High Key Black and White on Rainy Days

Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches when it comes to weather. The morning that I made these images, I had originally planned on heading out to photograph snow geese. The forecast the night before was for a slight chance of showers and partly cloudy skies. That’s not too bad and it was something that I was willing to gamble with. By the time I got about halfway to my destination however, I had been driving through a torrential downpour for nearly 45 minutes. I realized that it was just not worth going all the way out to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge if the weather was going to hold like this. I had gotten up early for this and I did not want the trip south to be for nothing and was itching to do so some shooting regardless of the weather. So instead of geese, I headed out to one of the local fishing piers for some high key black and whites.

Rainy, cloudy, ugly days are perfect for this sort of photography . . . the key is to find the right sort of subject matter to make it work (think contrast). When shooting these images, I knew that I was going to expose and process for the sky and water to be nearly stark white, and the sky in particular to be completely featureless. So, with this in mind, all my attention then focused on finding a pleasing composition with the pilings of the pier. I did want some detail and movement in the water to help pull the eye into the scene and anchor the image. To do this, despite the dark overcast day, I dropped my ISO just as low as it would go which brought my shutter speed down to about one full second. This allowed me to blow out the sky and most of the water, while still capturing the soft silky blur of waves retreating around me.

This, like much of the work I do at the very edge of the ocean is done in chest waders. These waders keep me dry, warm, and comfortable. I don’t have to worry about getting wet. I don’t have to worry about getting sandy. Crouching down in awkward angles gets old and painful quick. I like to take my time. I like to slowly work a scene with different compositions and when you are blurring out waves like this, you want to take many different photographs of each composition because each wave will look starkly different than the last. So, instead of crouching down over water rushing around my feet and ankles for an hour, I would just assume be able to drop down onto my knees and not worry about that water, even when a larger wave comes rolling in and hits me in the gut! My newsletter this month has an article in it entitled My Top 5 Indispensable Accessories. Chest waders sit right at the top of this list with a detailed description of why and what types I recommend.

For the black and white conversions, I used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

This entry was posted in Landscape Photography.