Category Archives: 18. The time of day

Cloudy weather and rain

Cloudy weather and rain


This exercise has arrived at a tricky time of year. While the worst of the summer heat and humidity are behind us for 2013 (fingers crossed) the temperatures are still in the high 30s Celsius. In terms of cloud and rain, we get an odd cloud in the sky at this time of year this, however is the exception rather than the rule. Rain as you may imagine is non-existent in the summer months.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 12.59.06 PM

This screen shot taken from shows the average weather conditions, noting that typically if it were to rain this would be more liable to occur in December, January and February.

Taking all of this into consideration I have decided to adapt this exercise to better fit the available weather conditions and undertake further reading on the aspects that I am unable to practically carry out at this time.

The exercise is outlined in three parts.

Part OneSunlight v’s Cloud

The first which asks that I photograph the same view in both sunlight and under the cover of clouds with 2 or 3 different subjects with the WB set to daylight. As I can’t carry out this exercise myself at this time, I have decided to read more on the topic including a selection of TAoP student’s blogs to find out what they concluded from this exercise.

Sunlight has the benefit of immediately brightening a scene, although it can result in blown highlight in certain subjects. It also can result in hard shadows, which can distract from the subject in a photograph. However, Freeman (2009, p71) notes that shooting in sunlight can produce some interesting shots, particularly with side lighting as this can add depth and emphasis the texture of objects.

Cloud cover acts as a diffuser and scatters the sun’s light rays, causing them to strike the subject from many angles. This makes it a soft light which has the benefit of softening shadows (Hunter et al, 2012, p21). Freeman (2009, p88) notes that clouds can soften high contrast scenes while retaining soft shadows, which can still providing modeling effects. The colour of light that cloud cover produces can appear slightly bluer than a sunlight shot.

Sunlit scene, 22mm, f/4.8, 1/2000s, ISO 100

Sunlit scene, 22mm, f/4.8, 1/2000s, ISO 100

Cloudy, 42mm, f/5.3, 1/750s, IS) 100

Cloudy, 42mm, f/5.3, 1/750s, ISO 100

While not taken specifically for this exercise, I took these two shots while on a trip to Glasgow. The images show the same scene, albeit from a slightly different angle, on a bright sunny day and again on a grey overcast day. Both were taken at a similar time of day, late afternoon when the light was coming from the right hand side.

As can be expected the photograph shot in sunshine appears brighter than the cloudy scene, which appears slightly bluer. In the sunlit scene the sun has also increased the contrast by creating areas of shadow and highlight on the fountain.

In the cloudy scene, the shaded areas, such as the inside of the fountain wall have softer shadows than the sunny scene, but it still retains its sense of depth.

Part Two- Overcast day

The second part of this exercise asks that I take three photographs outdoors, on an overcast day that makes good use of the enveloping shadowless light.

As I cannot be sure when we are next going to have an overcast day I have selected three images from photo archives, which were taken under these conditions.

1. Signpost

1. Signpost 38mm, f/4, 1/640s, ISO 100

1. Signpost
38mm, f/4, 1/640s, ISO 100

This image shows a wooden signpost pointing to Campsie Glen, near Glasgow. The wood is weathered and covered with moss. The thick cloud has diffused the light making any shadows soft. Freeman (2009, p88) writes that diffused, or ‘soft’ light can soften a high contrast scene making shadow areas less dense. In this case the, lighter shadows have allowed the details in the texture of the wood to be seen. I also liked in this scene how the heavy grey clouds in the background suggest rain and dampness, which relates to the moss growing on the wood.

2. Boats on Lake Zürich

2. Boats 55mm, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 100

2. Boats
55mm, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 100

I took this photograph last year on a trip to Switzerland. Had the sun been shining brightly there could have been very bright highlight on the water that could have made the image tricky to expose. Shadows are still present on the underside of the boats that gives a modeling effect. However, the shadows are not dense meaning that the colours of the boats can still be seen. This image does have a blue look to it that is often seen in light from a clouded sun. I did consider adjusting the WB in PSE11 from daylight to cloud to counteract this but decided against it, as I liked how the blue ran throughout the composition, linking to the colours in the boats.

