Friday, May 21, 2010

Put Some Clouds In Your Pocket

If you browse through the last past hundred and sixty plus post here at the gallery you might see The same shot over and over again. It won’t look the same and you might have a hard time spotting them, but they’re there. You can’t always be in a great location in ideal weather conditions, nor should you want to be. Ideal for a picnic is probably not ideal for photography. Bright sunshine, a warm breeze and cool shade all sound good for a fun afternoon, but you might want to leave your camera at home (not really). The contrast between that bright sun and that cool shade is probably more than your camera can handle. There are all sorts of things you can do. If you’re shooting people, move them into that cool shade and fire away. Pull out your speedlite and practice your off camera flash technique. Set up one of those “easy up” awnings and use it for a makeshift studio. Take small, intimate shots where harsh shadows might be “artist”. Another time to get creative is when the sky is just plain flat grey. You can shoot just about anything, but your sky will probably wind up being a big blank area in the frame. If we were still back in the “olden days” of film and slides, the slide would be totally clear. That’s when having an assortment of cloud images on your hard drive is handy as heck. We don’t several examples of putting in a sky. I have to give a class to a local group in a week or so and I’ve reviewed some of the group’s work. They’re just starting out and are committing the typical rookie errors. I can spot them a mile away. Why, because I probably made the same mistakes on my way up. Taking images of clouds that will pop right into a background isn’t as easy as leaving your camera on Auto and pointing it upward. To find out about the trick to shooting clouds, hit the “read more”.
One thing to remember is that a camera is set up to produce something that ends up being grey. The meter looks at whatever is in front of the lens and says “how do I make this scene average out to grey?” So, what happens if we point a camera at clouds? We get grey clouds. The first thing people starting out in photography think is “hmmm, the clouds are really bright, so I need to bring my exposure compensation down to make things less bright”. What we wind up with is darken grey clouds. Oops! If the camera tries to make things average out to grey and the scene (the cloud) is mostly white we have to let the camera know (by changing the EV [exposure value] setting) that “average grey” is actually brighter than normal. Therefore, bringing the EV higher rather than lower is the way to go.

When shooting clouds for clouds for my own personal “stock” I’ll bring the EV up one stop and take a set of shots. Then I’ll go to +1.3 stops and shoot some more, and then +1.7 and shoot some more, and finally +2 stops. Depending on the foreground shot, one of those settings will most likely produce something that looks natural when used as the sky in a composite image.

If you see a great clouds formations, grab your camera and shoot with the future in mind.