Good shots in low light
Taking regular photographs in natural light is not difficult to notice that truly good light (not plentiful, namely good) is a disappointingly rare phenomenon. Let’s be honest: beautiful lighting lasts no more than a couple of hours a day, and then on condition that you are lucky with the weather. Every photographer who shoots mostly in the fresh air knows how important it is to choose the right time for shooting and how long sometimes you have to wait for suitable weather conditions. Unfortunately, this is practically the only reliable way to create any outstanding landscape photographs: first you explore a potentially photogenic place, and then for a long time and persistently try to find it in the most favorable light. Sometimes we are lucky, and circumstances immediately develop in the best way, and sometimes the wait can last for years. The trouble is that far from always you have the opportunity to return to an interesting location again and again. It’s good if you live nearby. But what if you, traveling with a group in some beautiful places, saw something worth shooting, but the light, as luck would have it, leaves much to be desired? In most cases, no one will agree to stop for the sake of your whim and wait for favorable conditions for shooting, despite the fact that you may not have another chance to be in this place. Is it a shame? Not that word. But do not lose heart. I will tell you about some simple tricks that, although they will not allow you to forget about the differences between good and bad light, but at least will not allow you to return home empty-handed.
First of all, we will decide what we consider to be a bad light. We are not talking about a lack of light. Just the same weak light is sometimes very beautiful – take a tripod and take it off. By poor lighting, I mean situations where the amount of light is quite satisfactory to us, but its quality causes certain complaints. Those. technically, shooting is possible, but photos with annoying tenacity turn out pretty dull. There are, by and large, two such situations: the sky covered with clouds and the bright midday sun. Both situations are unpleasant in their own way, but at the same time, none of them is an insurmountable obstacle to successful photography. Consider them in more detail.
For a temperate continental climate, cloudiness is more a norm than a deviation from it. For example, in Belarus, for more than half of the days in a year, the sky is covered with clouds, and if the summer can still be more or less sunny, then a dozen clear days rarely come over the winter. There is nothing to say about the northwestern regions of Russia – there the sun is shown only on holidays and then with great reluctance. Does this mean that most of the year is unsuitable for photography? Not at all. A good photographer doesn’t get in the way – you just have to show a little zeal.
Watch the sky
The sky is usually the most curious element of the landscape in cloudy weather. Not only is the sky covered with whitish clouds in itself not too aesthetically pleasing, it also creates difficulties with exposure. Being much brighter than the landscape itself, the cloudy sky forces you to resort to one of two extremes: either expose in the sky, strongly lacking landscape, or expose in the landscape and get inevitable clipping in the sky. Worst of all, when in the frame there is a lake or river. In this case, the faded sky and its reflection occupy most of the picture, causing longing and hypochondria for the viewer.
Poor lighting example
A good example of bad photography
The problem is solved quite straightforwardly. Usually in cloudy weather I try to simply avoid getting the sky into the frame, although this greatly limits my choice of angle, and sometimes it is not at all possible. The easiest way to exclude the sky from the composition in a mountainous or hilly area. Much harder to deal with open lowland landscapes.
By the way, in cloudy weather you should not be too fond of wide-angle optics – using a telephoto lens is much easier to build a selective composition and not to inadvertently capture a piece of the sky (See also “Focal length and perspective”).
In cases where a pond is an important element of the image, you can use a polarizing filter to get rid of the whitish reflection. The water will darken, and the picture will gain some volume.
Of course, there are enough exceptions to any rule. For example, the presence of fog reduces the contrast between heaven and earth, as a result of which, the sky as it merges with the fog and looks quite organic.
Winter snowy landscapes also sometimes look very good precisely in cloudy weather, especially if the branches of the trees are densely covered with hoarfrost.
Nesvizh park in winter
In addition, there are quite frequent cases where the sky, although it is covered by clouds, but these clouds are, firstly, of a rather dark tone, and secondly, not monotonous, but create a kind of relief pattern. Such a sky usually portends rain or snowfall and looks interesting enough to be let into the frame.