ViewBug.com

16/12/2006

Be A Skyscaper


With landscape photos, there are not too many that do not contain a certain amount of sky in them. Some with a little, some with a lot. The amount of sky will depend on how interesting it looks on the day, and how much impact it will have on the overall scene. 

You may have seen landscapes of the great Australian Outback, or Monument Valley in Utah, USA, depicting red sandy deserts with wide, deep blue, cloudless skies and very little else. 
To the viewer, these images show the isolation and the emptiness of these great lands and they do that very well for a tourism point of view but throw into the foreground some interesting rock formations and a few wispy clouds in the sky and you instantly add character and interest to the image. 
Generally, if the sky is featureless, don't use it. It will become negative space and provide less room in the scene for any other important subject matter. 
When you are out looking for that great landscape shot, give the sky as much consideration as you do the land. You'll find the best time for this sort of image, is in the early hours of the day, when the air is fresh and clean, especially following an overnight rain. 
When you photograph the sky, you will need a lens with a good wide angle lens if you want to get all the entire scene in. It is best to include a little bit of land at the bottom of the frame, as this will give your image a base but with the bright sky in the early morning, this little bit of land will probably appear quite dark, so try not to include too much of it, then your camera can meter for the sky alone. 
A 'polarising filter' would be a handy gadget to take along with you, as it really enhances blue skies and will emphasise the whites in clouds, but while using it on the wider end of the lens, you may encounter some vignetting. (darkening in the corners of the image). For more information on these and other filters see my chapter on 'Filters'.
Let's say you have found an interesting sky to photograph, what can you use to add interest in the foreground? How about a silhouette? There is any number of subjects you could use; fences, windmills, dead trees, lighthouses, palms, gravestones. Just look around you and use a bit of imagination. 
There are many types of clouds that will help you produce a stunning and memorable photograph. They include the ever-changing shapes of high strata, cirrus, or jet stream cloud. Excellent just before sunrise and especially if you have a bit of low, dark, scuddy cloud to add some extra interest to the lower part of the scene. 
Cumulonimbus, or storm clouds, can make very dramatic looking images.
The anvil or thunderhead of storm heads can sometimes glow pink and/or orange in the early evening, as they reach up to incredible heights and can continue to glow well after the sun has gone down over the horizon. 
Lightning can also be fun to photograph, if you are able to be in an open area, sheltered from the rain, of course. 
For greater impact, it is done best at night. You will need a tripod for this, a remote shutter release and a wide lens. 
You will also need to have the ability to set your camera manually on the "B" or Bulb setting and set your camera's aperture to about f8 or f11. 
Point the camera in the direction of the approaching storm and manually set the camera to the above settings. Using the remote shutter release, open the shutter and lock the switch, allowing the shutter to be left open. You can close it again after the first lightning strike, or keep it open to get several strikes on the one frame. Be sure to take extra batteries with you, as they are likely to run down fairly quickly using the camera this way. 
The sky is the limit. Go and take advantage of what it has to offer. But at least wait till morning! 
See also photographing 'Lightning Strikes'