Saturday, May 26, 2018


They're all around us.My eyes see clouds, but my eye's mind sees color, shapes,
form, feelings. At certain times of the day or under certain weather conditions, they
can be awesome subjects to photograph.

I don't necessarily look for them; I let them find me and call out to me. What I do is leave myself open to listen.

The key factors to photographing clouds include both photographic and personal. Photographically, I prefer manual focus so that my auto focus mechanism won't have to figure out where to focus; 17mm-50mm focal length, in most cases, to get it all in; and definitely rely on my exposure compensation dial to keep the darks dark and brights bright.  

On a personal level, I have to act fast before the clouds and lighting change. To do that,
I need to be familiar with my equipment. I also need to understand what to include within the four corners of my viewfinder, and what to exclude in order to translate the awesomeness and beauty of nature's formations.    
Let me share some examples and explain what went into each one. At least half of these were created from a place I lived for eight years in Boulder County. I had a great view from my decks of the skies and sunsets over the Flatirons near Boulder, Colorado. 

I'll start with this one. I don't know why, but sunsets over the Flatirons in Boulder County are some of the most awesome sunsets I have ever seen, anywhere. This is just one of several examples. I underexposed the scene by 1/3-stop to keep the vibrance of those colors. I used a 300mm lens to get really close to the clouds and fill my frame with them as much as possible.

As I was coming home one afternoon, I saw this colorful sky backdrop of layers and layers of amazing colors! I hurried to my place, got my camera, and grabbed a few quick shots.      I include just a thin sliver of trees on the horizon for context. Honestly, it looked just like that! After I finished the shoot, I just stood there in awe. I used my wide angle lens to get the entire natural canvas in my viewfinder. You've got to be ready for these opportunities. They are once in a lifetime moments. 

I was driving around Dillon Lake near Frisco, Colorado when I saw this phenomena. Identifying cloud types is not my forte. I don't even try because I photograph the shapes they create, not the clouds themselves. The clouds repeat the colors and shapes of the Rockies below. The 12,000' and 14,000' peaks also give the clouds a good sense of scale.

A huge thunderstorm quickly formed one late afternoon. They looked menacing and beautiful at the same time. The setting sun gave the clouds those incredible hues. I like the Van Gogh colors.

I don't know what you see, but I saw a giant bird flying in the sky. Seconds later its "head" floated away from its body. 

Late one evening, as I stood on my deck sipping a glass of red wine, I just happened to look up at the sky. Time to put the wine down! I had to work fast for this one and use my exposure compensation dial like crazy, in 1/3 increments until I got this feel to the image. For obvious reasons, I call this piece "Zorro Moon."   

I call this image "Clouds on Fire." They looked like smoke from a distant fire.

It is extremely rare to see twin clouds, especially when they look like UFOs!! Nature is a great artist; we just need to be ready to see and photograph its art. I underexposed the scene by a -1 full stop to enhance the contrast. Most clouds need to be photographed at high shutter speeds; some of them move fast. For this image I used a 1/500 speed. In case you're wondering, no, it's not a Photoshop composite.  

I was shooting straight up at these dramatic dark clouds and sun rays. It gave me a strong spiritual feeling when I was preparing for the shot. I underexposed the scene by a -2/3 in order to keep the darks dark and keep those soul-reaching rays pronounced.   

I just had to include this last example, though it could be debated as to whether they are technically clouds. I like this image of whispering virga over the Flatirons. Like the image above, it has a sense of spirituality, surrealism, and sensuality combined.  

So, what are you waiting for? The skie's the limit. Almost half of my examples were created  at sunset. Find a great spot where you live and go there every single evening for a week and see what you can find. You too can get those once-in-a-lifetime images.