You’ve finally arrived at a wonderful outdoor setting, but the weather isn’t cooperating. The sky is a dull grey with only a little flat light. What do you do? Scrap it and go have a beer instead? Can you actually get any good landscape photography in dull light?
Yes, you can. There are a lot of options for a landscape photographer on a cloudy day. But it’s going to make a change in how you look at things. Rather than sweeping vistas, you’re going to be successful if you start looking on a tighter scale. Switch your attention to searching for themes that stand out on their own and locations that are distinct from the rest of the environment.
What I mean is that on a grey day, you won’t be able to take advantage of the contrast created by a bold natural light. Instead, you will need to look for a strong subject that stands out from the background.
Many of these methods involve using a selective focus in your image to draw detail to a single subject. By doing this, you’ll be able to let your photography shine in even the darkest of skies.
Do a Portrait of a Lone Tree
When photographing a tree on a dark day, look for strong shapes and branches that lead away from the trunk or roots. This will allow you to use a shallow depth of field to blur out any distracting detail in the background. By using selective focus with a strong composition, you’ll be able to make even the darkest of photography venues shine.
In this image, you can see that I was able to use selective focus from a greater distance away from the tree to make it pop out even more against a dark background.
To accentuate the bark and branch texture in your photography, change your angle to include it in the foreground of your photography.
Even without strong lighting, you can look for layers in your composition. Try focusing on a subject in the near ground while using a subtle soft focus on the midground and background. This creates a gloomy feeling and makes the viewer wonder what is in the distance.
Find Textures that Pop
Find a well-textured log or patch of grasses that evokes the environment’s feeling. Even though the natural light is poor, these textures will still stand out.
You may create a sense of mystery in your photo by utilizing an abstract arrangement that allows the viewer to imagine what they see.
Create a mystical forest
Make the flat light work for you to create a mystical look in the forest. Being in the trees means you don’t have to rely on strong light to build your composition.
You can draw the viewer’s eye into your scene by using a path as a leading line. Don’t be afraid to get low down on the ground or high up on a hill if that’s what it takes to find an angle that makes for good photography.
Additionally, use fog or mist if you can, as this further blur out unwanted background distractions.
You’ll have to work harder to get separation of the elements in your composition but try using distance and the haze of a glowering day to create separation between the subject and distant background.
In the end, your composition will rely on form and texture where light and contrast are less available. Pay attention to the negative space that creates interest within your composition.
No matter the weather conditions, taking great landscape photography is always possible. You can still create beautiful landscape photography in dull light by focusing on interesting subjects and using creative composition techniques. Don’t be discouraged – get out there and experiment with your photography!
If you liked this quick tip, check out more in my Guides category.
If you are interested in other photography tips, take a look at The Zen of Rural Photography or Some Easy Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography
For more examples, see the following
Photographer Nigel Danson provides a great vid on some of these and more landscape photography techniques to try under flat lighting conditions.