Old 03-23-2005, 05:11 AM   #1
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Default 350D on a cloudy day

I took the XT out today to get some shots under an overcast sky.

The first was shot at 1/500, f/7.1 at ISO 400:


The second was shot at 1/500, f/8.0 at ISO 400:


I have a couple of questions:

1) I thought since it was cloudy, I would have to have a smaller f-stop, but according to the exposure meter, I needed to have a larger number. Even at 7.1 and 8.0, the meter said I was still overexposing the shots. Are these shots overexposed?

2) Is there a standard that you guys use for overcast? The general sunny rule of thumb is 1/500, f/5.6 @ ISO 100. Is there a similar 'go to' setting for a cloudy day? Do you adjust shutter speed or aperature first? In these cases, I left shutter speed the same and adjusted aperature. Would you have done something different?

3) What advice can you offer for cloudy day shots?

Thanks for your help!
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Old 03-23-2005, 12:22 PM   #2
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I think both shots are underexposed. What's happening is your meter is expecting a blue sky but is seeing a white one. It figures the exposure so that the overall avg is neutral gray so it underexposes to get that sky darker than it is and keep the overall avg neutral gray.

You might try aiming the camera down so that almost no sky is in the picture and see what the exposure is and use that.

Another trick is to meter the palm of you hand and then underexpose a 1/2 F stop to a full F stop from that.

Or, if you have a spot meter, put the spot on your subject so the sky will be ignored.

Finally, experiment with a stationary object an bracket your exposure until you find what works, then use that on the train.

At least with digital, you can salvage poor exposures. With slides, it what you took was what you got.
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Old 03-23-2005, 12:28 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Ween
Even at 7.1 and 8.0, the meter said I was still overexposing the shots. Are these shots overexposed?
Your shots are nowhere near overexposed. The meter is taking more of the light reading off of the clouds which will make your photos underexposed due to an inaccurate light reading.

A good rule of thumb to remember is to keep the aperture open as wide as you can without overexposing, while at the same time keeping the shutter speed relatively fast. Some may disagree on that, but it works for me.

What advice can you offer for cloudy day shots?
Keep as much of the sky out of your shot as possible.
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Old 03-23-2005, 04:21 PM   #4
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Ill offer these suggestions...

#1...on cloudy days, stay home...Drink Beer....Watch Nascar or your favorite sporting event, Currling???

#2, if you dont follow the advice of #1, then take time to fire off a few test shots before the train gets there, testing you camera settings until you get the historygram looking decent. As mentioned before, try using the spot meter to find your proper settings, just dont meter off the sky or other bright objects...look for something darker to meter off of and that should emulate the front of the train.

#3. Be prepared for changing lighting condiditons (that goes for everyday shooting as well) Seems like when ever you get things set and they look good, a sucker hole will open up (thats a good thing) or it will get darker (always bad) and you have to start from scratch. If the 350D has a bracket feature, try using that.

#4, use a big lens.. This sounds strange, as larger glass wont open as wide as the wider ones, but sometimes composing a tight tele shot will keep a lot of the sky out of the shot, and on grey days, that will help. You will be able to get the main subject exposed like it should be, without blowing out the sky.

#5 Just remeber that there is usally more light on cloudy days than you might think, and the posostion of the sun in the sky DOES matter. Even if the sun in hidden behind the clouds, the light will still be directional in alot of cases unless its just really really dark. Use the same rule of thumb (sun at your back ect) that you would on a sunny day.

If non of the above nets the results you desire, refer to #1.
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Last edited by E.M. Bell; 03-23-2005 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 03-23-2005, 04:33 PM   #5
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For me, i usually meter off sky on nice blue sky days and off the ground for cloudy/ overcast days. But if its overcast or really cloudy i wont go. To me having a blue sky is just as important as having a clean train in the shot. There is a huge differeance in the quality and looks of a shot that has a nice blue sky vs a white sky. Probably to me the most important reason why i only go out on clear sky days is so that i am not playing games with the sun. No matter what, it always happens to me. On a cloudy day the sun will open up for 30min or so and then the train comes and it goes away, no matter what. So thats it i stopped cloudy days, there to much of a hassel and a waste of time and money.
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Old 03-24-2005, 12:39 AM   #6
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Thanks for the advice fellas. I did try to set the exposure with as little of the sky in the shot as I could, but I guess I didn't have the aperature set quite right. I'm guessing that's it's even tougher to get the right setting when it's overcast and there's snow on the ground (highly likely up here). However, spring is here and it's been up to 40F the past two days. The locals have been walking around in T-shirts and the girls are wearing midriff-baring tops and flip flops!! I guess when you're used to -39F, 40F is a heatwave!

As far as taking shots on cloudy days, I'm not crazy enough to believe that I'll start producing results that will meet RP.net quality, but I still enjoy getting out. With my PnS I was using before, I pretty much had nothing to show for my efforts. Motion blur, noise, and underexposure were the trifecta that ruined that. Now, though, I'll still be able to get some decent shots that fit nicely in my 'personal collection.' Plus it gives me time trackside, practicing framing and composing shots, and keeping the trigger finger happy, all at the cost of gas money. Not bad...
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Old 03-24-2005, 10:36 PM   #7
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Default It Sounds Like

Ween, I just logged on to the forum for the first time since, well, a long time, and the first thread I read was yours. I am jumping in in the middle and I don't know what happened, but it sounds like you got a new camera? If so and in that case, congratulations!

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Old 03-25-2005, 05:26 AM   #8
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Yeah, I got the new Digital Rebel XT, and I'm afraid I'm going to be arrested for polygamy since I'm now married to both my wife and it! From the CoolPix 2100 to the XT is like going from a Cessna 172 to a Lear 35A...it'll just take a little time to get used to all that power!
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Old 03-25-2005, 05:20 PM   #9
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Never really had a problem shooting on cloudy days, nor do I mind it. Hell, the railroad doesn't pack it in on cloudy days, so why should I? Felt the same way when I was shooting slides, so it's not an economic issue. Here's a few of my cloudy day shots up here on RP.net:
Image © Thomas J. Nanos
PhotoID: 98955
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos

Image © Thomas J. Nanos
PhotoID: 94540
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos

Image © Thomas J. Nanos
PhotoID: 94527
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos
(OK, the sun was peeking out on the one above, but it was quite cloudy... )
Image © Thomas J. Nanos
PhotoID: 90089
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos

It does take a bit of practice & persistence to get it right, but that's the advantage of digital - you get to see your results right on the scene. No waiting for the lab... Plus, shoot RAW - you can do quite a bit of post-processing to bring out the details and colors - JPEG throws out quite a bit of data that RAW preserves.

But that's just me, your mileage may vary...

Tom Nanos
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Last edited by railfanzone; 03-25-2005 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 04-04-2005, 03:37 AM   #10
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As someone else stated, use RAW and you'll find it quick and eay to correct the exposure later (assuming you have PS or PSP).

Alternatively, have you ever thought of using a graduated ND filter to cut down the exposure in the sky while not affecting the lower half of your image? You may need to do a little PS editing afterwards to balance things out, but nothing major.

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Old 05-01-2005, 05:38 AM   #11
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Split lighting is always tough . . . you just do the best you can. And hope for some good ones.
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