Photography is often a matter of seeing seemingly ordinary things but showing they are not through means of composition and light. Clouds is one of nature’s phenomenon we see (almost) every day, so we often miss how great they can look. For the past few weeks I’ve purposely been keeping an eye on the sky when walking to my car after work.
One evening I see this pack of clouds that look like they have great photographic potential: the sun being absorbed by the first signs of a thunderstorm. I take my camera and make an exposure at full auto with some negative exposure compensation to ensure highlight details do not get lost.
This is the original picture and I’ll admit it doesn’t look too great. In reality it looked better, but that’s what the camera’s meter came up with. People often confuse a photograph with reality, but it’s an approximation at best: not only is the camera incapable of perfectly capturing the light – as it did in this case -, it can only capture a specific rectangle within the 360 degree reality of the actual scene. Additionally there’s also wind, a temperature, a smell, a feeling of the ground,… which is by definition impossible to capture by a mere camera. Not to mention that different people looking at the same thing may come up with entirely different interpretations. I used to think that a photograph should reflect thé reality, but I’ve come to believe it should reflect a reality for all the reasons mentioned.
Earlier that day the weather forecast had warned for a thunderstorm, the mix of clouds I was seeing obviously were a precursor. I wanted to convey the menacing atmosphere of the first thunderstorm clouds in my picture and edited it accordingly in Lightroom: more blacks, less exposure, darker blues in the clouds, some orange saturation in the lower highlights as if it were piercing eyes, all topped off with some sharpening at the end.
Composition wise I kept the horizon with its trees to give the viewer an anchor. Further down there’s a parking lot with cars that I obviously cropped away as it didn’t add anything meaningful to the overall picture. This is the end result: