Saturday, 8 June 2013

Exercise: Cloudy weather and rain

This exercise looks at the way light changes from clear sunny days through to overcast days and the impact on the image. Many years ago, when I first started taking photographs, the general advice was only to take photographs on sunny days.  This has changed somewhat and photography has become an all weather activity.

Successful photographs do not need to happen just in bright sunlight, in fact that could be detrimental to the result as contrast is likely to be high, the dynamic range of the subject is likely to outside of that which can be successfully captured by the sensor.  When there is a thin layer of cloud, this acts as a giant diffuser or light tent, so whilst  there may not be any shadows and texture may not be as visible, it will be possible to see greater detail which would otherwise be blocked out by the shadows.

There are three parts to this section:

  • the same scene in sunlight and cloud;
  • overcast; and
  • rain
Sunlight and cloud

Here I took advantage of fast moving clouds to capture the same scene under both sunlit and cloudy conditions.  Throughout, the WB was set to daylight.
Top:  Sunlight, ISO 200, f/16, 1/125 sec
Bottom:  Cloud, ISO 200, f/11, 1/125 sec
In the above pair, showing the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and though there is only one stop difference in exposure, the colour difference is quite marked showing a blue tint to the image.
Left: Sunlight, ISO 100, f/8, 1/250 sec
Right:  Cloud, ISO 100, f/8, 1/90 sec
Again, there is a distinct blueness to the photograph taken in cloudy conditions, with nearly a two stop difference in exposure.
Left:  Sunlight, ISO 100, f/11, 1/250 sec
Right:  Cloud, ISO 100, f/11, 1/60 sec
Photographed in the courtyard in Somerset House, the neutral colour of the stone shows a marked blueness in cloud.  I found it quite a startling change which really was not apparent to me as I took the photograph.  The cloud cover was denser than in the previous photographs in this section and this is reflected in the greater difference in exposure of a full two stops.

In this pair, whilst the sunlight provides the right conditions to show texture, clouds remove this contrast and the strong shadows, revealing more detail in the statue.  This is very much the case in such conditions, as will be further shown in the next section dealing with overcast skies.

Overcast skies

Turning to cloudy and overcast conditions, I consider these to as though there is a huge diffuser between me, the subject and the sun, acting much like a light tent.  The brief calls for three photographs which make use of the shadowless light.  The following photographs demonstrate this.
ISO 400, f/9.5, 1/125 sec
This photograph would have been very difficult to take in full sunshine, with so much gloss varnish!  Here the richness of the colours really show through with minimal reflections.
ISO 400, f/8, 1/60 sec
In this shadowless light, the real detail in this statue and the stonework can be seen.  The subtle green moss / colouring is seen at its best.
ISO 200, f/8, 1/125 sec
Here, again, all the subtle colours of the stones can be seen, as well as the detail of the roots.  It is very likely that in full sunshine, whilst displaying texture the subtlety of the colours and the detail would be lost.


Generally hated by photographers, after all cameras are not really waterproof, but this can provide plenty of opportunity, not only during the rain, but also after, looking at reflections in puddles and raindrops on surfaces.
ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/180 sec
Stoically enduring the rain, a lone spectator protects her 'territory' at an airshow in early May.  Only in Britain!
ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/80 sec
An abstract effect created by lights shining through a car window during a downpour.  Definitely an opportunistic shot!
ISO 200, f/16, 1/50 sec
 Chairs drying out after a downpour.
ISO 800, f/16, 1/60 sec
A sense of urgency in those legs!

In summary, this was a fun exercise, though finding rain at the right time proved difficult.  From this I have come away with knowing the way colour changes in a cloudy sky, how colours become more saturated in overcast skies and the opportunities there are to be had when it's raining!

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