Curing the Blues

Moonrise, Merced River Canyon and Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite
Sony a7RIII
Sony 24/105 f/4 G
1/3 seconds
ISO 100

Who doesn’t like blue skies? Well…, me. I’ll say it again: I. Don’t. Like. Blue. Skies. At least not for photography. As pleasant as blue sky is for a stroll on the beach or picnic at the park, it’s just plain boring in a picture, and I do everything in my power to avoid an empty sky in my images. Don’t believe me? Check out my Master Gallery, count the number of images that have sky that occupies more than 1/5 of my frame with nothing else in it, then report back to me.

Fortunately, there are lots of antidotes for the blues: clouds, stars, a rainbow, a sunstar, and the moon can all redeem a blue sky. And sometimes the best cure is simply no sky at all.

A little planning

Whether it’s the Milky Way from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or lightning on the top; a full moon at sunrise in Death Valley, or at sunset in Yosemite, most of my workshops and personal photo trips are timed to coincide with something interesting happening in the sky.

Some helpful links (from my Photo Tips section)

For example

Moonrise, Merced River Canyon and Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite

This year’s Yosemite spring workshops were scheduled to coincide with the full moon. In these workshops the priority was a “moonbow” (lunar rainbow) on Yosemite Fall, but we also had opportunities to photograph a couple of moonrises in each workshop. By spring, as the sun moves north in our sky, the full moon (which rises opposite the setting sun) has shifted south and out of alignment with Half Dome from my favorite Yosemite Valley locations. So I seek other Yosemite features to align with the rising moon.

Moonbow, Lower Yosemite Fall, Yosemite

The Bridalveil Fall view from Big Oak Flat Road is a particular spring moonrise favorite. Not just for the way it aligns the moon and Bridalveil Fall, but also because it gives the option of focal lengths from wide to long. I’d planned a rising full moon at this spot for my April’s workshop all the way back when I scheduled it over a year ago, but as clouds drifted in (be careful what you wish for), I began to have doubts that we’d see the moon at all.

Waiting there it was hard to tell if the clouds were thick enough to completely obscure the moon. As you can see from this image, they weren’t, though they certainly did soften the lunar features. As with most of my moonrise shoots, I started long when the moon crested the horizon, then gradually widened as the moon rose. The clouds turned out to be a blessing; not only were they thin enough to enable the moon shine through, they provided the ideal canvas for a vivid sunset display.

A few tips for avoiding the blues

  • If the sky is boring, eliminate or minimize it
  • What’s happening in the clouds can be as important as what’s happening in the landscape—give the sky as much attention as the sky as you make your composition
  • The moon can carry a significant amount of empty sky—even if it’s a small part of an otherwise blank sky, the moon makes a wonderful accent to any scene
  • What’s more interesting, the sky or the landscape? Determine the position of your horizon in your frame by the relative visual interest between the sky and landscape—the better the sky, the more of your frame it should occupy, and vice-versa. And if the sky and landscape are equally interest (beautiful), there’s nothing wrong with splitting the frame down the middle

Look to the Sky

Click an image for a closer look and to view slide show.


One Comment on “Curing the Blues

  1. Pingback: What’s the Story? | Eloquent Images by Gary Hart

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