A rainy day recently started out as a miserable photography experience, but in the end turned out great. First I discovered that there were herons nearby. That perked up my spirits and made me wonder about ways to take advantage of the dreary day. It turns out that there are plenty of shots that are better in cloudy weather.

Long Exposures

Dim light is great for long exposures. I realized that as I was walking over a highway overpass, which resulted in this photo.

long exposure of highway with car headlight streaks

Normally at that time of day most of the cars wouldn’t have had their headlights on. Even if they did, they wouldn’t have stood out on a brighter day.

That got me thinking about the classic long exposure subject, waterfalls. Clouds allow the silky motion blur and often bring rain to boost the flow. Here is the old mill race at Lassiter Mill Park here in Raleigh. You can click this photo and some of the others to see them larger.

long exposure of waterfall at Lassiter Mill

Exposure 4 preset "Color Films - Vintage" / "Kodachrome 35mm - Brighter"

Good Clouds / Bad Clouds

Beware of getting a flat white sky in your photo on a cloudy day. In both the photos above, I cropped out a featureless white sky.

On the other hand, clouds with some transitions can be useful. In the scene below, the window of white sky helped me highlight the father and son in the little boat.

father and son in a boat on a lake in Norway

Lake Eidsvatnet, Norway

I love fog.

foggy green field with old chimney

man hiding behind old chimney in foggy green field

Black & White

If a scene isn’t very colorful then I like to explore black & white treatments, and clouds are a good candidate. This shot from Fiji can take on many different moods in black & white. I used it on our web site to demonstrate split toning in Exposure.

dramatic clouds behind surfers walking on the beach in Fiji

Exposure 4 preset "B&W Misc Effects" / "High Key - Platinum Toning (warm)"

Soft Lighting

Clouds are like huge diffusers, plus they’re free! Many subjects look better with that soft lighting. Of course, people are the obvious one. I also find that small natural objects are better without harsh lighting, like insects, flowers, mushrooms, and this snail. Soft light let’s you see more detail and and subtle color variations.

red snail

Water Drops and Ice

Water and ice usually follow clouds and they can be great macro subjects.

dew drops on a spider web. neat geometric pattern

macro close up shot of icicle

Now I take my camera with me almost every time I leave the house. In any environment there’s something fun to shoot.

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