How Landscape Photographers Can Make the Most Out of Dull Lighting

Landscape photography does not always have to be about dramatic sunsets and striking light. In his latest video, photographer Michael Shainblum demonstrates how to bring out the nuanced beauty of an overcast day.

Although Shainblum is not a stranger to dramatic landscapes and certainly doesn’t shy away from weather conditions that would deter most — such as his storm and monsoon chasing adventures — he also is appreciative of more subtle environments — perhaps those that others might even classify as dull.

In the video above, Shainblum explains that there are times when photographers simply feel creative inspiration and want to wander out on a shoot, even though the weather and lighting conditions may not be ideal. However, there are ways that photographers can fill those days with interesting shots and find inspiration to make the most of what the landscape in front of them has to offer, despite poor lighting.

On this occasion, Shainblum decides to slow down, forego wide shots of the view, and focus on the details of the land instead. He finds that the 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 shot either handheld or on a tripod, however, for the image focus stack, Shainblum uses a tripod to make sure that 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, that could even be attributed to reptile skin or alien life form, says Shainblum.

After exploring the area, Shainblum located a small pool of water with a round boulder right in the middle. In this scenario, tripod is a no-go because the rocks around make it difficult terrain for a tripod to be placed on. He shoots it handheld, finding just the right angle to avoid his own reflection in the water. The resulting image makes the rocks come alive which Shainblum describes he views it as a dragon protecting their egg.

Shainblum points out that although the images may not appear dramatic, the process is all about learning to find something special in seemingly ordinary scenes. Every photographer will bring their unique vision to the table and find parts and details of the land that resonate with them.

In his video, Shainblum shares how he finds abstract compositions to create images that almost resemble paintings. Although the finished images may look simple to recreate, Shainblums says that it’s a challenging yet rewarding process.

More landscape videos like the one above can be found on Shainblum’s YouTube channel, with his photography portfolio available on his website and Instagram.

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