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Photographing Just the Sky for Composites

The other day I was outside walking my dog, and just as I was approaching my house I could not help but notice the amazing clouds up in the sky. Where I currently live we rarely get good cloud-filled skies, so I tend to take notice when there is something other than a blank blue sky. Unfortunately, the sun was already on its way down, so there was no chance that I could drive anywhere decent to photograph a landscape with those gorgeous clouds.

Instead of writing things off, I decided to grab my camera and 70-200mm lens and get some stills of just the sky. I like to keep a collection inside of Lightroom with all of my clouds so that I can use them for future composite images (here is a recent article on how I use collections inside of Lightroom). My goal is to have a large enough collection of skies so that I can always have an appropriate sky to choose from when I need it most. Here is a small gallery of some of the clouds I photographed of the sky from the other night (click on the images to view larger and scroll through):

I’m learning that I can still create beautiful photographs when I am in front of a scene with no clouds in the sky. With my collection of skies I can easily replace the blue sky with something much more interesting. It has even encouraged me to photograph more landscapes with boring skies, scenes which I would have passed over in the past. With a some basic masking skills you too can drop a beautiful sky into a photograph, just like I did with this image of Shark Fin Cove in Santa Cruz, CA (click on the images to view larger and scroll through):

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