OK, OK, sometimes blue skies are really stunning against, say, a white Greek building with a terra-cotta roof, and I’m not going to sit inside just because there are blue skies. But Arnie and I think cloudy and stormy skies are so much more exciting. Rain and fog can be amazing, too.
My mother was a very accomplished artist. She used a lot of Paynes Gray for her own moody skies, as there is a lot of violet in that color. If you think of the color wheel, that is why spring greens, that contain a lot of yellow, pop against those stormy skies. Those color combinations make images sing.
A couple of years ago, during our workshop in Virginia, we had terrible weather — torrential rains and gray skies — and we made amazing photographs. The colors were saturated, and the skies were spectacular.
Two of our group had planned on staying another day to photograph with their new-found skills. We got an e-mail from them that said, “We got up the next morning after you all left. It was sunny without a cloud in the sky. We packed up and left!”
Arnie and I got quite a laugh out of that, but a pleased one, as these two had learned that blue skies are boring, at least most of the time. We were delighted that they had made the transition to looking for light and drama for their photographs. A few minutes after I made this photograph last spring, we all looked like drowned rats … but happy ones!
In Belize this year, we also saw our share of dramatic skies. Antonio, our favorite guide, took us to his small village in the mountains.
We got to meet some of his family, see the children hard at their studies through open windows and doors in the school building, and make some great photographs.
Here, Arnie used the sky to set off a building on which some artist or artists had painted a tree of life embracing the windows. On a bright sunny day, this would have been nice, but it certainly would not have been nearly as interesting as this image.
Last fall, we were photographing outside Moab and were caught in a can-barely-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face, driving rainstorm. Huge zots of lightning and earth-shaking claps of thunder drove us into the safety of our cars.
This double rainbow appeared, and while the rain was still beating against us and our cameras, we jumped out to make some amazing photographs, as Arnie did here.
Yes, here’s an inky-black version of Paynes Gray. Arnie and I were doing final scouting before our alumni workshop in Yosemite in December when we were treated to some spectacular skies.
It was one of those situations in which every way one looked, there was something happening. Blazing red skies behind us. Rain and mists off to the side.
In this direction, a fast-approaching storm served as the perfect backdrop for the warm, late-afternoon light streaming in on Half Dome. There’s that color wheel at work again.
Another day in Belize, we had more than dramatic skies. We had a squall come through. Rain can add an almost-surreal effect to a scene, as everything is muted by the pattern of the out-of-focus raindrops.
There is a large presence of Mennonites (called Money-ites by the local Belizians) in different parts of Belize, but there are also a few Amish. We saw this Amish gentleman pull up in his wagon while we were visiting a friend from last year’s trip. The cart was full of produce for the local store. While the man unloaded his vegetables, the family who owned the store watched from the dry shelter of the building.
Arnie captured the scene beautifully, and if you look carefully, you’ll see the rain and the effect it has on the photograph.
Let’s not forget fog and what it can add to a scene. We were down along the river in Savannah in the early morning. I loved the way the fog added a serene, peaceful mood to the islands and water. Blue skies? I don’t think it would have been nearly as interesting.
Don’t be afraid of inclement weather. Use it to your advantage. Celebrate it in your photographs as Arnie and did in the examples above.
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