Shooting on a Dull Day
At this time of the year, the days can get very dark and dreary here in Ireland. With the short winter days, when it’s sunny it’s actually quite beautiful, but when it clouds over, it becomes very dark and dreary. On days like this, it’s often tempting not to bother shooting, and certainly, I’ve been put off by what seems like bad light. However, as Jay Maisel once said, there’s no such thing as bad light, just difficult light.
Another thing that it’s often common to do when there’s a dull day, is to shoot in black and white. You don’t have to though. Even on a dull day, with a little post production you can get some nice moody pictures by embracing the muted tones that a low light, gloomy day can bring.
The other day I was walking through the city here in Dublin, and it was one of those days. There was heavy cloud cover, and coupled with the already shortened winter days, it was pretty dark and gloomy. Still, in the park in the centre of Dublin, the famous Stephen’s Green, there was still an interesting scene to shoot. The trees are now almost bare now, and with so few people about, it presented the opportunity to take some nice stark and empty shots.
I had my Sony A6000 with me, and the Sony 35mm f/1.8 lens. Not an ideal setup for shooting landscapes, but it was better than nothing. Normally there are quite a few people coming and going in the park, so it was nice to be able to get it when it was practically empty. I usually shoot in colour anyway as I’m shooting raw, and I’ll do the conversion after, but sometimes I will switch to black and white in camera. On this occasion, I kept it in colour and I was intending to keep it in colour afterwards too.
There was something about how the sky and the weather were creating a nice colour palette in the scene that day. The browns of Autumn were muted and it created an almost pastel look. Back in Lightroom, I decided to treat them further and bring out the look I was going for. For this, I used my own QuickLux 2 presets. In particular, I went with either “QuickNeg Basic 2” or “Q Neg Faded 2” (for those who have the set and are wondering!). This look is designed to emphasise the wooded colours and bring out dark greens and browns.
The result is a surreal portrait of the park in the midst of winter. While they’re not award winning shots by any means, I’m happy with the results, as I wasn’t even planning on shooting at all. So the point of this post is to remember to shoot, even on a dull day, and don’t automatically go for black and white. Sometimes what may seem like bad light is actually just different light and can give you interesting results. Oh, and don’t forget to check out QuickLux 2 if you’re a Lightroom user!
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