Big sky photography can give your landscape photos immediate impact, but how do you cope with the obvious contrast issues when taking pictures of the sky? Follow these simple DSLR tips and learn exactly how to adapt your approach to sky photography that fills your frame.
Words and images by Mark Hamblin
Alongside the latest camera gear, the most talked about topic for photographers seems to be the weather. But let’s face it, we wouldn’t be happy with clear blue skies day after day – where’s the drama in that?
No, what we want are skies full of cumulus clouds, shafts of sunlight, rainbows and the constant threat of a downpour. These conditions create the kind of skies that make landscape images exciting – they stimulate the senses and are one big consolation of the British climate, where the Digital Camera World team is based.
For many landscape views it’s the sky that makes the picture. Without some interest in the sky, the top part of the frame adds very little to the image, and there’s not much point in including a great deal of it.
But the opposite is true for big, cloud-filled pictures of the sky when the sky itself can become the main focal point of the picture. In these instances the land below will play more of a supporting role to your sky photography.
When faced with dramatic skies, try to make the most of them by increasing the ratio of sky to land, filling half or more of the frame for added impact.
Don’t forget the land altogether though. This is still important and requires something strong within it to anchor your pictures of the sky successfully.
The sky can be overpowering, so the foreground or base to the picture needs to contain something visually arresting to bring the viewer’s eye back down to earth.
This could be a single feature such as a tree, mountain peak or river, but it needs to be something that makes an immediate connection and acts as an effective focal point in the lower part of the frame.
Lens choice when shooting sky photography is a matter of preference or circumstances, but a wide-angle zoom is a good starting point.
Obviously a wider lens allows you to include more of the sky, which is usually a good thing and can really help to exaggerate the effect of big brooding sky photography.
It also provides a great sense of clouds rushing towards the camera and a dramatic perspective.
Sometimes the interest may be in a small part of the sky close to the horizon, in which case fit a short telephoto zoom such as a 70-200mm and hone in on a prominent feature in the landscape to set against the sky.
PAGE 1: Why big sky photography carries impact
PAGE 2: Filter the sky
PAGE 3: How to frame big sky photography
PAGE 4: How to cope with dreary skies
PAGE 5: Final tips to help you shoot better pictures of the sky
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