3. Stone stairway

steps cloudy WB

Stone stairway
32mm, f/4.8, 1/90s, ISO 100

Again, thick cloud has diffused the light. This has produced an image with a lower dynamic range between highlights and shadows allowing for better exposure. The shadows are soft but still allow some depth to be perceived by the viewer. This image was taken with a cloudy WB setting that has off set some of the blue caused by the cloud cover and ‘warmed ‘ up the colour of the stone.  

4.Lake Como

lake como

Lake Como
30mm, f/14, 1/200s, ISO 100

The light in this image of Lake Como is diffused by early morning haze. Freeman (2007, p56) notes that atmospheric haze acts as a filter, reducing contrast in distant parts of a scene and lightening their tone. Scenes, such as the one above, appear deeper than they are due to strong aerial perspective. There is little shadow in this photograph except for on the back of the house, where it is soft and details are still visible. 

Part Three- Rain

The third part of this exercise asks that I take a photograph of rainy conditions. As the odds are that it won’t rain here for several more months, I decided to experiment with photographing subjects that convey the idea of rain rather than actual rain.

I toyed with several ideas involving rain themed subjects such as umbrellas and Wellington boots before tackling the two subjects below.

As rain is linked to life and growth I wanted to show raindrops on a plant leaf, however without a macro lens I couldn’t seem to get quite close enough to do so. I decided to take a wider view of a plant, in this case a small grass-like plant I have at home. I set the camera on a tripod in the shade of my balcony. As it was approaching twilight I attached a shutter release cable and raised the camera’s ISO to 400. I misted the plant with water before shooting it from different angles and with various backgrounds.

1. Rain

1. 'Rain' on plant 55mm, f/5.6, 1.5s, ISO 400

1. ‘Rain’ on plant
55mm, f/5.6, 1.5s, ISO 400

The side lighting on this shot has illuminated the droplets of water on the grass making them stand out well against the dark background. The shallow depth of fieldhas made them the focal point of the shot while giving some depth to the image. Arguably, the highlight where the light hits the flowerpot is a little too much.

I also liked the green/orange colour contrast of the composition. However, it was only in post production that I realised that a section of another plant is visible in the bottom right hand corner of the frame, which is slightly distracting.

2. Rain

1. Rain on plant  55mm, f/5.6, 0.7s, ISO 400

2. ‘Rain’ on plant
55mm, f/5.6, 0.7s, ISO 400

The slightly different angle of view in image 2 has simplified the background making the blades of grass and droplets the focus of attention. The flowerpot looks shiny and wet, which also adds to the idea of rain.

3. Rain

raindrops 1

3. Raindrops
155mm, f/4.9, 1/60s, ISO 400

I also wanted to set up something that would look like a puddle where I could experiment with reflections and ‘raindrops’. I filled a shallow black dish with some water and put it on my balcony. I positioned it underneath a plant in order to show some of the leaves reflected in the water alongside some reflections of the light. I also added some leaves to develop the context.

I set the camera on a tripod with the shutter release cable attached and sprayed the plant with water waiting for the drops to hit the water before pressing the shutter. I persisted with this for quite sometime before I realised that my reaction time was too slow. I then changed the shutter release from single to continuous release that was a more successful approach. This let me capture the concentric circles that the drips caused as they landed in the ‘puddle’.

4. Rain

The focal point in the previous shot was on the leaves, which, with the shallow depth of field, gave the concentric circles a slightly out-of-focus look. For this shot I attempted to place the focus on a circle caused by the drips. It took me quite some time to achieve this even working with the shutter release cable, continuous release mode and a shutter speed of 1/90s. I felt as though my perseverance paid off with this shot that has captured the droplet hitting the water.

With hindsight, I think the shot could be improved further by repeating this exercise with brighter lighting conditions and a faster shutter speed to freeze the action. In addition, a wider depth of field would sharpen the image across the whole frame.

4. Rain 155mm, f/4.9, 1/90s, IOS 400

4. Raindrops
155mm, f/4.9, 1/90s, IOS 400


I am pleased that I have been able to work through the tasks within this exercise, albeit with some adaptations to acknowledge the climate in my current location. When we do experience an overcast day in Dubai it is both a novelty and a relief so to realise the ways that this weather can be useful for shooting is welcome knowledge.

