Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Clouds in my coffee

"Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water but as the last receiver of it."  President Harry Truman"s Address on Conservation at the Dedication of Everglades National Park, December 6, 1947.

I was thinking about clouds this morning. If you pay any attention to landscape photography, you might notice that certain elements make a strong image. Color and lighting of course, water reflections, strong foregrounds,  mountains, and clouds to name some. I did a quick experiment, I went into 500px website and brought up the Editor's Choice for Landscapes. If you scan through the first 40 images, you'll find clouds to be a significant and many times the primary element of the image in 20 of those images.

Here in south Florida, the land is flat, there are no mountains or valleys. But it has clouds and wow, does it ever. Now, google search "Landscape photography Everglades". The two artists that will likely appear are Clyde Butcher and Paul Marcellini. Check out there images and you will find lots of clouds.

I've always liked to see clouds in my images taken while on the water or on a beach. But lately, I've been more critical of my images and have become more choosy when looking for images to take, all in the context of clouds. There are several ways clouds can improve an image. One obvious way is that they add texture and shapes to the sky. Here's one from Biscayne Bay as an example.

I often use clouds when photographing at the bird rookery where the sky forms the background. Darkish clouds on the western horizon that are lit up by the rising sun in the east really gives an interesting background to the white birds as seen here.

Clouds can add balance to a composition. You may have a strong foreground, maybe a tree in the middle and behind it the sky. Clouds can complement each of the strong elements in the image by filling a void.  Here are a couple examples.

During sunrise or sunset, clouds add color. So for those beach scenes that may or may not have strong foregrounds in them, I pray to the cloud gods. Here are a couple views at sunrise on Biscayne Bay and another at sunset in the Ten Thousand Islands. When I am in the Ten Thousand Islands, it is to camp, which means I am out there only during winter months. Winter skies in the Everglades can often be cloudless, so I pray a lot.

Maybe the most pleasing way of using clouds in an image is with water. Here in south Florida, you can capitalize on that. Wide open waterscapes prevail and the reflections are endless. Here are two examples.

Of course, storm clouds are a bonus and can make the entire scene. Dramatic clouds are almost always something to be thankful for when photographing. While I do not like paddling my canoe with an approaching storm, sometimes, they get close enough to capture. Here are a couple examples, the top from Biscayne Bay and the other from the Everglades.

I once heard a talk given by Clyde Butcher. He said in order to get a shot, he would often wait hours for the clouds. You may not want to do that, but always look to the sky and pay attention to weather forecasts. Once you focus more on clouds, the possibilities will open wide.

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