Luminous Landscape Forum

Equipment & Techniques => Landscape & Nature Photography => Topic started by: acorreia on February 21, 2006, 06:56:00 pm

Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: acorreia on February 21, 2006, 06:56:00 pm
[attachment=274:attachment][attachment=274:attachment]Last year I went to Cambodia and many shots had the sky white because the weather was overcast. (
for example or (
Now I'm going to Ireland and I'm afraid the same thing happens and spoil the photographs...
I have been thinking that something good to overcome this problem would be the use of a polarizing filter.  
As my lens do not move as they zoom this seems to be a nice solution.
Herewith I post a photo right from RAW without any photoshoping for appreciation of the problem.
Comments please. Thank you.
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: tedshado on February 21, 2006, 07:49:52 pm
A polarizing filter is what I have used and I have been quite satisfied with the look of the skies.
There is a risk of losing some detail or sharpness. Which just means shooting more shots with different settings and erasing later (digitally).
Good shooting.
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: Ray on February 21, 2006, 08:58:13 pm
Polarizers can be useful for removing shiny reflections in water and the like. However, their purpose for increasing color saturation and darkening skies seems less relevant in the digital age. I met a guy on my travels once who had a circular polarizer permanently fixed to his zoom lens. They are sometimes hard to remove without a special tool or improvised lasso made from rough string. I helped him free up some space on his flash cards by burning his images on my laptop and noticed that many of his images were simply not sharp. I can't remember now whether a polaraizer robs you of one stop or two stops exposure, but in a situation of grey skies and dark ruins where you probably want as much DoF as possible and are probably using f11 or f16, perhaps even f22, you don't want to reduce the amount of light entering the camera unnecessarily.

If you are able to use a tripod, then auto bracketing of exposure and digital blending is a better solution. If you always shoot in RAW mode, as I do, you'll find with a grey sky like the one in your shot at Angkor, you can probably recover a lot of detail by doing an 'underexposed' conversion and blending it with an 'overexposed' conversion Alternatively, you can 'select' the sky with the magic wand and just darken it in levels. Finally, if you see detail in a grey sky at the time you take the shot (and it's something you really should notice), then make sure you slightly underexpose the shot.

When all else fails, I'm afraid you'll just have to replace the uninteresting sky with a more interesting one in Photoshop  .
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: kbolin on February 21, 2006, 09:44:47 pm
Only 3 words of wisdom.... bracket, bracket, bracket.

Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: benInMA on February 22, 2006, 09:23:05 am
The polarizer isn't that useful with gray skies, the light is diffused by the clouds.

It could probably still help you get rid of reflections on water or glass if that is part of your composition.

If the sky is totally gray you can keep it from turning white by:

- Metering more carefully.  You don't mention which camera you have, but lots of them have AE algorithms that fail horribly on scenes with lots of sky.  They expose for the shadows too much.   Put the camera in "M" mode and use a partial/spot meter to check different portions of the scene, and make sure to choose and exposure that keeps the sky within the cameras range.

- Use a ND Graudated filter or digital blending techniques if the scene is just beyond the range of the cameras capabilities

- Shoot creatively to avoid lots of sky, even if you expose the sky correctly, large patches of uniformly gray overcast sky don't make for particularly good pictures.   Compose to minimize the amount of gray sky and you might bias towards longer focal lengths when it's overcast.

I also disagree about polarizers being less useful on digital cameras.  They are one filter we should all still have in our bag.  No way you're going to easily/conveniently remove reflections from glass/water and then photoshop details in that were hidden by the reflections.   It's way easier to do that with the filter.
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: dbell on February 22, 2006, 03:51:42 pm
There's no one good answer.

Sometimes, you'll want to blend two frames (one exposed for the sky and one for the ground).

A graduated neutral density filter can help, if there's any detail in sky worth holding.

If there isn't, you may want to adjust your compositions to avoid showing too much of a boring sky that you can't properly expose.

Depending on the specific circumstances, you may be able to expose for the sky and then use various postprocessing techniques to recover the shadow detail (which will appear too dark in the unprocessed file). This could be as simple as dodging or using the shadow/highlight tool or as complicated as you need to make it to get exactly the effect that you want.

I find polarizers useful with digital capture, but I certainly wouldn't leave one attached to any lens all the time.

And, for whatever it's worth, I find a small strap wrench to be about the most useful tool available for removing stuck filters, step-up rings, etc . It's too big to carry with me all the time, and you'd best be CAREFUL if you attempt this with a lens you care about...

Daniel Bell
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: bob mccarthy on February 22, 2006, 04:08:26 pm
When one has a solid overcast with the sun overhead, you have a darn near impossible ER. My solution is to move in, focus on closer in shots that take advantage of the diffused light. Keep the sky out of the frame or certainly minimize it.

Transparency film would have even been worse.

Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: raymondh on February 22, 2006, 04:12:25 pm
I have had bad luck with blown skies and now after spending the last couple of years in Photoshop adding my own to replace the blown ones, I'm going to invest in a QUALITY ND Grad filter.
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: boku on February 22, 2006, 04:21:11 pm
If all else fails, compose to reduce the impact of the sky:

Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: DarkPenguin on February 22, 2006, 04:40:00 pm
I tend to go B+W in those situations.  Then do a slight grad through the sky area.
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: cricketer 1 on March 03, 2006, 11:28:35 pm
Quote from: acorreia,Feb 21 2006, 06:56 PM
[attachment=274:attachment][attachment=274:attachment]Last year I went to Cambodia and many shots had the sky white because the weather was overcast. :

Cricketer 1
Overcast skies without cloud detail certainly detract from an otherwise interesting photo subject, but if there is cloud detail to capture and your foreground is relatively dark such as the foreground tombstones in the thumbnall below from acorreia a flash could have been used and a neutral grad filter for the sky.  In my view replacing a poor sky in Photoshop defeats the pupose of trying to capture a scene as realistically as possible.  It's a challenge.  Last March I was in the mountain ranges and lake areas of western Ireland-- Galway, Connemara out to Wesport on the coast. It was raining with overcast skies and occasional shafts of bright sunlight  The peat bogs in the foreground were a golden brown with green moss and the mountains were partially obscured by light and dark clouds.  Every bend in the road presented a fantastic view and (difficult light).  It was magic.  The area was deserted and I and my equipment were soaked each time I left the car to setup my tripod>  I used my D70 for RAW images and a FM2 for b/w film views, bracketed, used a handheld lightmeter as well as the camera meters to try to balance the sky, mountains and foreground.  The polaizer helped for the peat foreground areas but an ND grad filter would have been better for the skies.  I ended-up with about 20 keepers in color and B/W out of 150 shots, but I would have been satisfied with less, just to be there.

Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: Bobtrips on March 04, 2006, 12:40:46 pm
When I travel I typically take pictures while walking around as opposed to purposely making pictures.  (Call it snap shots if you like.  ;o)

Shooting outdoors in bright conditions is tough and I don't want to bother with RAW for casual shots.  So in the middle of the day I set my EV to ~-0.6 and my camera on auto bracket.

Then I can push the shutter button and get a -0.6, -1.2, and 0.0 EV exposure.  Often the -1.2 is the most useful.  It's generally easier to pull some detail from the shadows than to replace a blown out sky.
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: Olaf Bathke on March 05, 2006, 06:12:16 am
The Camera couldn’t catch that dynamics of light, like in your picture. Digital cams have more problems in such light situation than analogue cameras.

There are 2 way to work in such light situation.

For me the best: Work with the light situation as it is:
- built up a vision with your possibility
- use the light sky for your personal vision, but be aware of it
- bracket the sceneries till it fits your vision
- Don’t shot the sky as if it has nothing to do with a vision

Fix the light situation:
- Use a NG Density Filter. In your case I would reccomend a soft one with one or two stops (Disadvantage, you can see the use of filter in the trees, but as above mentioned, you can use the dark trees for your vision)
- Take two shots and work them together in PS. (Disadvantage here: you can see it in the movements of the trees)
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: situgrrl on March 05, 2006, 10:24:31 am
You can do it in post processing without resorting to "dropping a sky in."  Shadow/Highlight can solve it sometimes.

Search the web for digital ND filter or do as I do:

Select the sky (magic wand, masks etc) and copy it to a new layer.
Bring up levels and compress them suitably.
Adjust the layer blend, opacity and fill to suit.
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: gryffyn on March 07, 2006, 09:44:34 am
As Yoda would say:

"Histogram use, you must".
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: Gordon Buck on March 07, 2006, 12:59:57 pm
Take one shot using RAW mode.  Process it twice in ACR:  once for the sky (less exposure) and once for the foreground (more exposure) with all other ACR setting identical.   Save these two "exposures" as separate files (you can do this without exiting ACR). Blend the two "exposures" (I use the Fred Miranda action, DRI).  Apply Shadow/Highlight adjustment as a final touchup.

I usually save the exposure adjusted files with the exposure adjustment included in the file name, for example as (-1) and (+1).  It seems to me that an adjustment range of about 1 to 2 stops is usually best.

Do all the above in 16bit mode.

This procedure is very useful for many scenes.  It won't really save a bad sky but can help quite a bit.  Even though it is very simple and straightforward, I wish someone would write a plug-in to handle all the steps automatically because many, many images can benefit from such double processing.
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: acorreia on March 24, 2006, 07:09:21 pm
I must thank all of you for the great contribution!
Only today I was able to come here.
Not too late to say thank you very much.
Best regards to all.  

António Correia
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: 1IRISHBOY on March 30, 2006, 01:36:48 pm
My solution as I get alot of unavoidable sky with bird shots is to simply "magic wand" the sky and use "color balance" on that area. Further editing can then be done with "selective color" and "contrast /brightness".  It's quick, easy and effective.  Bill
Title: How to avoid white skies ?
Post by: 1IRISHBOY on March 31, 2006, 03:18:08 pm
Another simple method I use the most often is to go into "level options" and balance by choosing in "auto color correction options" highlights - for sky. This will typically turn your white/gray sky blue and allow you to pick your shade all at the same time. Sometimes simple is best.