Leonardo Da Vinci once wrote, “Once you have tasted the taste of sky, you will forever look up.” Clouds are heavenly. We adore clouds. We’re fascinated with them. We write songs and poems about them. We stand there and marvel at how they’re lighter than air, we find faces and animals in their shapes, and entire photo books are published with nothing but clouds. Without clouds, we wouldn’t look at the sky in awe or marvel over amazing cloud formations—the sky at sunrise or sunset would be…well…empty. Outside of shooting in great light, they’re probably the most important thing to have in your image because the clouds are what hold the color of sunrise and sunset.

The sky is just a canvas. The clouds are the art, and having them in your shot can literally make or break it. If you’ve got a killer sky with great clouds, honestly, the rest is easy. You can be photographing a big ol’ ugly rock in a barren desert, and if an amazing sky shows up, you’ll come away with an awesome image. That’s how critical a great sky is for most landscape photography, and it’s also probably the single biggest challenge for us because we have absolutely no control over when clouds appear whatsoever. It’s what makes patience and perseverance the biggest assets for landscape photographers. If you’ve got a great subject, you might have to visit that same spot every dawn or every dusk, for days (day after day), until Mother Nature brings you a sky so marvelous that you can’t believe you’re standing there to see it. Does this mean that you can’t make a great landscape shot without clouds? No, it does not. But, great clouds will almost always make it that much better. 

Excerpted from The Landscape Photography Book by Scott Kelby

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