Fifth Avenue Dusk, New York City, New York, 2010
When photographing clouds, I have the option of shooting them for their own beauty, or else placing them into context with other subject matter. I choose the latter course here, placing a diagonal cloud between a row of repeating diagonal flagpoles and the silhouetted buildings straddling New York’s Fifth Avenue. The dusk sky is powder blue, while the cloud shows tinges of pink, still reflecting the departed sun.
Evening sky, Phoenix, Arizona, 2010
I used my spot metering mode to control exposure, and a 14mm super wideangle lens to stretch the scene and seize the golden light in the desert sky that seems to explode here just beyond my own back yard. I had only a few moments to make this image – the sun had just set behind me and the monsoon clouds reflected its flaming farewell to the day above the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Both sun and the clouds are in motion, and in photographs such as this one, seconds do count. This scene carries a dual message: some might see it as catastrophic, while others will cherish the artistry of nature’s own palette, expressed in the evening sky.
Fisher Towers, Moab, Utah, 2009
Is it a cloud or is it fog? This image asks such a question. Both are made of condensed water – clouds generally soar high above the earth while fog hovers close to it. In this case the line is blurred, because Moab’s iconic Fisher Towers rest upon the ground but rise into the sky, and I find the moment when they emerge from the billowing clouds of fog that have gathered around the snow covered butte. The billowing mist abstracts the scene, rendering the Towers as stylized skyscrapers – a city of ghosts. The scene is quite different from the one I photographed from the same spot at sunset, three years earlier. ( http://www.pbase.com/image/69219410
) In that image, Fisher Towers is wreathed in shadow and bathed in gold. In this one, it emerges from the mist as a primitive cityscape. Each plays with the imagination, but in strikingly different ways.
Feathery trails, Alberta, 2009
An expressive cloud image often requires not only striking clouds but also context for them as well. The Canadian sky here is filled with soaring trails of feathery clouds, given contextual thrust by the ridge of massed pine trees that sweeps across the frame below them. This was a difficult image to make. I had to shoot through the window of a moving train, and the ground level context was almost always distracting or irrelevant. I had only a couple of seconds to link these clouds to this soaring ridge of pines.
Sunset on the Annisquam, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2009
A glorious summer sunset at the mouth of the Annisquam River paints an overhead canvas of layered clouds in reflected swirls and splashes of orange, red, gold, and gray. I used spot-metering mode on the sliver of sun itself to control exposure and get the most out of the reflected colors.
Columbia River, Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria, Oregon, 2009
The Pacific Northwest gets a lot of rain, but along with it comes cloudscapes that can enchant the eye. This bank of clouds is moving from the Pacific Ocean over the mouth of the Columbia River. I layer this image with grasses, water, the distant horizon, and the towering pile of gray and clouds that loom over it all.
Coppery clouds, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona, 2009
This image is all about rhythms. The band of horizontal clouds, turned coppery orange by a setting sun, beats time against the stand of vertical silhouetted Saguaro cacti that soar below them. Clouds hold reflected color for only few moments – I was able to catch this color at its peak.
Oncoming storm, Coronado National Forest, Arizona, 2009
I use the jagged silhouette of the Harshaw Mountains as an anchor for the turbulent coils of storm clouds that fill the sky overhead. I was tempted to convert this image to black and white, because those are the only colors here, aside from a touch of blue sky in the upper right hand corner. However, this color version offers a subtle trace of hue that proves central to their energy. And energy is what this image is all about. Clouds are usually gray or white, but they often act as reflectors, picking up subtle coloration from whatever may be around them.
Santa Rita Mountains from Arivaca, Arizona, 2009
The most dramatic cloud images usually result from unsettled weather conditions. It has been raining much of the day, and as we reached the point where the paved road ends near the tiny town of Arivaca, we stopped the car to marvel at the sight of storm clouds slowly lifting about twenty-five miles to the east over the Santa Rita Mountain range. I use a 400mm telephoto lens to move in on the clouds that hover around Mount Wrightson, the highest peak in the area.
Contrails, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 2009
The sun had already set over the Grand Canyon, but there were still expressive images to be made. The width of my 24mm wideangle lens embraces the thrusts of these storm clouds that hang over the canyon and its surrounding countryside. What makes this photograph special, however, are the man made thrusts of the jet contrails that stab the sky at the center of the image, and fade gracefully away at the left. The canyon itself is no longer visible, but its presence below these clouds adds an element of wonder.
Cumulous crown, Kairouan, Tunisia, 2008
While in Kairouan, our group was invited to lunch by a Tunisian family. This view was made from the roof of their four story building. This vantage point offers us a clear view of an enormous cumulous cloud floating over Kairouan -- the single most impressive cloud I saw in Tunisia. Aside from its huge scale, it offers both shape and texture, forming a crown expressing the dominance of nature over the work of mankind.
Cottonball Sky, Kairouan, Tunisia, 2008
This mass of tiny clouds, rarely seen in Tunisia, provides a supernatural context for the dome of one if Islam’s holiest shrines – the Great Mosque of Kairouan. Dating to the 9th century, this dome points towards Mecca. The lacy cloud cover acts as a veil, adding a spiritual dimension to the scene.