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  • Writer's pictureGary Holpin

5 photo projects for grey days

If the weather with you has been like it has in Devon recently, then like me you are probably completely fed up of cloudy, grey skies and in need of some sun! However, grey skies doesn't have to mean you pack your camera away until the sun comes out (unless it's pouring with rain of course!). In fact there are some types of photography that positively benefit from the soft, even, and diffuse light that cloudy daytime skies can create. So here's a little bit of motivation for you and your camera, with 5 photography projects to try on a grey day.  

1. Long exposures of water scenes

My number one go-to shot on a cloudy, grey day, especially one with some nice cloud texture, is to play with some long exposure shots of watery landscapes, either at the coast or a lake. Put simply, cloudy skies and lack of shadows due to diffuse lighting can provide additional simplicity to any scene. Add to this the simplicity provided by long exposure shots of water removing ripples, and you have the potential for some artistic long exposure shots. 

I will be covering how to do long exposure shots in a future email, but for now here's one of my favourite grey day photos, taken at the Kennick Reservoir on Dartmoor on a cloudy, grey day. 

2. Landscape details

The soft and diffuse light of a grey day is actually far better for capturing details in the landscape than a bright, sunny day. Sunny days have strong directional lighting which can be harsh and produce strong shadows, which can draw the eye away from the structure and textures of detail shots.  So for landscape details, the soft even light of cloudy days is actually preferable. 

The shot below, showing the detail of a house hidden in the woods, was taken in the middle of the day on a day where the sun was totally covered in thin cloud. The soft, even lighting, and lack of strong shadows, means that the eye can focus on the shapes and textures in the scene.  

3. Macro shots

SImilarly to landscape details, the soft and even lighting of cloudy days is also perfect for macro photography. The clouds in the sky act like a giant diffuser, providing even light over the subject. So, with spring flowers beginning to appear, next time the skies are overcast, think about heading out to capture some macro shots. 

4. Think portraits

In the same way that the diffuse light of cloudy days is great for landscape details and macro shots, it's also great for portraits of people and pets! In fact, sunny days, with strong directional lighting and harsh shadows can ruin these types of shot. Taking portraits using the cloudy sky as a big softbox can give much softer looking portraits, of people, pets or other animals!

5. Think moody black and white

My final grey day project is to go for moody black and white landscapes. When its grey, misty and moody, black and white can really accentuate the mood of a scene. It's often hard to know whether a scene will work in mono, but thankfully most cameras (including camera phones) generally have a mode where you can see the scene through the camera in black and white, which makes it easier to judge if it works. 

Below is misty, moody, grey day on the bleak moorland of Dartmoor. I think the B&W really helps to intensify the bleak mood - do you agree?

Want to jump-start your learning?

Don't forget that if you want some direct help with your photography, I offer a range of 1-2-1 photography courses for Devon based folks. If you're not nearby then I also  offer residential weekends for beginners or intermediate photographers.

A student learning photography on a Devon beach, with Devon Photographer Gary Holpin Photography

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