LEARN TO LOVE GREY
Surprisingly perhaps, even classic British grey skies have their place in the roster of lighting, and can be useful
If there were such a thing as a national light, ours might be this: overcast grey, often watered. Partly because it just doesn’t feel so good to be out in it physically, and partly because gorgeous golden light is somehow accepted by most people as a kind of deal (see page 78 for more on that), the virtues of soft, enveloping grey light often get overlooked. Its virtues are that it’s restrained, and can even be contemplative. If your subject suits a sombre, quiet mood, grey light works well.
In particular, it’s very good indeed for colour saturation, especially when you have subtle variations on a single hue. The prime example of this is greenery and gardens. If this claim seems counter-intuitive, it’s because saturation often gets confused with contrast. Sunlight on leaves gives then sparkle, but by creating small highlights and shadows actually reduces the saturation – or colourfulness, if you like. I once shot a book on Japanese gardens, which are generally restricted to a palette of greens, with grey stone, and without a doubt my favourite conditions for shooting were grey, and preferably wet.
One precaution is to keep the sky, or any reflections of it, out of the frame. Land-sky contrast on overcast days is surprisingly high, and unless the clouds are stormy and threatening, the contrast within an image can be troublesome.
The Buddhist temple garden of Ichijo-in, Koya-san, Japan.
The typical range of greens appear at their most saturated
under soft grey light like this