The Epic Saga of Clouds in Photography

Now, I know what some are thinking, “How can the history of clouds in photos be an epic saga? That sounds dumb”. Well the truth is, it does sound dumb. Then again you don’t judge a photo based on how it sounds, do you. Anyway this will be a brief post on the importance clouds have played and continue to play, in photography, for both amateurs and professionals.

Ansel Adams. You may have heard of him. If you haven’t, get out from under your rock! Just kidding. Ansel Adams, is said to be the grandfather of landscape photography. His photos are recognized globally and are some of, if not, the best photos taken in the history of photography. This photo titled, The Tetons and the Snake River, is a beautiful example of the work Adams produced throughout his lifetime. Taken with a large aperture, using a combination of back and diffused lighting, and using a mid-range shutter speed; this photo is beyond beautiful. Many of his photographs are nature based and as seen below. Notice the use of clouds to give an ominous and powerful feeling to the mountains and sky.

Taken by Ansel Adams, who is said to be the grandfather of landscape photography. His photos are recognized globally and are some of, if not, the best photos taken in the history of photography. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Now this is just one photograph, from one photographer. I wouldn’t be convinced of the role clouds play in photography just yet. So…hear is Peter Essick.

Peter Essick, who was recently named one of the top 40 most influential nature photographers in the world, is one of my favorite photographers. His photos have been featured many times on National Geographic and are simply amazing. This photo titled, Thunderclouds, Garnet Lake, has great lighting coming from behind enormous thunderclouds, giving a sense of nature’s strength and beauty.

Taken by Peter Essick, who was recently named one of the top 40 most influential nature photographers in the world. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

Okay, two photos from two established and well respected photographers. Here’s another.

Ian Plant. Another well respected nature photographer, Mr. Plant is an editor of Popular Photography, magazine and a frequent contributor to many other magazines. In this photo titled, Ebb and Flow, one will notice it was a long-exposure photograph with a large aperture and features great back-lighting of clouds and small islands. Yet, again more clouds!

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Photo courtesy of Google images/ ianplant.com

So, three professional photographers with three examples of clouds being frequent in their nature photography. What about amateurs?

I am considered an amateur so, here are just four, of several dozen of my favorite photographs containing…CLOUDS! Go figure.

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So, it is safe to say that clouds have and,will likely, always play a major role in landscape photography, not only because they occur naturally and photographers can’t make them leave, but because they give photos a sense of character and add drama. From professionals to amateurs, nearly everyone who owns a camera has taken a photo either of clouds or a photo where clouds are a major contributor to the photo’s subject.

So, the next time you see a cloud…thank it, for making photography interesting and sometimes challenging, I’m talking to you rain clouds!

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Capital Reef at Dusk (4 Images)

So, I recently discovered one of the best photographers on World Press and his name is Stephen Hung. His photographs are magnificent and should be seen by everyone, so here you go. Make sure to view the original post.

Stephen Hung Photography

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These images were taken on Route 24 within the Capital Reef National Park. Sunset really brought out the beautiful colors of red rock and sky.

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Whale Tale

On a recent trip to Santa Cruz, I decided to go on a whale watching tour. For those who have never been on a whale watching tour, here are some tips in general and for photography.

  1. Pop them Pills – Now, if you thought I was speaking of drugs you were correct, that is, over the counter Dimehydrinate tablets, aka, Dramamine tablets. These are essential, especially, if you get motion sick easily. Even if you do not get motion sick easily, it is better safe than sorry. Besides either you keep your food or the fish get a nice snack.
  2. Jackets – I made the horrible mistake of not wearing a jacket, for this was my first whale tour. Unless you wish to feel like a polar bear, in December, in a snow storm, on top of Mount Everest, take a jacket.
  3. Elbows – They are there for a reason. I quickly learned that the elbows were designed, not as a strategic location for a joint, but as a deadly weapon. If your tour is full; first, prepare emotionally for the battle ahead. Then be sure to elbow your way to either side of the boat. Eventually whales will end up on your side, that is, if there are even any whales on your tour.

Photography tips.

