If I could choose what I want in all my landscape photos, it would be CLOUDS! Clouds add so much to the most boring photo that it should be something that would get you out of the house and go take some photos.
The proper use of clouds in an image can add texture, dimension, and drama to many photos, while enhancing or serving as an additional storytelling feature for your main subject. One of my own favorite landscape photos is one I took in the fall, and the clouds just added to the fall colors:
As I look at this photo, and trying to decide if the photo would have been ok without the clouds, I just think maybe, but the clouds added so much more to the composition of this photo.
PHOTOGRAPHING CLOUDS ADDS TEXTURE TO YOUR PHOTO
Sunset photos without clouds is just boring. Clouds always makes better sunset photos. Often, if we see clouds in the sky at 4pm, we will grab our camera and head to the large lake in our area and get ready for the show.
CLOUDS CAN BE PERFECT FOR STORYTELLING:
Some of the best photos you ever take are photos that tell stories. You can’t always order clouds that produce storms, or tornadoes, but if you are one that watches the weather, you should be able to capture some great “story-telling photos”.
Making clouds work for you in this way usually requires a little bit of planning, some location scouting (always fun!), the right subject, and, course, keeping a sharp eye on the sky for weather that will produce great clouds.
When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.
There is nothing that makes the sky more beautiful. Even the best sunset or sunrise will include clouds. But, when taking photos of clouds, should you have another subject with clouds? Or does a photo of just clouds win you over? Let’s take a look at the options:
To get a good sunset photo, should you include the land?
Above, here is definitely a beautiful photo of a sunset, with just clouds. Do you like it?
Here is a photo of clouds, a sunset, with the land below. Does this help the subject of clouds or do you like the photo of just the clouds?
Now if you were given an assignment to photograph the sky, how would you shoot that? It is interesting when I go to Pexels to retrieve a photo for these blogs, the many different ways there are to photograph a subject. If I had an assignment to photograph the sky, would I include clouds?
The photo above is one of 50 that does not have any clouds. There is a bank of fog on the ocean, but, that doesn’t mean it is in the sky. This is a beautiful photo of the lighthouse. But, was the photographer taking a photo of the sky or the lighthouse? I think that this photographer would not have taken the photo if the lighthouse was not in it. So, it’s really hard to get a good photo of the sky without something else.
This photo above is listed as a “sky” photo. And yes, the sky is probably the most beautiful part of this photo. The ocean is nice, and what land there is, separates the sky from the land. But, I think that the ideas of taking a photo of the sky, should include land to give it some dimension.
Even the smallest amount of clouds in the sky, make the sky so much more beautiful. If you have to go shooting photos, and there is no clouds, are you going to stay home? If I had planned to go shooting, and there wasn’t clouds in the sky, I would probably just change what I am going to shoot, shoot every thing on the ground.
So next time you take photos, and there is a lot of clouds that dramatically effect your photos, thank God for sending in something to make your photos better.
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ANOTHER ONE OF THE AMAZING THINGS THAT COULD HELP YOU TO BE “DIFFERENT” THAN ALL THE OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS THAT TAKE LANDSCAPE PHOTOS, IS TO BE A “SKY” PHOTOGRAPHER. SO MANY TIMES WE FOCUS ON THE LANDSCAPE OF THE LAND IN FRONT OF US, WHEN WE COULD SERIOUSLY LOOK AT THE SKY AND BE MESMERIZED BY THE BEAUTY ABOVE US. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE SEEN PHOTOS OF CLOUDS, OR EVEN APPROACHING STORMS, AND WISHED YOU HAD CAUGHT THAT PHOTO? YOU CAN, AND TRY TO BE THE ONE TO BE A “SKY” SCRAPE PHOTOGRAPHER.
It’s a common habit among photographers to always make a point to carry a camera around for those “just in case” moments. Many great photographs were captured this way and the image above is no exception. The photographer, based in the Netherlands, took the shot just as the sun was receding into the plane to create the stunning image:
Using a Canon 650D and a Sigma 18-35mm, the photographer says he was enamored with the dramatic feel of the sky and took that into consideration when selecting the composition. He says the only editing he added to the image was a slight increase in clarity and contrast.
