Landscape photography like all kind of outdoor photography is reliant on the weather. Great conditions will enhance your chances of being able to take a great photo. But as anyone who is interested in landscape photography has discovered, for every day that you get great weather, there are plenty of days where you are faced with overcast conditions and flat light. So what do you do on these kinds of days? You can either head inside and wait for better conditions or you could keep taking photos. You may have to try a little harder to capture great photos but you may just be surprised by the results. To help you here are a few tips that you could try out.
Filters (along with a tripod) are by far the most important accessory that I carry with me. In great conditions, they are invaluable in helping you achieve the photos that you want to capture. But they can be equally useful in overcast conditions. The big problem when trying to photograph landscapes in overcast conditions is trying to make them interesting enough for the viewer. The flat light makes scenes seem uninteresting and colours muted. Filters can give you some creative options in these scenarios. For example, by using a graduated filter you may be able to pull out some shades of grey in the clouds. This can make your sky seem a little more interesting than just the same colour all over.
Another option is to use a neutral density filter to be able to take long exposure shots. Take a shot at several seconds and you might capture the movement of the clouds, people, cars and water. This sense of movement and motion can make your image more interesting. There are also other creative filters such as mist filters, coloured filters and more that you can use to bring to life a mundane scene.
One of the best innovations of the last few years for photographers has been drones. These now offer opportunities to photograph places in ways never before possible. They are also useful to use when you have overcast conditions as you can focus the attention on looking down rather than up. The obvious way to do this is to be directly over the subject so that you are looking down on it. But you can also position your drone so that you are capturing more of the ground and less of the sky. Because you are higher up this is easier to do but also more interesting for the viewer. Your angle of view is creating the interest so can worry less about the light in the scene.
Go black and white
The lack of colour and light means most landscape scene will look fairly muted. So one way to combat this issue is to convert your photo to black and white and changing the importance to contrasts rather than colours. Black and white photos on overcast days can look very good, but they do still need the same level of attention as colour photography. Try to take the photo with black and white in mind rather than just taking a photo and then later deciding to convert it. Look for interesting textures, patterns, lines and shapes to bring your black and white photos to life. Your subject and the composition becomes even more important in black and white photography, so take your time and really think about the shot before taking it.
Find the right treatment
There are times that you can still have a colour photo but just need to treat it differently in post-production. You need to accept the conditions you are working with and tweak your photo to match the scene. For example, if your scene is lacking colour and contrast, dull the colours down even more to just off white. This can give a nice surreal feel to the image. Or alternatively, if you have got a blanket of white cloud, crop your image down so that you are making more of the foreground. You may also add things like vignettes to make even more of the moody conditions.
Do something creative
Another option to you for photographing a landscape in poor conditions is to try and do something different. For example, if you have a pet you could take a photo looking through their legs. Or if you are travelling with a companion you could ask them to put on a colourful pair of wellies or clothes to stand out in the muted scene. You could also try zooming in or out slightly as the camera is taking a shot for a but wonderful effect. There is also a technique called tilt and shift (which is achieved naturally by using tilt and shift lenses) whereby you can mimic the effect of a miniature model scene. You’ll need something which will be your main point of interest like a person or a building. By blurring the image apart from a strip or a circular area on your point of interest, it will look unusually small in the scene. Almost like you are looking at a miniature scene.
There are plenty more techniques and styles you can try, so don’t be afraid to try something different, you never know, the result might surprise you.
Ultimately though, nothing will replace great conditions. Whether that is a beautiful light, a dramatic sunset or even some moody storm clouds, these will give you the best photos. But these conditions don’t always happen and sometimes you have to make the best of what you are given. When that happens use the tips above to see if you can come up with a great landscape photo, even in poor conditions.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.