(This photo was made on a day when there was a thin, high overcast that completely blocked out the sun. It wasn’t the kind of light you hope for on vacation at the beach. But it’s perfect light for photographing a wolf who happens to be standing on top of a waterfall. Had it been a cloudless day, the specular highlights in the water would have been uncontrollable and the wolf’s fur coat as well as the forest would have no detail in the blacks due to a very high contrast ratio.)
I’m struck by the number of times my well-meaning relatives say stuff like this:
“Oh Scott I was so happy for you knowing it was such a beautiful day – there wasn’t a cloud in the sky!”
Ummmm – thanks Auntie – but, oh well never mind.
You see for photographers, cloudless skies are rarely good news. Cloudless skies are usually boring. Cloudless skies can often lead to lots of ugly blue color casts in our photos. Cloudless skies can mean harsh light.
What photographers SHOULD be hoping for is the opposite. We want a sky full of big, interesting clouds. We like having a thin, high marine layer when we’re shooting outdoor portraits because that’s a very flattering light to use when making people pictures. We like thunderstorms because lightning in a photo is almost as good as lightning in a bottle.
Now beyond clouds there’s snow, and hail and rain and all manner of nasty stuff that can certainly make photography less fun from a comfort perspective, but from an image perspective, that’s interesting stuff.
Now I am not talking about black skies mind you. I’m not talking about shooting in a hurricane or tornado or anything dangerous. I am not saying I am happy when it’s eight hours of non-stop heavy rain without a break in sight.
But when they say “scattered showers,” my ears perk up. When they say “30% chance of rain, that means in the forecast area, 70% of the people won’t see rain and 30% will – I want to go to the edge of the weather where they are in between. That’s where it gets entertaining if you’re a landscape photographer.
I’m heading off to Yellowstone to teach the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop this week. I am HOPING for snow. Man that place is beautiful to photograph in the snow. I am hoping for interesting clouds. I am hoping for lots of weather – what non-shooters would call bad weather. What good photographers would call opportunity