Mammoth Flats
captured by D500 / 10-24AFS

This question came in not once, but twice over the weekend in response to an Instagram photo I posted. I take that as a great compliment! There is a reason my bud McNally calls me “Dances with Clouds” and that’s because I can’t pass up a good cloud. And that’s where it all starts the challenge for many, determining if it’s a good cloud or not. There are a couple of key elements in my approach to a romantic cloud photograph and that does it have character and will finishing bring out that character? What’s cloud character? In my mind that comes from the shape(s) in and about the cloud that shades of blacks, whites, and grays create (foreground earth is key here as well). The way the light plays on the shape and texture in the cloud is key! To see this I think you need to have a vivid imagination which I have. I’m not talking about seeing a face or critter in the clouds but rather, design elements that move the eye around the frame while touching the heart. Clouds require heart. The challenge in this is seeing what’s actually there and what will come forth in the digital darkroom tying this all up in drama.

Mammoth Flats
captured by D500 / 10-24AFS

What you’re seeing at the top is the finished photo, the bottom what the camera captured. You can see what I saw in both instances, the character I saw in reality and that in which I envisioned. In this photo, the main character is the “formation” that is dead center in the frame with the highlight on the right and the darkness on the left moving the eye through the frame once finished. Now part of this equation is knowing how the image will finish in post. It’s kinda which came first, the pixel or the egg? Working with Luminar, I knew exactly how the Preset I created would make that center formation pop. So those two elements I count on in my cloud photography might be the biggest challenge for your cloud photography that only time and playing in post will make successful. Until you come across that next great cloud, take one you have in your files now and start experimenting with the post processing that makes your passion come alive. Then remember that as you frame up those floating pillows of drama.

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