A Clouding Influence
So often, however, when we are looking at landscape images something doesn’t quite sit right with us leading to a little turmoil – something seems out of place. In my experience, that little something is often above the horizon. Below, everything appears to have been carefully thought out and arranged with the various elements balancing and complementing one another. In the sky, however, the clouds appear to be a law unto themselves, bearing no relationship to the rest of the scene. They are a powerful force and it only takes one small cloud to upset the whole balance of the scene.
Furthermore, this doesn’t just apply to landscape imagery. Architectural work often involves inclusion of the sky, so needs to accommodate the potentially disrupting effect of errant clouds. Indeed few genres are exempt from the mischievous invasion of these clumps of condensed, moist air.
The answer is to embrace their presence and actively use them as the strong compositional elements that they are. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be used in a variety of ways to support our intended messages or feelings. It isn’t just a case of ensuring that the clouds balance other clouds across the scene or that they balance other solid elements according to the principles of “visual weight”. They can be used to actively direct the eye to points of interest as in the case where streaky clouds form “leading lines”.
To gain a more genuine sense of what it was like to be there, it is often helpful if the image gives us a feeling of connection between land and sky rather than the impression that the sky has been pasted in from another image. As photographers we can look for relationships between elements either side of the horizon to support this. The sky and cloud formations often set the whole mood, and patterns and drama here can be a dominant part of the subject matter. So we may also choose to look for elements on the ground that will help draw our attention skywards.
Embracing the influence of these celestial bodies may result in us taking far fewer photographs, but hopefully those that we do will be that little bit more impactful.