“The colors were like this in real life. It was an amazing evening. Will never forget it.”
COULD YOU SEE A PHOTO LIKE THAT HANGING IN YOUR HOME? EXACTLY. THE COLORS AND THE BEAUTY OF A PHOTO LIKE THAT WOULD BE ONE THAT WILL BE TALKED ABOUT FOR A LONG TIME. AND THAT IS WHAT YOU CALL “ART”.
THE RULE WITH TAKING PICTURES OF THE SKY, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE CLOUD IS THE MAIN SUBJECT IS TO MAKE SURE THE SKY HAS NO CLUTTER OR OBJECTS IN THE FOREGROUND TO DISTRACT FROM THE CLOUDS. LIKE AN APPROACHING STORM CLOUD, MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE NOTHING IN FRONT OF THE CLOUD THAT WOULD DISTRACT THE VIEWER FROM THE CLOUD. THE SUBJECT IS THE CLOUD, AND THAT IS HOW IT SHOULD BE.
WELL KNOWN SUBJECTS CAN BECOME EVEN MORE SPECIAL IF YOU CAN WAIT FOR A LITTLE MORE DRAMATIC EFFECT IN THE BACKGROUND. LOOK FOR THOSE PUFFY CUMULUS CLOUDS TO ADD A LITTLE MORE BEAUTY AND “PIZZAZ” TO THE PHOTO. EVERYBODY GETS A PHOTO OF THE “ARCH”, BUT, HOW MANY GET A GORGEOUS PHOTO LIKE THE ONE ABOVE WITH BEAUTIFUL PUFFY CLOUDS IN IT? MAKES IT MORE OF A MASTERPIECE.
OF COURSE, EVERYONE TAKES PICTURES OF SUNSETS. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT EVERYONE TAKES PICTURES OF. BUT, THERE IS SPECIAL WAYS TO DO SUNSETS. SOMETIMES LOOKING AT SUNSET PHOTOS CAN BE BORING. BUT, WHAT MAKES SUNSET PHOTOS MORE DRAMATIC THAN EVER IS IF YOU CAN GET TWO THINGS TO HAPPEN. THIS PHOTO HAPPENS TO HAVE BOTH, AND THAT IS RARE, BUT, IF YOU CAN HAVE AT LEAST 1 COMPONENT, YOU MAY HAVE A REAL KEEPER. AND THAT IS 1- DRAMATIC CLOUDS TO YOUR SUNSET. AND 2 SOMETHING IN THE FOREGROUND THAT WILL MAKE IT HAVE DEPTH. IN THE ABOVE PHOTO, THERE IS ONE MORE THING THAT MAKES THIS UNIQUE, AND THAT IS THAT WE HAVE THE “TWILIGHT COLORS” AS WELL IN THIS PHOTO. THAT IS WHEN YOU GET THE “BLUES’ AND THE PURPLES OF THE SKY, WHICH USUALLY HAPPENS AFTER THE SUN GOES DOWN. THIS PHOTO JUST HAPPENS TO HAVE IT ALL…… AND NOTHING WAS ENHANCED OR RETOUCHED ON THIS.
IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE THE SKY ONE OF YOUR MAIN POINTS OF YOUR PORTFOLIO, THEN YOU MUST LEARN TO BE PATIENT. WHEN TAKING PICTURES OF SUNSETS, YOU MAY TAKE MORE THAN 10 PHOTOS OF THE SUNSET AS IT PROGRESSES THROUGH IT’S CONCLUSION. BUT ONE OF THOSE PHOTOS COULD BE THE MOST COLORFUL, MOST INCREDIBLE PHOTO YOU HAVE EVER TAKEN. PATIENCE IS DEFINITELY ONE OF THE BEST THINGS YOU WILL EVER LEARN TO BECOMING A GREAT PHOTOGRAPHER, EVEN IN TAKING PICTURES OF THE SKY.