  1. Do not be scared – Yes, some will argue their camera is more important than anything in the universe; however, you made the choice of being on a rocking boat, fully surrounded by enormous mammals that out weigh you by at least 200x and you payed for the experience. If you are worried about your camera getting wet, that is the least of your problems. Remember the camera can be replaced, but if you have to choose between a life-vest and your camera, please choose the life-vest.
  2. Timing – As I said the boat will likely be rocking. Timing the shot is difficult and very irritating at first. Later you will learn to anticipate when to take the shot. For what ever reason, in Santa Cruz sea lions always seemed to know where the whales would surface. I do not know whether this is just a Santa Cruz thing or if it is common in multiple areas. So, look for sea lions, they’re psychic.
  3. Gray – If you are using auto-focus, you better pray for a sunny day. Many cameras can not distinguish between a gray sky, with gray water, and gray whales. So, the camera’s ability to sense differences in color and lighting drops to a very low level, further complicating taking photos on a rocking boat full of irritated tourists. If the sky is gray and similar conditions occur, I recommend switching to manual-focus, if you have the option. This worked for me and is one of the few times where it is was required to go to manual-focus.

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Aperture: f/5.6  Shutter Speed: 1/500s    For all photos shown.
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Grey Whale

Free Willy, by liking or commenting on this post!

Luminescent Lighting

Lighting is what gives a photograph a personality. As a photographer one should say do I want this photo to be apparent or mysterious, vivid or bland, happy or depressed. These moods can be achieved by knowing how to use the four kinds of lighting.

  1. Diffused lighting – Lighting is spread evenly throughout the photo. Diffused lighting minimizes shadows in photos and ,some times, can eliminate all shadows in photos. Diffused lighting can also reduce the appearance of wrinkles in photos, so many portraits of older subjects use diffused lighting to their advantage. Diffused lighting can be created naturally when the sky is overcast. Since the sunlight is having to travel through a layer of clouds, the light is spread out. Diffused lighting creates a mysterious or bland scene; however, it all depends on the subject. As seen in the photo below there are no apparent shadows and the lighting is mostly even throughout the photo due to an overcast sky.grad
  2. Back lighting – Caused when the light source is located behind the subject. Excellent for creating a sense of drama and for creating silhouettes. Back lighting is simple to achieve, especially around sunrise and sunset. When the sun is at a low position in the sky it is easier to place a subject in between the sun and camera creating back lighting. As seen in the photo below some storm clouds are back lit by the setting sun creating a silhouette of the clouds.clouds
  3. Front lighting – Caused when the light source is in front of the subject. Unfortunately, front lighting places shadows behind the subject and can cause these photos to appear “flat”. The flat feeling is a result of the loss of shadows and makes these photos seem more two dimensional. The photo below is an example of front lighting. Now, while this photo is not exceptionally flat, due to the motion of the water, it is still front lighting.
  4. Side lighting – Caused when the source of lighting is located at one side of a subject. As a result of the source of light coming from one side of the subject, usually one half of the subject will be well lit, while the other half is covered in a shadow. The subjects curves and edges are noticeable allowing for the differentiation of elevation on the subject. Side lighting can cause a three dimensional effect to appear in a photo. Side lighting is also exceptionally good for dramatic photos. As seen below the subject is side lit allowing for parts of the rock formation to be well lit, while other areas are blanketed by shadows.

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If you enjoyed this post please like or comment. Do it. He’s watching YOU!

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How to Photograph the Milky Way

This post is great. Be sure to visit Cornwall Photographic if you like the post.

Cornwall Photographic

The Milky Way

This tutorial covers the basic steps necessary to capture images like the one above. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is shaped, as the late Sir Patrick Moore, (a BBC, well actually, national institution described it, a man who presented a late night astronomy programme for 55 years) like two fried eggs back to back.  We live about halfway across the white.  It’s about 25,000 light years to the centre of the galaxy and about 25,000 light years to the edge.  With light travelling at 186,000 miles per second, getting your head around how far light can travel in an hour, let alone a year and then multiplying that by 25,000 to get to either the edge or the centre of the galaxy from where we are situated, it really is quite mind-boggling.

