Fabulous skies in your Landscape Photos

I live in Durango, Colorado, paradise, where the skies are blue most of the year.  We experience lots of sunny days out here, “Bluebird”days.  The cerulean blue sky is great for aspen photography, especially with the golden aspen leaves against the sky.  But my tastes run more towards the big scenic landscapes.  When I moved here in 1995 the sky was the reason I stayed.  The feeling of expansiveness is everywhere and expands my life, my heart and my photography too.  When a storm rolls in, especially during our monsoon season in the summer, I often head up into the mountains to photography scenes with great skies.  Even when photographing wildflowers, I try to include a cloudy sky for drama at the top of the scene.  A graduated neutral density filter comes in handy to hold back the detail in the brightest highlights in the clouds.

Try this exercise, set up a landscape scene with sky, middle ground and foreground.  Pay attention to your composition, check to see that you have done your best to NOT make the scene 50% sky and 50% land.  Go back to this scene often and photograph it under lots of different weather conditions.  When I photograph grand landscape as well as most other subjects I use the AV mode so I control depth of field.  When the closest subject is closer than 10 feet that’s the time to use really small apertures like 22-25-29-32.  Otherwise a sweet spot on your lens is probably closer to f16.

I was hoping for some subtle color to add excitement to the clouds. It never happened.  Not my favorite image.  I prefer cumulous congestus clouds in grand landscapes. ©Kit Frost

When photographing the big scene, I prefer to give the clouds plenty of room to flow at the top of the photo. Also look for cloud shadows painting light on your scene. ©Kit Frost

When the sky is clear blue, I tend to use it in reflections and minimize it in the composition. The sky is an important element in this image without overwhelming the scene with too much blue. I love to contrast red rock canyon walls with blue sky. ©Kit Frost

Another idea is to use the sky as a “negative” space in the photo. In this case I made the canyon walls above me like a frame for the sky and far canyon wall. ©Kit Frost

When expecting color to hit the clouds at sunset, it doesn’t happen. Sunset is a GIFT. I do like the quiet presence of the sky. In this image I did most of the subtle colors in Lightroom; added a few colored graduated filters in post-production. I frequently add saturation in Lightroom too. Grenadier Range and Weminuche Wilderness from Molas Pass. Colorado ©Kit Frost

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