Any aspiring landscape photographer will know that nature often awards us a treasure trove of opportunities for photographic scenery with, among other things, a constantly changing skyscape. Clouds can conjure up a feeling of freedom –floating across the vast sky, traveling wherever the wind takes them. At the same time, however, they can just as easily give off the feeling of isolation and remoteness as a thick Chinook covers the sky in its vast sea of fluffy grayness.
Just how we covered in our tree photography post how the seasons change the impact a tree has on your shot, so too do clouds impact your landscape photos. With the proper situation at hand, and with a good deal of luck and improvisation, cloud photography can add a revolutionary ingredient in your pictures, if used correctly.
Perhaps one of the most situational pictures I have ever done, this bicyclist happened to be pedaling through Nose Hill Park on a cloudy day, and even more importantly, there was a lonely patch of blue sky in between the clouds. It wasn’t going to last long, and as can often be the case, situational opportunities can pop up in the blink of the eye. If I weren't aware of the situation and creative enough to make something of the opportunity when the bicyclist would be in the patch of sky – a situation that would only last a couple of moments – the opportunity would be wasted.
Aside from the awareness and improvisational skill needed, the clouds make this picture far more interesting than if it were a clear day with the bicyclist riding on a hill. The rareness of the situation can’t help but to draw someone in to the picture.
Here’s another example of an excellent landscape picture that uses the clouds to setup a unique ambiance.
In this picture, our subject is right at the bottom of the picture, with most of the image being taken up by these dark gray rain clouds. The darker tone of the picture gives off a totally different feeling than the first image which, although still dark, had a sense of hopefulness - that the clouds will depart and the beautiful sky will come through again. In this image, we get a totally different feel for the scenario. A brooding storm cloud has come to downtown Calgary, and you just know that sometime, somewhere, this cloud is going to unleash it’s payload of rain on its unsuspecting victims below- the questions just when, and who? Did Calgary emerge un-soaked? This photo doesn’t give the answer to those questions, but leave us to contemplate them instead.
Clouds add a level of unpredictability in your photography that requires creativity, awareness, and an improvisational mind to capitalize on. Being open and willing to do so can take what would be an ordinary picture and completely transform it into something truly special and unique.
Until next time,