Grey Days? No Problem!

November 20th 2023

We all dream of that perfectly beautiful and colourful sky for sunrise or sunset…we all dream of that beautiful dappled light lighting up a scene, creating a lovely contrast and modeling the whole scene. But the reality of the situation as a landscape photographer is that it simply won’t happen every time we go outside to capture the beauty of this magnificent planet! We simply won’t have the optimal shooting condition every time.

But what shall we do when Mother Nature doesn’t want to cooperate? What can we do if the sky is boring, grey and the light is flat? Should we throw a tantrum? I’ve been there a couple time too but I firmly believe that what light we get, there is always something worthy to photograph. I will still go out and capture some images. Rain or shine, you will find me outside with my camera! I am not afraid of what most people call boring light!




FLAT LIGHT IS GORGEOUS


Here are couple reasons why I think flat light is gorgeous:

-I can shoot all day! I rarely shoot in the middle of the day when the sun is out…the light is simply too harsh! The shadows are way too defined…the dynamic range can also make some scenes really difficult to capture. Grey days will make the dynamic range of said scenes less stretched. No need to bracket as everything dynamic range wise will fit into a single exposure.

-Grey days give me the most creative freedom ever! How? Since everything will be so flat, I can edit anyway I desire. Basically, I have a blank canvas to work with…I can create my own contrasts, add volume to elements in my compositions and emphasize details.

-Grey days will always make for some pretty amazing monochromatic type of scenes which are very easy and simple for our eyes. I can even transform daytime images into night images!

Of course, Crowfoot Mountain would look even better with beautiful directional light…but one can agree that this mood isn’t all that ugly either? Right?





FOCUS ON TEXTURE


I truly love texture…and I think I can focus on texture even more on grey days! Don’t get me wrong, I will always integrate a great amount of textured elements in my foregrounds but since the light will likely be extremely flat on grey days, you will need to play your cards a little differently. You will need texture!

Pandemonium Fortress
Lake Minnewanka shores have so much potential to offer during the colder months of the year…that textured ice was creating such an impact in my foreground.




PERFECT FOR INTIMATE IMAGES!


I just finished teaching a landscape photography workshop in the Canadian Rockies and we had a couple days of snowy weather. Some would agree that those conditions are far from being optimal for landscape photography…I’d say these conditions are equally as interesting as any other type of days. You just need to see things differently! I like to focus on details such as a lonely tree or a specific part of a waterfall. Pay attention to small things…pay attention to the partition of bigger things…and you will find images everywhere! I have an article about intimate photography...CLICK HERE to read it!

There is nothing like a snow-covered scene with one single element: a lonely pine tree! It contrasts so nicely with its surroundings.





EMBRACE THE ATMOSPHERE


One thing to keep in mind is that cloudy days can also mean moody days! Clouds can bring a fair amount of atmosphere in anyone’s landscape images. Personally, I love moody days. They tell a great story, we can actually feel how Mother Nature was feeling and in what kind of mood she was in! I love fog and precipitation because it adds so much depth to any scene! Everything in the distance becomes much more diffused and will add such a magical feel to your images.

Legend of Hydra
One not wanting to capture a few images during rainy days in Norway won’t get his camera out of the bag very often…but seriously, if you aren’t satisfied with such mood, I don’t know what will! A moody image captured on a black sand beach in Lofoten. The atmosphere on that day was out of this world!




SHOOT ALL DAY…LIGHT WON’T CHANGE


On a positive note, light on cloudy days is unlikely to change fast if not at all. The struggles to capture that sunrise can be real and light can change so fast on a beautiful day that you might end up missing the moment! Well, not on a cloudy day! You can take your time, look for multiple compositions, setup your camera and keep shooting for hours! There will be no rush…there will be nothing to worry about, the light will wait for you!

Elemental Blast
That image of Lake Abraham was captured multiple hours after sunrise…in fact, I didn’t even see the sun rise on that morning. And I came back home with a dozen different images. Try to beat that on a sunny day!

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LAYERING

Atmospherical conditions will certainly add a lot of depth. Wether it is raining, snowing or foggy outside, the moisture present in the air will automatically increase the effect of layering. And since photography is a two dimensional medium…adding layers and depth to images will give a much more three dimensional look.

It was snowing at Bow Lake…I told the participants of our workshop group to focus on trees as we couldn’t see what we came here to photograph. The participants truly enjoyed capturing intimate scenes of trees like this!




BE THE STAR OF THE SHOW!


Grey day scenes will likely have a very simple colour palette which consists mostly of blue. The absence of the sun will make everything cooler…then why shouldn’t you be wearing a jacket that will contrast with the scene? The human element will not only add a great sense of scale to the scene, it can also contrast nicely with the colours present in that said scene. The complimentary colour or blue being yellow and the opposite colour of cyan being red, you can be assured that wearing a colour contrasting jacket will create a huge impact! Please remember to play it safe…a picture isn’t worth you risking your life for it! Instead of risking my life here, I chose to integrate myself into the scene with the help of Photoshop.

Adding the human element always creates a great impact and an amazing sense of scale…make sure he or she is wearing a contrasting jacket! I wanted the star of my image here but I decided to Photoshop myself into the image later instead of risking my life for a single image. Be cool and stay safe!




…IN CONCLUSION


So in conclusion, I just hope that I was able to convince you that grey days aren’t the end of the world and have inspired you to go out and shoot in what ever the condition. The sun won’t always shine for us landscape photographers…and this won’t stop me from capturing beautiful images. In fact, some of my all-time favorite images were created on grey days…so, what are you waiting for?

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