Reducing the gloom of a cloudy day

My photography muse led me on a small road trip today.  I was driving up Grand Avenue and saw a sign pointing to Lake Pleasant Regional Park, and I made a right turn and was on my way.  I’ve lived in Glendale for almost ten years now and had never been to Lake Pleasant, so I figured it was about time.  The skies were mostly cloudy but the sun was peeking through every so often, so I thought I’d take my chances that I might get some good shots of the lake.

Once I got past all the golf carts in Sun City and the huge new power lines that are being constructed to the north, the area became very scenic (relatively speaking).  With all the recent rains we’ve had, the desert is decidedly green with what are basically weeds growing up between the rocks.  It’s actually very pretty as far as desert scenery goes, and it’s so temporary that it’s pretty special.

By the time I got to the lake the cloud cover was pretty much complete, so there was no sparkle to the water.  I had all my gear in my backpack so I took a couple of short hikes, one from the parking lot at Pleasant Harbor and another from the Visitors Center in the park itself.  I had to pay $6 to get into each of those places, but I’m not going to let it spoil my day.  The hikes were very pleasant as the temperatures were in the mid-60’s and there weren’t many people on the trails.  I got a great view of the lake, although with the cloud cover and haze it wasn’t as fabulous as I had pictured it in my mind.  I still took almost a hundred shots, mainly because I was using my old manual-focus 75-300mm telephoto zoom, and I wanted to practice focusing manually.  I also used my trusty 18-55mm normal lens for several shots to try and get a wider view of the lake and the surrounding mountains.  As I reviewed each shot on the LCD screen, I wasn’t really happy with any of them as they all looked washed out and “blah” from the overcast.

Which brings me to Paintshop Photo Pro.  When I got home and transferred the photos to the computer, I started playing around with some of the adjustment settings, and was actually impressed with what the software is able to do with photos that look so uninteresting.  The main things I played with were color balance, hue & saturation, brightness, contrast, local tone mapping, fade correction, vibrancy, and sharpening.  Below are some before-and-after examples of some of the shots from today’s road trip.  They’ve all been reduced in size to 300X400, but you’ll get the point:

Ocotillo bloom - BEFORE

Ocotillo bloom - AFTER

Hiking trail - Before

Hiking trail - AFTER

Lake view - BEFORE

Lake View - AFTER

Sailboats - BEFORE

Sailboats - AFTER

Again these reduced-size versions don’t give an accurate rendering of how the processing turned out, but the full size versions are available on my Flickr page, so go check them out.  Let me know what you think of the before-and-after comparison, and any tips you may have for taking photos on gray days!



    • Thanks, Tammy! Glad you enjoyed the photos, and I hope you’ll come back and visit the blog often! 🙂 I’m looking forward to going back to Lake Pleasant on a prettier day, but at least now I have some ideas of places where I’ll want to set up my camera for some great shots. Hopefully it will be before the weather just gets miserably hot. Have a great week!!

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