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Special note: recently I was looking for a subject to write on for this blog, and came across another website that was showing how many different subjects there are on photography. And they came up with:
51 different subjects !
I have decided to take on that challenge and see if I can share my knowledge of all 51 different subjects.
FIRST ON THE LIST: TAKING PHOTOS OF CLOUDS !
In scenery photos, I believe the best photos will include clouds. Generally, as long as you have a foreground or a true landscape photo with the clouds in the picture, you can just follow the light meter. But, be aware of certain clouds that could throw the exposure setting off on your landscape photo.
If you have a lot of “white” clouds in your photo, the light meter of your camera may turn the rest of the landscape dark to compensate for all the white. The photo above has 2 issues to watch out for: 1- if you just use your light meter in automatic mode, the white clouds will probably not be white. They will be a darker shade, almost grey in color. That’s because the light meter thinks everything is grey. So, these clouds are not as white as they were in real life. 2- Also, because of that the landscape is now darker as well.
Here is a better view of what the image really was: The clouds are white, and now we have a better exposure of the landscape as well. Oh, there’s color in the landscape that was missed with the first photo. But, perhaps you like the first one better? You decide, but the first one is way underexposed.
What to do: make sure if you are shooting with automatic mode, try using your “over / under” exposure compensation dial, and over expose (+) your photo.
What if you want to make your clouds the important part of the subject, like a sunrise or sunset:
In this case, for a sunset, the clouds in the photo just adds to the colors. The capture the reflections they get from the actual sunset and make their own color. Often you can get this type of photo, just by using your camera in automatic mode. But, I would certainly experiment with this by taking the photo at what the camera light meter does, and then take one picture over expose (+) and then one underexposed (-) to see the color differences. It will mean the difference between a good photo and a bad photo.
I have on my Facebook page, a photographer that shoots the sunset every night, and the colors are incredible. I have someone else who lives in a different part of the valley shoot the same sunset, and I am bored. And then I saw it myself, and I will go with the first photographer. So, experiment with the exposure control even if you like what you got, and see if you can get a better one.
Now take a look at this above photo, with a variety of clouds and the mountains in brilliant color. This was taken with a circular polarizing filter, and this totally enhanced all the colors, plus, kept the exposure perfect. This is because there is more “scenery” in the photo than the clouds. But, look at that photo again, and picture it without the clouds. Not quite so pretty is it? So, clouds are truly important when taking photos.
I love what another photographer put as the steps necessary to get good cloud photos:
1- Use all your lenses, telephoto zooms, wide angle lenses, general walk arounds. Zoom in, zoom out, photograph panoramas, shoot them both horizontally and vertically. But mostly shoot them wide and get as much into one scene as possible. You can always crop and resize as you wish later on.
2-Use a polarizing filter to help bring out as much detail as possible.
3- Photograph all types of clouds. Dark angry clouds, happy fluffy clouds, Cirrus and Cumulus are my personal favorites. Photograph them at sunset, sunrise, midday or midnight for that matter! Overcast days, sunny days, just keep shooting whenever you see a dramatic sky formation.
4- Keep your camera ISO setting low. Personally I don’t go over 200 ISO for clouds. You want to keep them clean and noise free.
5- Keep photographing clouds and the sky from every direction in reference to the sun and lighting as well. When you clone in a new sky the lighting on the main subject needs to match the lighting on the sky. After all, you want it to appear believable.
6- I set the lowest aperture f-number possible. A sky or cloud formation is so far away your camera aperture setting becomes virtually unimportant. Just make sure the camera is focusing on the actual sky and not a nearby object.
Another thing to watch for is the different timing on your sunset photos with the clouds. The photo above is a photo taken at “twilight”, which occurs after the sun goes down, and colors that you pick up are the purples and blues creating even a more beautiful sunset. Don’t just take your sunset photo and leave, wait to see if you can get some of the “twilight” colors too. You will be glad you did.