How landscape photographers can make the most of dull lighting


Landscape photography doesn’t always have to be about spectacular sunsets and striking light. In his latest video, photographer Michael Shainblum shows how to bring out the nuanced beauty of an overcast day.

While Shainblum is no stranger to spectacular scenery and certainly doesn’t shy away from the most deterrent weather conditions – such as his storm and monsoon hunting adventures – he also appreciates more subtle environments – perhaps those that others might even classify as dull.

In the video above, Shainblum explains that there are times when photographers just get creative inspiration and want to walk around on a set, even though the weather and lighting conditions may not be ideal. However, there are ways for photographers to fill these days with interesting photos and find inspiration to make the most of what the landscape in front of them has to offer, despite the low lighting.

On this occasion, Shainblum decides to slow down, forgo the wide shots of the view and instead focus on the details of the terrain. He finds that coastal rocks are a great source of unique images and provide nuances of color, texture, pattern, all of which can be composed in countless ways.

Details like these can be taken by hand or on a tripod, however, for the image focus stack, Shainblum uses a tripod to make sure every corner of the image is in focus. Shooting and studying rocks so closely can create almost unrecognizable patterns, depending on the formation and colors of the rocks, which could even be traced to reptile skin or some alien life form, Shainblum explains.

After exploring the area, Shainblum located a small pool of water with a round boulder right in the middle. In this scenario, the tripod is prohibited because the rocks around make the terrain difficult on which a tripod can be placed. He pulls it freehand, finding just the right angle to avoid his own reflection in the water. The resulting image brings the rocks to life, which Shainblum describes as a dragon protecting their egg.

Shainblum points out that while the footage may not seem dramatic, the process is learning to find something special in seemingly ordinary scenes. Each photographer will bring their unique vision to the table and find parts and details of the earth that resonate with them.

In his video, Shainblum recounts how he finds abstract compositions to create images that almost look like paintings. While the finished images may seem simple to recreate, Shainblums says it’s a difficult but rewarding process.

More landscape videos like the one above are available on Shainblum’s YouTube channel, with his portfolio of photographs available on his website and Instagram.

Image credits: All images by Michael Shainblum and used with permission.


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