Cloudscape Photography

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Monsoon is on its full swing, and what tempts someone bitten by the shutter-bug more than capturing the beauty of nature amid clouds puffy, dark and colourful. The literal meaning of cloudscape photography may be the ˜photography of clouds or sky\’ in general. But what lies beneath is a photographer\’s passion, vision, creativity and much more than that.When you look up at the clouds in the vastness that is the sky, you may see a couple of different things. You may observe fast-moving clouds or clouds that appear to have faces in them. Many people have also observed this wondrous and almost ethereal quality of clouds, which is what paved the way for cloudscape photography to slowly but surely expand its reach as a genre.WHAT\’S CLOUDSCAPE?Essentially, yes, it is the photography of either clouds or the sky, no matter what time of day, color or sizes and shapes.Not a dizzyingly popular photography genre by any means, cloudscape photography is more of a niche that\’s an acquired taste¦ but what an acquired taste it can be if you know what you\’re doing and have a passion for capturing the sky on film! This is such a photography niche that only a couple of photographers stand out in history as making famous contributions to the genre.WHO MADE CLOUDSCAPE A GENRE?Leonard Misonne, a Belgian photographer, made his mark by producing black-and-white shots of dark clouds and brooding skies. Even more remarkable was the noted American photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who actually created a series of shots of clouds called Equivalents in the early part of the 20th century. Equivalents is ground-breaking because it\’s viewed today as one of the first examples of utterly abstract photographic art.CLOUDSCAPE IS A LITTLE PART OF LANDSCAPE. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE? Nature often rewards us with incredible opportunities for photographing sunrises, sunsets and sun rays piercing through the clouds, creating stunning views. A landscape photographer is mostly into Cloudscape and tends to wait for partly cloudy and stormy days, because clouds make photographs appear much more dramatic and vivid.Without clouds, sunrises and sunsets often look boring, forcing us to cut out the sky and focus on foreground elements instead. In contrast, if you get to witness a sunrise or a sunset with puffy, stormy clouds that are lit up from underneath with colorful sun rays, creating a fiery view, including the clouds in your photographs would make the scene appear much more colorful and alive. In fact, clouds can be so beautiful, that they could become the main element of composition in your photographs. The basic thing is not just to photograph clouds, but to equally focus on making clouds appear much more dynamic and dramatic in your photographs.THINGS TO REMEMBER, BEFORE HEADING TOWARDS THE TIPS:Clouds reside in the Near Sky, the lowest 50,000 ft. of the atmosphere. That is in contrast to the distant stars in the Far Sky.Photographing merely involves seeing through the lens of a camera. Seeing has many different dimensions. There is generalized seeing with very little focus of attention to that being seen. In this case the Near Sky is like visual Musak, seen but not seen. The clouds have always been there and you pay little attention to them.At the other end of the attention continuum, there is seeing not only with the physical eye, but also with the inner eye, the eye of the artist innate in each individual but untouched and uncultivated in most. Here, each cloudscape is unique and worth savoring. Some cloudscapes, or clouds, feature such an array of color and arrangement of form that the result is beauty beyond description.Each photographer of the Near Sky faces the challenge of capturing fleeting images for future reference either of a technical or artistic nature.TIPS ON CLOUDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY:

  1. At the top of the list, keep your camera rock-solid when you press the shutter release. If possible, use a tripod, or rest the camera against some solid object. Practice holding the camera firmly and moving only the finger that activates the shutter release. Use of fast ASA film will minimize this problem.
  2. Use a haze or sky filter continuously.
  3. Use a polarizing filter. Using this filter increases the contrast between clouds, particularly in the cumulus family, and the background sky, thus enhancing the cloud image. Polarized light maximizes at 90 degrees to the solar beam, as you will find by pointing the camera to various parts of the sky. Most point and shoot cameras will not accommodate screw -on filters. However, all is not lost. It is not difficult to hold a filter in front of the lens, rotating it to produce the desired effect and taking care not to allow the stray finger to impinge on the incoming light.
  4. Use a neutral density filter as demanded by situations in which a bright sky and dark foreground are juxtaposed.
  5. Become aware of the subtleties of light. In general, avoid photographing in the harsh light of the middle of the day. There is more drama in the light of the low-sun of morning and late afternoon.
  6. Learn the art of composition. The artistic value of a cloudscape often is determined by the arrangement of the various elements that comprise the final image. Intrusive foreground material like bushes, trees, light wires and poles should be eliminated as a first step in composition. Tree branches sometimes come in handy as frames for a photograph.
  7. Most cameras used by amateurs and semipros include an automatic focus capability that is activated by an infrared beam. If you have the ability to set the f-stop, you can decide on the depth of focus you want in order to enhance or obscure particular elements in the scene you are shooting. Fortunately this is only a minor consideration when shooting cloud images.
  8. When photographing a halo or corona around the sun, find some object with which to block out the solar disc. Never look through the viewfinder directly at the sun. Overlooking this precaution could result in eye damage.
  9. Always remember that clouds are ephemeral, always changing, disappearing into invisible vapor, and reappearing in visible form. This is Nature’s “now you see it; now you don’t” magic act. So click and catch the moment. Remember that film is cheap compared to the lasting value of a particular scene. And fortunately, you have digital cameras now!
  10. If you are the ˜films-only\’ photographer, there are several brands of excellent quality film now on the market, led by Kodak, Fuji and Agfa. A wide range of film speeds is likewise available. ASA 200 is a good choice for most photographers of the sky.
  11. Refine your skills by practicing, and stopping to think before you click. Is your inner eye awake?
  12. Study cloudscapes taken by master photographers like Ansel Adams. Try to think as an Adams. Who knows, you may have the potential to become another master photographer of the Near Sky.
  13. It doesn’t happen frequently, but when it does happen it can cause acute embarrassment. Cameras use batteries. Batteries do die. Fortunate is the photographer who has a spare when the need arises.

