Category Archives: 18c-Cloudy weather and rain

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