Generally speaking, we all love a sunny day. No too hot. Not a cloud in the sky.
By photographically speaking, clouds can be your best friend. They can add drama. But more importantly, they are often an important photographic element to help balance an image. To show you what I mean, take a look at these two photos taken from roughly the same spot in sunny Orange County, California.
Now, I’ll grant you the argument that the second is more dramatic because of the sunset, but that element aside, can you see how the feel of the image changes when clouds are introduced? The background of the sky is nearly the same, with strong yellows at the horizon transitioning up to deeper blues in both images.
This viewpoint is near my home and I go there often to watch the sunset. On the days with no or very few clouds, the sunset is still impressive. But on the evenings when clouds abound, especially at a variety of altitudes and forms, the sky brings more drama and gives a better show. And that translates to a better photograph.
When you have a favorite subject or location close to where you live, be sure to visit it often when there are even small shifts in the cloud patterns. The results might amaze you.
Not only should you add some clouds, it’s also important to know how the clouds affect the mood of your photo. Here are two more photos, this time from outside Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah, of Merrimac Butte. Again, the angle is slightly different and so is the time of day, but both shots were taken on successive days at 2PM and 4PM respectively.
It’s the mistake of beginning photographers to think their one shot of Yosemite or New York or anywhere with a sky is the “one” shot. That’s the wonderful thing about photography and this planet; weather and clouds play a big part in the mood in an image.If the clouds aren’t they way you want them, wait five minutes, an hour, a day or even a season to find the right mood for your image.