Having said that, I would like to revisit the part one of the exercise to see first hand the difference in sun vs. cloud shooting and hope to do this at a later date. The exercise has also been useful in getting my mind to consider the topic of rain photographs as I know that this is a something to think about for part five of TAoP.

Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX

Freeman, M. (2009) The Photographer’s Field Guide. Lewes: ILEX

Hunter, F., Biver, S. and Fuqua, P. (2012) Light, Science and Magic. 4th ed. Waltham: Focal Press

Variety with a low sun


As was demonstrated in the last exercise, Light throughout the day, the light a few hours after sunrise and before sunset provided interesting results. This exercise also aims to further highlight the advantages of shooting when the sun is low.

The exercise asks for examples of four very different types of lighting using a low sun; frontal lighting, side lighting, back lighting and edge lighting.

Frontal lighting

Hunter et al (2012, p94) describe front lighting as light coming from the direction of the camera, which lights the front of the subject. They continue by noting that front lighting shows the least possible depth as the visible part if the subject is highlighted while the shadow falls behind the subject where the camera cannot see it. However, the perceived lack of depth can be useful as this minimizes skin textures in front-lit portraits for more flattering results.

I took these photographs outdoors, about 1 hour before sunset. I used daylight WB throughout.

The immediate problem I encountered when attempting to photograph with the sun immediately behind me was the shadow my body was casting over the scene. I repositioned the subjects and myself a few times before I achieved an angle, which overcame this.

1. Frontal lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100

1. Frontal lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100

For this image the subject is a decorative pear, I had in an arrangement at home. The shadow from the pear is directly behind it and the resulting perspective appears flat and two-dimensional. Freeman (2009, p80) notes that rather that relying on texture or perspective, successful frontal lit objects should have a strong colour and tone, and/or an interesting outline form. While the pear in this image does have an interesting outline shape it’s colour is similar to the backdrop making it difficult to separate subject and background.

2. Frontal lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1500, ISO 100

2. Frontal lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/1500, ISO 100

The next image is also front lit. Again, the shadow is directly behind the subject, an angel ornament. While there is still very little depth to note I think this image is more successful than the first, probably due to the fact the differing colours make the objects shape stand out from the background.

Side lighting

Side lighting is, somewhat unsurprisingly, when the light is on one side of the subject. Hunter et al (2012, p95) note that side lighting can be useful in enhancing the perception of depth as it provided both highlight and shadow.

Image 1 shows the sun hitting the pear from the left hand side. This has well lit the left hand side while the right side is in shade. The highlights and shadow have helped reveal some of the pear’s form and make it appear more three-dimensional. The shadow that has been cast by the pear also helps to create a sense of depth, however, it is a ‘hard’ shadow, which ‘arguably’ distracts from the subject. Hunter et al (2012, p21) suggest that obtrusive shadows can be softened. In this case, perhaps by shooting on a day with some cloud coverage?

1. Side lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/750s, ISO 100

1. Side lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/750s, ISO 100

Image 2 is also side lit from the left, placing the right side of the angel in shadow. This, again, has helped to reveal some of the form. A hard shadow has also been cast, though, in this image it seems less distracting than the first, possibly due to the photograph’s vertical composition.

2. Side lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

2. Side lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

Back lighting

Back lighting sees the photographer shooting towards the light. Freeman (2009, p84) notes that the best-known example of the a backlit shot is the silhouette with the subject placed directly in front of the sun, which is the set up I used here.

It took several attempts and a lot of camera adjustments to capture these shots. The first issue was that the brightness of the scene left me unable to read information from inside the viewfinder, such as the exposure indicator while the second was achieving an exposure which didn’t result in clipping. I experimented with exposure bracketing and managed to take the shots. The silhouettes clearly show the outline shape of both subjects.

2. Back lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1500s, ISO 100

1. Back lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/1500s, ISO 100

2. Back lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/4000s, ISO 100

2. Back lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/4000s, ISO 100

Edge Lighting

Edge lighting and rim lighting are both examples of backlighting that involve capturing the brightly lit edges of a subject (Freeman, 2009, p85). You are shooting towards the sun, but with the sun outside the edges of the frame. The light then hits the edges of the subject producing a bright, highlight outline.

