Nothing But Blue Sky

Autumn Scenery in the Beautiful San Juan Mountains of Colorado

By Gary Gray

Talk to most landscape photographers and you’ll get a similar response regarding clear blue skies.

I refer to blue skies as a “bald sky.”  I probably picked that phrase up somewhere along the road when I first took up the subject.

Many prefer to have “drama clouds” in their scenes. I know I do. Reality bites however. When one plans a week long trip months in advance, there’s no way of predetermining what the weather will be upon arrival. You get what you get.

What to do?

I’ve learned to accept it and get the types of shots that a clear blue sky offers.

Firstly, I live and work primarily in Colorado. Colorado has over 300 days of sunshine a year on average. Blue skies are quite typical for Colorado. As a matter of fact, you’ll find more blue sky days here than you will cloudy days. The blue sky scene IS Colorado. One must accept the facts.

Secondly, I’d much rather have a clear blue sky than a totally gray clouded sky. I’ll skip a scene that has a purely cloudy sky, I don’t skip out on a blue sky.

My state of mind has evolved over the years. So have my compositions that include a clear blue sky.

From my view of the road, the trick for making a blue sky photograph sing is to use that sky in a measured manner. I try to not compose an image that allows the sky to take up more than a third of the frame. I consider it a punctuating element of the photograph, not a primary feature. A photographic scene should be punctuated by the elements not defined by the elements.

In some instances the blue sky actually gives you a better look to a scene. Back-lit aspens in golden light with a pristine blue sky are very nice. The blue sky makes for great reflection shots across water. Sweeping landscapes can benefit from a blue sky, adding negative space and a pleasing consistent backdrop to a color filled scene of greens, yellows, reds and oranges. More color is better, at least for color photographs. That’s my thinking anyway.

Blue skies can pose a challenge in post-processing though. One must inspect those areas of empty blue for sensor dust. Tiny specs of dirt can stand out against that punctuated blue background. Most of my stock photo rejections have been a result of those sensor spots and my lack of attention to smudging them out of the image.

I still come back to the reality that in Colorado, the clear blue sky is commonplace and to capture the essence of the scenery, one must learn to live with it and and learn to love it.

Don’t be afraid of the clear blue sky. It won’t rain on your parade and it can give you a look that is quite difficult to obtain in many other places.

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Your mileage may vary.