light # 7 – cloudy weather and rain


An overcast afternoon, looking towards Clapton

“For the first part of this exercise you will photograph the same view in sunlight and under cloud. You can do this at different times or on different days, but the easiest time is on a day when individual clouds are drifting across the sun. If it is windy, so much the better, as the light will change more rapidly. Choose two or three different subjects, such as a building, a person, and a street scene. Note the difference in exposures. Keep the white balance set to sunlight/daylight.”

– AoP Coursebook

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

The sunny shots are in the top row; the pictures taken under cloud are below. The two view shots have very nearly the same EV (there is about half a stops difference between both pairs) but the pictures of James are separated by a whole two stops. The real difference, I think between all three pairs is in how contrasty they are and the way colour is rendered. The sunny shots have strong shadows and the colour is – if not simply “warmer” – less blue; the two shade landscapes are “flatter” (or less broken up with shadow) than their sunny counterparts, but the portrait is more flattering, with less shadowed eyes and softer shadows around the cheeks.

“For the second part of the exercise take three photographs outdoors, on an overcast day, that make good use of the enveloping, shadowless light. Look for some detail that has pronounced relief, such as the gnarled roots of an old tree. Also, look for an object with a strong colour.”

– AoP Coursebook

Lea Bridge Road, tottering between Leyton and Walthamstow

All three of these work, but the one I really like is the first one, of Lea Bridge Station, which has been shut since 1985, but is due to reopen later this year. It’s not so much the history/future I like though, but rather the verticals and horizontals and the faded/lightened colours of the red and white barrier by the road. The colour in the third picture seems vivid in comparison with the greyness of the paving and the metal shutter over the door, but still is weaker and lighter than it would be, slightly underexposed in strong sunlight.

“For the third part of the exercise, you will need rain. If most people feel that dull weather is less than ideal for photography, rain is normally thought to be quite unsuitable. This is when photography usually stops altogether. But why should it? Most cameras can stand a little wetting, and rain only means some discomfort. More to the point, rain can produce interesting visual effects: glistening pavements, lots of reflections, patterns of raindrops on glass, ringlets as rain strikes water, a misty appearance to landscapes, and so on. A rainbow is a special bonus.”

– AoP Coursebook

Rain, E17 and E10

They all do versions of what the course book say they’ll do. Wetness makes everything more prone to reflection and so more shiny (more contrast in things that normally have a matt, flat surface, like roof slates or leaves); colours desaturate at a distance, but can become vivid if they have plenty of low-contrast light to reflect. The water in the atmosphere does create a misty effect in the distance. I like photos in the rain; it feels like home, somehow…

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