I attempted this with the pear but the results were more akin to side lighting than edge lighting as can be seen below.

1. Edge lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/180s, ISO 100

1. Edge lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/180s, ISO 100

Freeman (2009, p86) suggests that edge lighting is usually most effective when shown against a fairly dark background; therefore I composed a photograph of the angel ornament with part of the background consisting of dark foliage. Against the dark background the edge lighting can be seen clearly whereas it is unnoticeable against the bright sky.

2. Edge lighting 55mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100

2. Edge lighting
55mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100


This has been an interesting exercise that has demonstrated how slight changes in where the light strikes the subject can produce very different results. It has also helped to illustrate the ways in which lighting can influence the perception of depth in a photograph as well as emphasising a subject’s shape and form.

Freeman, M. (2009) The Photographer’s Field Guide. Lewes: ILEX

Hunter, F., Biver, S.,Fuqua, P. (2012) Light, Science and Magic, An Introduction to Photographic Lighting (4th edition) Waltham: Focal Press

Light through the day

Light through the day


Präkel (2007, p57) notes that throughout the day, the colour and quality of light changes, as does the angle and direction of light. These factors are dependent on the position of the sun.

This exercise looks the way that the sun moves throughout the day and the subsequent effect this has on the quality of light.

The instructions are as follows;

  • Shoot on a sunny day
  • Find a landscape location with a definite subject that will catch the sunlight
  • The location should be convenient to reach as you will have to return to the same spot
  • Photograph the scene from sunrise to sunset taking at least one photograph per hour, keeping the composition constant.
  • Use a tripod and cable release to allow you to set up the composition and then concentrate on the lighting.

I had several scenes in mind for this exercise, however as the outdoor temperatures in Dubai are still above 40°C I opted for a viewpoint close to home, where I could escape the heat and humidity. The scene looks from the Palm Jumeirah across to the skyscrapers of Dubai Marina. While scouting out the scene I noted that the sun strikes the towers from different angles during the day.

Sunrise was to be at just after 6am so I arrived a little early and set the camera upon a tripod and attached the cable release. I then composed the photograph and waited for the sun to make its appearance. All photographs were taken with a 55mm-300mm telephoto lens, an aperture of f/22 and in Manual mode. I kept the WB setting on daylight unless otherwise mentioned and adjusted the ISO throughout the day.


06:06am 65mm, f/22, 1/2s, ISO 200

65mm, f/22, 1/2s, ISO 200

6am 2

65mm, f/22, 1/3s, ISO 200

06:22am 62mm, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 200

62mm, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 200

Präkel (2007, p61) notes that just before the sun rises, the light is richly red towards the sun and a violet-blue away from it. This can be seen to some extent in the first photograph, which shows the buildings and sky bathed in blue light. Präkel continues, by noting that the light from the rising sun is pink just before it rises and then becomes a golden-yellow as the sun breaks over the horizon. This is evident in the 06:22am as the light hits the buildings on their left hand side and they take on a pink/orange glow. Präkel (2007, p21) notes that the typical colour temperature of light at sunrise is 3100K.

I found it extremely interesting to note the rate at which the light changed at this time of day, moving from blue to pink/orange over the space of just 16 minutes and also to note the effect this had on the recommended shutter speed.


07:23am 65mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 200

65mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 200

65mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO 100

65mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO 100

09:20am 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

10:32am 62mm, f/22, 1/90, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90, ISO 100

At 07:23am the light is becoming paler and leaning more towards yellow. From here until 10:32am the atmospheric haze caused by heat and humidity that is prevalent in Dubai throughout the summer months descends and changes the light again to a blue colour. The rising sun casts some shadows on the central tower and on the tallest tower on the right hand side of the frame. As the sun gets higher we can see these shadows decrease then eventually disappear.

Präkel (2007, p21) notes that the typical colour temperature of light at 2 hours after sunrise is 4000K, higher than sunrise at 3100K. This is interesting, as the colour of light in the image at 08:27am could be perceived, through colour associations, to be cooler.


