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Shooting in Hazy, Grey, Overcast conditions - How to

James Bennett , Apr 26, 2006; 01:03 p.m.

Hi all,

I'll be making my second trip to Beijing next week, and I'd like to be prepared for shooting in the sometimes cloudy/hazy/overcast conditions, especially in the city.

My first trip to Beijing was 2 years ago, and it was the reason I bought my D70 then. I have some beautiful shots, however I also have alot of shots which lost alot of their impact because of grey, hazy, skys with no definition (especially in of Forbidden City).

For the upcoming trip I've picked up a circular polarizer, as well as a ND8 Grad. filter, however I'm looking for tips and techniques on shooting in grey conditions.

All comments and suggestions welcomed!

Sean.

Responses

Dave Nelson - Atlanta, GA , Apr 26, 2006; 02:30 p.m.

Wow, that sounds like a great photo op.

For low light you may want the fastest lens you can get. 2.8, 1.8, 1.2 would all be good choices.

For days that the sky is just a bright but boring gray I find all my best pictures are of details instead of panoramic scenes with lots of sky and ground. Hazy days are great for people, pets, statues, plants, etc. pictures where the subject can fill most of the frame with nice soft shadows and eyes wide open.

Kevin Conville , Apr 26, 2006; 05:06 p.m.

Good advice from Dave. Focus (no pun intended) on details, people. For those landscape shots, try to frame w/o the sky and use that pol. filter

js bc , Apr 27, 2006; 12:15 a.m.

polarizer judicial use of flash? B&W

Ted Marcus , Apr 27, 2006; 02:05 p.m.

It seems that whenever I travel, Nature presents me with leaden, elephant-gray overcast. I used to be very frustrated with that situation because, as you note, it makes the sort of photographs I expected to take nearly impossible.

I eventually decided not to let frustration about overcast (or concern about it) damage my health and shorten my life. Instead, I have learned to see it as a gift meant to inspire and expand my creativity. So the first thing to do is to forget about traditional "pretty" landscapes. You'll just get upset when you see the dull results. Go ahead and take them anyway if you must, knowing that they're destined for the trashcan where they properly belong.

Then change your focus completely (literally and figuratively). Avoid entirely that dull gray sky, or that bright white sky that tricks your meter into overexposing everything else. Find details and frame them tightly. Work to capture the mysterious mood and the soft, deliciously sensuous pastel tones that come from "Nature's softbox." Express your own feelings about the fog and haze, whether that means "romantic," "dreamlike," or even "depresing." Seek out splashes of intense color that intrude on the gray palette. Shoot flowers and portraits, subjects that the smooth, shadowless light of an overcast sky flatters uniquely and beautifully.

In short, don't fight the overcast. Be grateful for the blessings of an overcast sky, and use your creativity to exploit the blessing to its fullest. You won't get the shots you expect, but you have an opportunity to get images that are every bit as fulfilling-- and possibly more so because you've used the opportunity to see the place in a different way. It's all a matter of attitude. The glass is neither half-empty nor half-full, but twice as big as it needs to be.

Thomas Sullivan , Apr 27, 2006; 02:24 p.m.

ditto what Ted Marcus said....forget taking pics OF gray skies and just use the fantastic difused light on subjects below sky level. Whites don't get as burned out, shadows open up with tons of detail. And with digital just use the WB cloudy setting (or custom settings) to get rid of the tendancy to shift to blue........or, just shoot in RAW and fix it in the raw converter.

I live in Southern New Jersey, USA and believe me, we get out fair share of gray overcast skies.......polarizers don't help with the sky, NDs just make the gray darker...neither of them help put any detail in the solid gray mass. Now a polarizer used to kill the reflective surface of leaves is still a good idea....gives richer greens...but no help on the actual sky.

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