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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Soften Landscapes with Hazy Light

I'm as guilty as anyone of waiting for nice sunny days to go out and shoot pictures. Maybe its my inherent laziness that says if it's a bit too cloudy or hazy, I don't have to bother hauling out the cameras and shooting any pictures. But soft hazy light can be a real blessing, especially in landscape photography and it's far better to embrace it than use it as an excuse not to shoot.

The nice thing about working on very hazy or overcast days is that the contrast is dramatically reduced which makes getting a good overall exposure much simpler. I shot this photo in the aperture-priority mode (using a Nikkor 24-120mm zoom at f/18 to get good depth of field) and while I shot in RAW and could have easily tweaked the exposure in the conversion process, the exposure right out of the camera was fine. Another nice thing about hazy lighting is that you get those lovely muted and saturated colors that so often get blown away in bright direct sunlight. In fact, it was the many different shades of green contrasting with the red barn that caused me to slam on the brakes (literally--unfortunately for my passenger) and hop out to shoot the photo.

I shot this photo toward the end of the day with thunderstorms threatening and the sky turning deep gray behind me and, in fact, a few raindrops fell on me during the 20 minutes or so that I worked the shot. A deep sky might have looked nice in this shot and I would have included it had it fit the composition naturally. But I wanted the barn to dominate the scene and if I had zoomed back at all (to take in sky) it would have diminished its impact. Also, I really like the way the haze on the hill behind the barn provides a hint of depth to the scene.

Embrace the hazy light of cloudy or pre-stormy skies and you'll love the softness it lends to your landscapes and the nice rich colors you'll get in your prints.

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