For many people a beautiful, powdery, blue sky is a sign of perfection. We all imagine opening our eyes to the warm glow of the morning sunlight. Soon to be followed by a bright, slightly cloud peppered blue sky. In fact the promise of beautiful sunny days is what the tourism industry in The Bahamas is built on. I can see them now, big bill boards while driving the interstate in the USA promising sun soaked vacations. Believe me I understand the appeal. Who wants to be cold, wet and dreary? Its just isn’t any fun.
However for the landscape photographer blue skies are simply plain and boring. It can also bring harm to the overall composition and quality of your image.
First a blue sky represents a huge area of empty or negative space. Naturally our eyes are drawn to vast open spaces. This is counter productive to a landscape photographer. We are trying to take our viewer on a mind journey. Our goal is to have you, the viewer connect with all aspects - foreground, mid ground and background of the image. A beautiful blue sky pulls the viewer’s eyes directly to the background. This totally negates the other 2/3 of the visual journey. This can cause incongruence within the overall composition of the image. There isn’t any balance. This is why some images are more compelling than others. Its synonymous with telling a story and leaving out the main characters of the storyline. The story has to be built from beginning to the end.
Another issue with blue skies is that they can lead to harsh reflections and an unwanted “blueish” tint to the entire image. This is a result of the illuminations of the shadows by a blue light source. Imagine a room painted blue with a single light source. The light bouncing around the room will absorb the blue color of the walls in the room. Its the same concept. Thanks to modern technology some of this can be corrected by software.
Clouds on the other hand are excellent at diffusing light. They soften the harsh beams of sun light giving a more even and natural tone to your image. They also provide a depth and drama. Like a good novel you must have interesting characters, characters that are complex and have many layers. A bright blue sky may be appealing to our eyes, but it does not enrich the visual experience .
My advice is if you want tell better stories with your landscape images , embrace the chaos of an unkempt sky. Look for the beauty in an imperfect sky. Montez Kerr is a renown landscape photographer. His work can be viewed at Montez Kerr.