There is a tendency among the uninitiated to look at cloudy and rainy weather as barriers to good, productive photography. On the contrary though, these conditions should and can be used to their advantage. Clouds bring a natural diffusion to the harsh sun and can be especially useful during the times when the sun is riding high in the sky.
Singapore, where I live, provides sun, clouds and rain in abundance with the added bonus that it is still extremely bright even when it is very overcast. In other more temperate climates overcast conditions also bring low light, not so here and around the tropics.
In the first part of this exercise I needed to take pairs of photographs. The first set in the bright sun and the second set under clouds as they drift across the sun on a windy day. After this I was to note the difference in f-stops between sunny and cloudy. This, ironically, is where my environment lets me down somewhat. Bright sun is no issue as almost everyday brings that in to my viewfinder. However, having clouds drifting in and out of shot (as per a typical British summer’s day) is not a regular occurrence. I actually hadn’t really noticed this before this exercise. The weather here is generally either bright sun or overcast brewing for a storm. In the time I have been looking for suitable conditions for this part of the exercise I have not seen a single opportunity provided to do it. If the opportunity arises I shall update this part of the blog.
I am asked to discern by using my back catalogue of images whether there are any images I have taken on cloudy days that would or could not have been better on a sunny day. This is very difficult given the subjectivity of photography. One person’s ‘better’ is another’s ‘worse’. So after some thought I found two landscapes which I think would have lost out if there had only been sun and no cloud.
From my point of view neither of these scenes would have had the impact they have without the cloud. It makes up an integral part of the image. The low lying, early morning cloud around the mountains and volcano give the depth and subtlety to the first shot. in the second I was specifically looking to capture the shaft of sunlight as it hits the moors. Clearly this would not have been possible without cloud.
The second part was considerably easier to find. Shooting in overcast conditions gives less contrast to the scene, making shadows very soft with less discernible outlines to objects. I needed objects with good texture (that we,the viewer, understand to have notable texture) and some strong colour to photograph, to show how the overcast nature of the light softens the textures and outlines. It also accentuates the strong colour due to the camera not having to struggle with a high dynamic range (this also applies to the softening of the textures).
For the third part of the exercise I needed to actually shoot in the rain. The rain can put some photographers off taking photos while actually it is quite a good opportunity to get some images which are a little out of the norm. Indeed one Singaporean photographer actually goes out of his way to get shots of people running in the rain. Danny Santos uses the Orchard Rd area of Singapore to lie in wait for people getting caught in the rain and their reaction to it. He produces some great and unexpected images, one of which is below.
I waited for a suitably wet day and took some myself.
In the first two images I have zoomed in on the subjects and used a fast shutter speed. This has the action of compressing and freezing the raindrops so the viewer can see them. I have also used the zoom in the second image to isolate the subject. This is also another feature of the rain as isolation occurs quite naturally after everyone has scattered to shelter from the downpour.
It is interesting to to note in this reflection of an office block the depth of focus. The surface of the puddle and the ground underneath are out of focus.
This a quite a wide shot and the rain can be seen on the water’s surface but not in the sky. The overcast sky gives extra saturation to the green in the image, offset against the brown, dull river water and wood.
In summary I would say that shooting in all types of weather is an imperative to the progression and understanding of light, colour and photography in general. Variety gives unexpected results and can introduce new techniques and ideas as well as keeping the photographic mind fresh.