Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Color When There Is No Light

The conventional wisdom of course is that it takes sunny days to get good color pictures. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Rainy days often make for great color photography, because the very flat and "wet" light tends to saturate what color there is by eliminating bright hotspots and deep shadows.

These three pictures, taken a few years ago along the edge of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where it borders South Dakota's famous Badlands, illustrate this point. As a disclaimer, all three pictures are Photoshopped a bit, because camera light meters often don't register the midtones well under less than "normal" lighting conditions.

The first picture is taken in driving rain looking out over the Badlands; the second picture, also taken in the rain, is of an abandoned church at the edge of the Badlands where they roll into the Pine Ridge Reservation; and the third is of the infamous bar – the only within many miles of the Reservation, at Scenic, SD. Notice particularly in the bar picture how the absence of much other color accentuates the color on the Budweiser sign. The rain makes the church picture practically glow. And the Badlands are subtly awash with spring color, even in the driving rain.

The final two pictures below are taken in rain squalls at Sandy Bay, a remote Miskito Indian village accessible only by boat along Nicaragua's Atlantic coast. Notice how the rain seems to make what color there is practically glow.


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