shadowed by a waiflike ragamuffin Bombay girl who gave to me her only possession — a rusty little bobby pin. I’ve skimmed under the sea on a Maldives atoll drift dive and lifted high into the African skies on a hot-air balloon.  I’ve caught an offshore breeze on a wooden dhow, lumbered along on elephants and camels, and navigated many famous footpaths.  I’ve done so much … from first class to no class but feel I’ve yet to scratch the surface.

Along the way, I’ve scribbled a journal of my adventures and taken a billion photos of so many faces and faraway places.  I’m a pretty good writer, a pretty good photographer, and a great storyteller, a gift from my Dad.  I believe good fortune has paved my way.  I also believe it would be a waste not to share these impressions I’ve formed of the people I’ve met, as well as the images I’ve stumbled upon, with travelers who may never make these journeys themselves or who might be sparked to follow along.  

To achieve this goal, I know I must be able to tell a good story.  I’ve learned to do that.  And, that’s exactly what I want this website to be all about. Planett Traveler is the visual and verbal story of my life on the road, the journey that has taken me to more than 150 countries (so far).

Oh, yes, my name.  Well, some people are convinced I made it up. I didn’t. “Planett” is a German name and I’m pretty sure I’m the last Planett in America because we’re a family of weak non-breeders. Can’t imagine what our coat of arms would look like if we had one. 

Many of those same people believe my wanderlust was written in the stars due to this name and, perhaps, that’s true because it all started when I was only six years old. Dressed in something resembling a starched pinafore and black patent leather Mary Jane shoes, I clambered up the gangway of the SS Ile de France and set sail from New York to Le Havre, France … parents and nanny in tow. For four months I was a wide-eyed traveler who gazed at my reflection in Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, skimmed through Venice’s narrow canals in an obsidian black gondola, ate giant pretzels with mustard during our train stops in Germany’s Black Forest, was served mystery cheese in Switzerland’s finest hotels, and sang songs with kids in languages unfamiliar to each other. At that point, my fate was sealed. From that moment on I orchestrated an entire lifetime to keep this journey alive.

I went to college on a ship. I escorted groups of travelers all over the world, from Asia to the Middle East, Africa to South America, India to Mongolia. Sometimes by private jet, other times in trucks with oversized tires and survival gear.  I’ve designed luxury adventures for a major cruise line and written destination articles (hundreds of them) for another. After my husband retired we lived on a ship, circling the globe, for thirteen years.  He’s also a writer and photographer and, together, we began publishing books on these travels. And four summers ago, we accompanied 700 students on Semester-At-Sea’s trip around the Med.

As I wrote and photographed, I learned languages and made lifelong friends. I also discovered cultures so unfamiliar to me that I was the “alien.” In fact, I feel like I’ve had 1,000 teachers and smiled in 100 languages.

I want this website to open more doors like that not only for myself but hopefully for those who visit me here, as well.