A special photographic study

For this photographic study I wanted to take a common subject (clouds) and illustrate the magic of photography, and the exceptional beauty of clouds. First let me state an important principle in photography: the more you love your subject the better the photos will be. It is this love, call it admiration, that opens your eye and lets you see. And in fact you can’t look away.

I do love clouds. They are beautiful, mesmerizing, silent, with interesting shapes and intangible edges. They reflect and consume light, change color, and are always shifting form. They are ethereal and mysterious. So to me, clouds look like interesting photographic material.

Cloud filaments as abstract photography

Turning common into uncommon

The challenge of cloud photography is how to make such a common subject beautiful and intriguing. Or, how to present a common subject in an uncommon way. Photography is good at this though, because it can show a subject from many angles, perspectives, positions, and moods.

So much can be altered in a photograph: color, exposure, dynamic range, contrast, texture, focus, emphasis, and perhaps most importantly, composition ⏤ the arrangement of the scene. For me, composition is the best tool in photography, and I think it’s what makes a photograph artistic.

Cloudscape, abstract photography of clouds.

Looking up to find beauty

My observation is that most people don’t look up at the sky often. People look in the foreground. They look at objects. They look at each other. They look at the Earth. But they miss the sky. And there is a lot of beauty to be found in the sky.

Cloud filaments as abstract photography
Cloud filaments as abstract photography
Cloud filaments as abstract photography
Cloud filaments as abstract photography

Common is still beautiful

I love how clouds invite gazing, contemplation, and relaxation. You can stare at them and feel relaxed. It’s that simple. So as a photographer I don’t mind looking at them or photographing them. And they don’t need to be special to be beautiful or relaxing. I find common clouds relaxing, such as this configuration of cumulus clouds. I personally appreciate the sense of spaciousness in a scene like this, and the peacefulness that the scene offers.

A classic black and white photograph of cumulus clouds.

Color and Drama

At the other extreme are the bursting colors of clouds at sunset. These clouds are the most colorful, and often the most dramatic. But sunsets are also probably the most photographed subject in the history of photography. Sunset clouds are extremely common subjects. So from a photography perspective, it’s legitimately difficult to come up with a photograph that feels new, or even pleasing when taking a photo at sunset. Sunsets are a challenge. And yet…sometimes they are irresistible.

Color photograph of an intense orange sunset reflecting off clouds.

Extraordinary, not ordinary

What I’m saying with these photographs is that there is something extraordinary about clouds. Whether they are common forms…

Black and white photograph of a cumulus cloud head.

Or special formations that become abstract art…

Cloud filaments as abstract photography

As an experiment for your eye, can you view the above photograph as the ocean during a stormy night, with wisps of spray coming off the waves? The similarity between the forms of nature is there. Wind and water move in similar ways. Here is perhaps a clearer example…

The above image is from my film Tribute to a Conscious World, where you can find a stunning example of clouds moving exactly like ocean waves. I encourage you to watch this 1-minute section of the film to see how similar clouds are to ocean waves. You will find the short video clip surprising.

Abstract atmospheric art

Cloud filaments as abstract photography

Capturing interesting patterns, in the sky or elsewhere, allows a photographer to work as an artist. Simple cloud forms can produce scenes that are similar to abstract paintings, or that contain sufficient mystery and depth to be art. Clouds are essentially free slow moving art available to everyone.

They are indeed beautiful and interesting, and it is possible to see them as art. I need only look up, and break the idea that they are unworthy subjects for photography. Instead, it is possible to see clouds as one of the most beautiful forms of nature that can be found on Earth.

This study was conducted over a few years, and is still ongoing.