Get creative with clouds
What ’s the Big Idea?
Clouds are an important part of landscape photography, yet are often overlooked when it comes to creating an image. Like supporting actors in a film, they can add drama and emotion, they can direct the viewer to the main point of interest, and they can support or balance the main subject. To extend the film anology further, without them the entire production can be at risk of deletion from our memory cards.
The type of cloud can also play an important part in creating a successful landscape image. On countless occasions I have gone out to shoot a sunset, only to conclude the clouds are the wrong type to produce a spectacular image. It’s important to have the right type of cloud; whether it’s cirrus, cumulus or lenticular, the right type of cloud can make or break a landscape image.
What ’s the Key?
The key to getting creative with clouds is to make sure you not only have the right clouds, but that they are in the right place. I have waited ages for clouds to drift into the correct position within the frame. In fact, I waited four years to get the right cloud over this lone olive tree in Tuscany! I do a workshop there every year and have always wanted to photograph this single tree, but never had the right clouds present – that is, until last year. But I still had to wait a while in this field until a single cloud drifted directly over the tree. I could have put one in using Photoshop, but I prefer the get it right in camera whenever possible.
The angle at which clouds are moving also impacts on your images. Look for ones moving in the right direction to complement the angle of any buildings, or at an angle that helps to pull the viewer’s eye down to the ground.
Finally, there is an unwritten rule about using clouds: small fluffy cumulus clouds like the one over the tree here shouldn’t intersect major elements within the frame, or be cut off by the edge of the frame. This isn’t quite so important with more extensive clouds, or flatter, more horizontal clouds such as stratus or cirrus clouds, but it’s still worth bearing in mind when composing an image.