11:33am 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

12.28pm 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

13:31pm 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

14:30pm 62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

This is when the sky is at its highest point in the sky and temperatures are at their peak. Freeman (2009, p68) notes that the middle of the day is a time that many photographers consider to have the least appealing light. Although, he does note that it can produce crisp clear images with clearly defined shapes and bright colours, particularly when the air is clear. Unfortunately this was not the case here. The atmospheric haze was thick which has made the light appear grey/white. The high sun has meant that there are no discernible shadows or highlights making the images appear very flat. Präkel (2007, p21) describes noon light as white daylight, which has a higher colour temperature than sunrise, measuring 5500K.


15:32pm 58mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

58mm, f/22, 1/90s, ISO 100

16:35pm 62mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO 100

At 15:30pm the in-camera exposure meter still suggested a 1/90s shutter speed, however I can now see the light becoming a little more yellow as the sun hits the front of the buildings. This has increased by 16:35pm and has become more orange. The left hand side of the buildings are now in shadow. The angle of the sun has also illuminated more of the foliage in the foreground than in previous photographs

17:38pm 62mm, f/22, 1/20, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/20, ISO 100

17:43pm 62mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100

62mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100

Inconveniently, a delivery truck had parked in front of the scene at this time and showed no signs of moving soon as the workers began unloading and assembling furniture. I decided to continue with the exercise.

The light is now more of a peachy/orange tone and it can be seen clearly striking the front side of the towers. In doing so, it leaves the leaves one side in shade and this help to reveal the form of the towers. The lamppost on the right hand side of the frame was shown as a silhouette in previous shots but now the angle of the light has help to reveal some of it’s form too. The colour temperature of light an hour prior to sunset measures approximately 3800K, cooler than the white light of midday.

Sunset and beyond

18:28pm 62mm, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 400

62mm, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 400

18:33pm 62mm, f/22, 1/8s, ISO 400

62mm, f/22, 1/8s, ISO 400

18:50pm 62mm, f/22, 1.5s, ISO 400

62mm, f/22, 1.5s, ISO 400

19:01pm 62mm, f/22, 10s, ISO 400

62mm, f/22, 10s, ISO 400

The sunset was due to occur at 18:38pm and as the light was fading quickly I upped the ISO to 400. However even though I was aware of the failing light I was still surprised to see how dark this scene looks in the 18:28pm photograph. I recall the scene appearing much lighter, possibly as my eyes were becoming accustomed to the available light?

As the sun is disappearing, the light appears very blue. This is because the blue and violet wavelengths of light are shorter at this time and get scattered more widely away from the sun.

By 18:50pm the light levels were very low so I opened the camera flash and adjusted the WB to flash. Even in doing so, the camera still required a shutter speed of 1.5s. The flash WB has added a violet tinge to the image.

Eleven minutes later the shutter speed required was 10s, making me very grateful for the tripod and shutter release cable. The residual daylight is all but gone and the towers have begun to be lit, adding some interest to the image. Lights from a nearby building have lit the foliage in the foreground giving it a red tint. The haze remains and this coupled with the raised ISO and low light gives the image a very noisy appearance.


Overall, I was little disappointed with the photographs from this exercise because of the haze, which reduced details and rendered the images a little soft.

However, the point of the exercise was to observe how the sun moved through the day and note the effect his has on light and I feel that there were some fairly notable differences throughout the day. While reflecting on the colour of the light I consciously  considered not only how a colour appearance and its temperature associations but also of how it could be described in Kelvin.

Sunrise, just after sunrise and in the hour prior to sunset brought yellows, pinks and oranges to the scene, which added colour, interest and mood to the images. The angle of the sun in the early morning shots and later afternoon produced some nice shadows, which help show the form of the buildings.

The photographs taken at midday were, in my opinion, the least appealing as they lacked contrast, detail and appeared very 2-dimensional. The white light of midday, coupled with the haze, has washed much of the colour from the scene.

It is easy to see that sunrise, sunset and late afternoon provided the lighting conditions with the most favourable outcomes, albeit with the narrowest window of opportunity. This is information that I can use to my favour when planning my shooting schedule.

This exercise has also made me more aware of how quickly the light changes as the beginning and the end of the day. Even just a few minutes influenced the exposure settings.

I would like to repeat this exercise later in the year, when the weather is cooler and when the haze has gone and the air is clearer