The size, the complexity, the multitude of stars and planets, standing on a beach or a cliff top…

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Luring Landscapes

Warning extreme bias: Hint (I love landscape photography).

Landscape photography is by far my favorite kind of photography. The sights and smells one can experience when shooting landscapes is indescribable. Yet, it is surprisingly easy to take amazing landscape photos, as long as one follows, the previously, unwritten rules.

  1. Maximize depth of field – also known as one’s aperture, depth of field is essential in any photograph, including landscape photography. The general approach in landscape photography is to set your camera to either aperture priority mode or manual mode and set the aperture to the highest f/stop. Aperture priority may appear as the symbol above. Once this is done find the rest of the settings until your camera indicates a correct exposure and click.
  2. Always use a tripod – Tripods allow landscape photographers to shoot at any shutter speed their camera is capable of shooting at. This means one does not have to sacrifice the slowing of motion in a photo. The slowing of motion is another rule when photographing landscapes. Adding motion to a landscape photo can create some very dramatic effects in one’s photos that are sure to impress others.
  3. Fill the foreground – By placing objects in the foreground a sense of depth is created in the photo. This sense of depth can allow viewers a kind of path to follow in one’s photos.
  4. Always consider the sky – If the sky is filled with colors, drama, and/or clouds try adding more of it to the photo. The sky is a great way to get attention in a photo.
  5. Consider 5AM and 5PM – I refer to these times as the “glory hours”. What this means is try to take landscape photos near dawn and sunset. These times allow a greater variety of colors to be captured and increase the chances of capturing a dramatic sky.

Examples: The photo below was taken with an aperture of f/36. Notice the use of a tripod allowed for a long exposure photo to be taken; which, slowed motion and created a cotton candy effect in the water. The rocks in the foreground are mainly located near the center and are lined up to point in the direction of the rotting log in the water.

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In this photo the aperture was set at f/20. The sky is visibly dramatic and the foreground includes near-by vegetation to frame the valley below.

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In this photo the aperture is set to a low f/4. Using a tripod, a lower shutter speed was used to capture the colors of a morning sun rise over a mountain lake. P.S. I woke up at 5 am for this photo and no I don’t regret it.

Early morning lightLandscapes are everywhere. The examples shown today were only of natural landscapes, but even if you can’t access these types of areas try other landscapes, like city landscapes. Don’t worry the same rules apply when photographing cities, just watch out for interesting sights!

IMG_0204AYes, its not a real landscape, but how often do you see that!

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Major Macro

Macro photography, also known as close-up photography, is an easy way to create amazing photos of subjects both large and small. Most cameras have a setting for macro photography built in, with the symbol usually looking like the symbol below.

For those wishing to abandon the, sometimes annoying decision making software in a camera, one could always go manual.

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When choosing to go manual for taking macro photos one should begin by setting the aperture to its lowest f/stop. For example, in this photo I set the camera’s aperture to f/6.3. This will give the background a nice blur. The blurred background ensures that only the subject will be visible and in focus. Arguably, the most important element in marco photography is the aperture.Flower 1

The image above was taken at an aperture of f/4.5. Notice the background is blurred throughout leaving only the flower in focus.

The image below was taken at an aperture of f/40. Notice the background is, for the most part, in focus.

IMG_0405_1135While, one image is taken at a low f/stop and the other at a high f/stop, the subject is the same. Yet, we end up with very different photos and different stories. Of course, one may take a photo in whichever way they feel like. I prefer a blurred background for most of my macro photos, but everyone is different and free to tell their story, their way.

Whether, one chooses to use a preset or go manual, a final tip for taking macro photos is to always be at your subjects height. Being at the same height as one’s subject gives a different perspective that is often seen in photos. This is especially important when taking macro photos of wildlife, for if the subject is an animal, it will feel more comfortable when one is at its height. Disclaimer: Do not try this with a bear. Instead try a squirrel. I assure you, they are much more fun.If you enjoyed this post please like or comment.