BEST CAMERAS FOR CLOUDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY:Okay, let\’s digest this: if it has to be good cloud photography, chuck the smartphone and dedicate solely on a camera. End of the discussion!So, here we go, our picks for clicking good cloud pictures. We pick these cameras on criteria vari angle screen, good shutter speed, stability, well adjustable sensor, light weight, high resolution and weather proof. Top 9 cameras picked by us:

  1. Canon EOS 70D

USP: Vari-angle touch-sensitive screenYou can compose images from a wide variety of angles without having to lie on the ground or squint awkwardly through a very high viewfinder. The screen being touch-sensitive, you can control the camera via the screen instead of having to reach for controls that are out of view. Inside the 70D is a 20.2 million effective pixel CMOS sensor, coupled with Canon\’s DIGIC 5+ processor and this combination enables impressive image quality.

  1. Nikon D810

USP: Sensor coupled with Nikon\’s new EXPEED 4 processing engineNikon D810 like its predecessor has the same 36.3-million pixel count, but the star feature is its new EXPEED 4 processing engine. Nikon has also omitted the anti-aliasing (AA) filter over the D810\’s sensor and this enables it to record even more detail than the D800E. There\’s a maximum native sensitivity setting of ISO 12,800, which is no wonder a great plus point for the photographers interested in cloudscape.

  1. Sony Alpha 7R

USP: Full frame sensor with 36 million pixels; ultra-lightweight package The camera is capable of resolving a huge amount of detail and depth of field can be restricted easily if you want. The beauty of the A7R is that you have all the control and detail of a high resolution camera in a small, lightweight package. Its AF system is a little on the slow side, so that could be the only issue for cloudscape photography.

  1. Sony RX1 R

USP: Compact size; full-frame sensor with 24 million pixels and no anti-aliasing filterIf you don\’t fancy carrying around a collection of lenses, a compact camera is an attractive proposition. However, most have tiny sensors so detail resolution isn\’t fantastic. The Sony RX1R, though, is rather different because it has a full-frame sensor with 24million pixels and no anti-aliasing filter. The fixed lens also has a landscape-friendly focal length of 35mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.0. As with the Alpha 7R, Sony has employed its miniaturising knowhow to create an impressive small camera for a full-frame model.

  1. Olympus OM-D E-M10

USP: Waterproof; 16.1-million-pixel Four Thirds type LiveMOS sensor; compact sizeE-M10 has many features of its higher-end counterparts like E-M1 etc. Like, the 16.1-million-pixel Four Thirds type LiveMOS sensor and 1,440,000-dot electronic viewfinder are the same. This one\’s a must-have for taking photographs of clouds during rain that means it\’s waterproof. One more on the plus-side is that the E-M10 is a little smaller than the other OM-D cameras, has an incredible array of features (including a top-notch electronic viewfinder) and it produces superb quality images.

  1. Fujifilm X-T1

USP:  Compact size; SLR-like quality; superb shutter speedThe X-T1 walks away with the crown because of its SLR-like image quality and huge electronic viewfinder which has enough room to display a magnified view next to the whole scene to allow manual focusing as well as accurate image composition. Many photographers also love the X-T1\’s dials to control shutter speed, exposure compensation and sensitivity, which combine well with the ˜R\’ lenses in Fuji\’s XF range as they have an aperture ring.

  1. Pentax 645Z

USP: Stable grip; 51 million effective pixels; waterproofWith 51 million effective pixels on its 43.8×32.8mm CMOS sensor the Pentax 645Z is capable of resolving a huge amount of detail. Although it has a good, chunky grip so it\’s comfortable to use hand-held, the 645Z\’s natural home is on a solid tripod. It also has a tilting LCD screen capable of showing the Live View image, so you don\’t have to use the optical viewfinder if you don\’t want to. Even better news is that there are weatherproof seals, so you don\’t need to worry if it starts to rain.

  1. Panasonic Lumix GM1

USP: Compact size; accepts interchangeable lensAlthough Panasonic pitches this tiny camera against compact cameras, it\’s actually a compact system camera and it accepts interchangeable lenses. Inside there\’s also the same 16.1-million-pixel Four Thirds sensor as is in the Panasonic GX7. Coupled with the 12-32mm kit lens, it produces images comparable with a 24-64mm lens on a full-frame camera.

  1. Sony RX100 III

USP: High quality compact camera; very effective viewfinderBecause it uses a 1-inch type sensor and produces high quality images, Sony\’s RX100 series of compact cameras have found favour amongst discerning photographers looking for a high quality compact camera that will slip into a jacket pocket. RX100 III is an especially good choice because it has a built-in viewfinder. This is particularly useful in bright light when it can be hard to see the image on a camera screen.

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    August 4, 2016 at 2:25 pm

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