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Bad Light? No Such Thing

Is there such thing as perfect light? Some might say no. In my books, there is no bad light, only variations of light

There is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. Obviously this is referring to people who don’t want or don’t like going out, unless the weather is lovely. In the photographic circles, however, this should translate to ‘There is no such thing as bad light, only variations of light’.

To us landscape photographers, good weather usually means good light and especially good light around the golden hours. But, what happens outside the golden hours? Do we not make any images because the light is not at its best? Do we just wait for the weather to get better again? That could take a while if you live in a country like Scotland.

A few years ago I went out to the Rannoch Moor area of Scotland with a friend, as the BBC was showing a very promising sunrise forecast. Did it happen? Well, the sunrise happen but somewhere else. Although we were there one hour before sunrise, we waited to no avail, there was not going to be a sunrise; perhaps I should say, there was going to be a sunrise, we did not have a chance to see it.

However, after having something for breakfast, we decided to go out and about for a walk. One can be amazed at the amount of details, shapes and textures that can be found in the area, you just have to open your eyes and look for them. We walked around for a bit and, I must admit, it was a struggle at times as the ground was boggy – and yet, it was very enjoyable and rewarding as we went home with some really nice images; not bad for a day with poor light and bad weather. There is always photography to be had and under any kind of light and weather conditions, the only thing that usually stops me is the constant rain. Really, I can’t stand it. Coming from a dry country such as Greece, you can imagine my feelings about the subject.

The same day and at around twelve in the afternoon, the sky turned quite dark in the distance. At this point we started talking about variations of light. Is there such thing as perfect light? Some might say no. In my books, there is no bad light, only variations of light.

Here is some advice to keep in mind when going out and don’t want to be put off by the weather.

  • Use ND filters when you have heavy and fast moving cloud cover where the clouds are dark and full of definition. Filters will slow down exposure times to multiple seconds and create a very moody atmosphere, the sky can look intriguing.
  • Do not think sunrise/sunset and colours as there might be none. Instead, start thinking about mood, black and white, monotone, sepia, grain and various formats.
  • Avoid looking at the sky and concentrate on what is going on in front of you, especially under your feet; we have the tendency to stand on everything. There is so much detail that we keep missing, just because we do not look hard enough. Think small, think smaller, use your ‘other’ lens. Spend some time walking around; you will be surprised on what lies around that corner.
  • Think shapes, textures, lines, details. If you aim to capture a landscape picture and there is no much interest in the sky, keep the sky to a minimum or do not include it in the frame, just concentrate on the landscape subject itself. Think about low or high contrast if you aim for a mono image.
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Admiral Von Tromp
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