Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Head in the clouds

The newest Readers Photo Challenge assignment is “clouds.” Recent weather is such that makes this assignment timely and more clouds are in the forecast.

A cloudy sky is usually much more interesting to look at and photograph than a bland cloudless one. Puffy, white clouds lazily floating in the sky can may for pretty pictures and dark, threatening storm clouds can make very dramatic images.

At the beginning or the end of a day, clouds be imbued with the colors of a sunrise or sunset. Like tofu, which in and of itself doesn’t have much of its own flavor but picks up the tastiness of whatever it’s cooked with, clouds can help spread the color of a fiery sunrise/sunset.

Shooting clouds by themselves can be a bit boring no matter what they look like. Try adding something in the foreground, like a tree, mountain or person, to help give the clouds scale and context. Quite often there is an exposure differential between the clouds in the sky and something on the ground with the clouds being much brighter. The can be ameliorated by exposing for the clouds and just allowing what’s in the foreground to go dark and turn a silhouette. If you want some detail in the foreground you can use what’s called a fill-flash technique. By using a flash during a daylight exposure you can fill-in the shadows with light.

Don’t let inclement weather scare you away. Sometimes shooting in the rain can be the best times to shoot. Clouds swirling around in a storm can make for great photos. Make sure you can see individual or groupings of clouds and not just a featureless slate grey sky. I believe that to get the best weather photos you have to be out in it, not just shooting from inside a car or from a window. If you’re out in the elements you might want to think about protecting your camera. I’ve used re-sealable plastic bags (1-gallon sized) and garbage bags to cover my camera. Just pierce a hole in one end to poke the lens though and another in the other end to look through the viewfinder. Also carrying a towel to dry off the parts the do get wet is very helpful.

Weather-related assignments can be a hit or miss proposition. They can be hard to plan for because you never can be 100% sure on what you’re going to get. Fortunately, storms and clouds are forecasted for the next few weeks. Always have your camera near at hand and be ready to shoot when an opportunity arrises. Don’t put off shooting the clouds until another time because they might to be as good or they may even be gone the next day.


How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to Type in “StormClouds” in the subject line.
2. Photos have to be shot between March 5 and March 19.
3. The number of photos is limited to no more than 12 per person
4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of device you used and where it was taken (eg.: “John Doe of Stockton. Micke Grove Park, Lodi. iPhone6s”)
5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos (eg.: Jane Doe, 15, walks his dog Fido under rainy skies at Grupe Park in Stockton).

6. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.

7. The deadline for submission is  March 19. The top examples will be published on Tuesday, March 26 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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