Blue skies; I hate them… and here is why:

Consider these two images, taken just a week apart at the same location.

Kirkjufellsfoss Lower falls - July
Kirkjufellsfoss Lower falls - August

Although the cloudless image on the left isn’t exactly a blue sky, it does illustrate the main issue for me, the lack of clouds on a blue sky day. Clouds can help a landscape photograph in many ways. The most important are the distribution of light and the demonstration of depth.

When the sky is filled with clouds, the sun hitting the landscape is affected by the shadows on the clouds. This means that different parts of the landscape will have different levels of light and this adds extra textures and more interesting shadows to the land.

Objects above the horizon (such as clouds) can give powerful pictorial depth cues as the higher clouds are perceived as being closer and the lower clouds are perceived as being further away. But the depth cues are not only missing from the sky, the light on a landscape on a clear blue day has no variety.

The clouds play such an important role in this scene because they have been shaped by air currents in the fjords, rolled up like big joints and then lit up by that deathly slow midnight sun. In terms of depth cues, they are very strong especially as they are reflected in the still waters of Skötufjörður in the Westfjords.

Ansel Adam’s famous half dome picture actually makes good use of a blue sky. He shot the scene in black and white with a red filter. The red filter cut out the blue and made the sky darker than the half dome. This is an exciting technique for controlling the dynamic range and allowing proper exposure of the rock.

Here is a black and white image using the red fliter technique to make a blue sky look dark.

AZ hill.jpg
By MaekjuOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Tony Prower

Tony Prower is available for lectures, seminars and private tuition in the photographic arts:: Contact Me

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