I have to confess I didn’t really start paying much attention to the sky until I started taking photographs. Now I can’t get enough of it.
As a landscape photographer- and even taking portraits- what the sky is doing is paramount to the end result of your photograph. Once upon a time I figured blue skies (ideally ramped with a nice polarizing filter) were the bees knees when it came to taking a nice scenery shot. I’ve since learned that the variety of clouds you can get- especially on a sunny day- is delightful and can add depth, texture and contrast to a photograph, and make the difference between a postcardy-type of holiday snap, and a truly stand-out image you’d like to hang on your wall. Best of all is when cloud formations line up to mirror part of your landscape or draw the eye to your point of focus.
Sometimes, the sky itself can be a fascinating enough subject. The array of cloud formations and styles is quite literally endless and changes every few seconds with the wind and the changing light- it is quite simply impossible to take two photos of the sky that are identical, and for that the potential is infinite.
Other times it’s nice to frame a little something against the sky just to add a dash of interest, as I’ve done with a couple of these shots. It really depends what’s available, and what adds to an image rather than distracting from the cloudforms.
Of course, shooting clouds at sunset is reminiscent of fish and barrels. As light passing through ever-thickening atmosphere is variously refracted into prismatic shades of the visual electromagnetic spectrum, the painting on the sky is invariably magical, and some of my most satisfying outdoors shots have been taken at dawn or dusk.
This is just a little sampler of some of the sky-focused images I’ve taken over the last couple of years. Lots more to come, I assure you.
1. Cumulus clouds build up on a steamy summer’s afternoon outside Pretoria, South Africa. It stormed later.
2. Dawn cloudscape in the South Australian outback, along the Oodnadatta Track.
3. Is that the Cat in the Hat? Wispy formation hangs over Melbourne’s Central Business District.
4. Gumtree sky: A variety of cloudforms drift over Victoria’s Yarra Ranges near Warburton.
5. Skytrain: Clouds hang behind a crossing sign marking the abandoned Old Ghan railway line across South Australia’s outback near the Oodnadatta Track.
6. Suburban dystopia: Clouds blur above a power line, one of zillions in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Shot with a neutral density filter (ND8) to give several seconds’ worth of exposure in broad daylight, hence the apparent motion in the sky.
7 & 8. Stormy monsoonal clouds soak up setting sunrays over the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo.
9. Speckles of fluffy cloud spot a rich blue sky behind a Brisbane apartment tower.
10. The twin towers of Melbourne’s Bolte Bridge are backlit against a sunset cloudscape.
11. A stream of condensed exhaust pours from a factory stack in Melbourne’s industrial westlands near Williamstown.
12. Rich hues dance in the fading light of Sri Lanka’s monsoon season.