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“The best way out is always through.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Use Treetops to Give Clouds Scale

I love photographing clouds; they're beautiful and come in endless varieties and, like snowflakes, you'll never see two exactly alike. In fact, I've often thought of putting together a book of nothing but cloud photos. (But who would buy the book when all you have to do is look up and see the show for free?)

Shooting clouds is pretty easy and all you really have to do is expose for the sky (not the clouds) and you'll usually get a good exposure. When you're shooting clouds though, you have a lot of visual references around you that reveal the true scale and drama of the clouds--trees, telephone poles, rooftops. If you take away those references and shoot just the clouds, they begin to lose their drama. As I've talked about with landscapes and other subjects, without including an object of known size, it's kind of hard to judge the size of clouds and so they lose a lot of their impact.

When I was photographing these clouds I shot a ton of pictures of the clouds alone but there was something missing. In reviewing the photos on the LCD I realized that without some "earth reference" of some kind the clouds lacked all of the drama and impact that I was seeing in person. In one of the early shots though I had included some nearby treetops and that was the frame that really stood out and revealed the real power of the clouds. So I shot several more frames (including this one) with the trees and they are by far the strongest images.

By the way, clouds (like sunsets) always get more intense just before and after a storm, so when the rain starts to let up and the clouds start to break up, start looking up. The cool thing about shooting clouds is that you can do it almost anywhere--it doesn't matter if you're on a beautiful island or in a mall parking lot, clouds are clouds and they're all pretty.

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