Posts Tagged ‘Clouds’

NASA Curiosity Rover captures rare photographs of clouds on Mars

12 Aug
Clouds drift across the sky above a Martian horizon in this photograph captured on July 17, 2017 by the Navcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University

Last month, NASA’s Curiosity Rover captured something (appropriately enough) curious in the Martian sky: clouds. Specifically, Curiosity snapped several sequences of “wispy, early-season clouds resembling Earth’s ice-crystal cirrus clouds” that NASA is calling “the most clearly visible so far” since the Rover landed 5 years and 5 days ago.

As NASA explains in a news release:

Researchers used Curiosity’s Navigation Camera (Navcam) to take two sets of eight images of the sky on an early Martian morning last month. For one set, the camera pointed nearly straight up. For the other, it pointed just above the southern horizon. Cloud movement was recorded in both and was made easier to see by image enhancement.

Each sequence of 8 images was enhanced and turned into an animated GIF:

To learn more about these photos and the science behind why there are clouds on Mars, and why they were a lot more common billions of years ago, head over to the NASA news release by clicking here.

All photos courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University

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How to Use Clouds to Enhance and Improve Your Images

07 Apr

Siberian Husky, 7 months old, male, white, lying on a hill with dramatic sky

Many photographers enjoy taking pictures of clouds, and it’s easy to see why. From the vivid patterns and brilliant sunset formations, to the storm clouds and unusual styles, there’s almost always something interesting happening in the sky. While there’s no doubt that clouds can make great subjects in their own right, I feel that they are most useful, photographically speaking when they’re used as backgrounds for other subjects. The proper use of clouds in an image can add texture, dimension, and drama to many photos, while enhancing or serving as an additional storytelling feature for your main subject.

Making clouds work for you in this way usually requires a little bit of planning, some location scouting (always fun!), the right subject, and, course, keeping a sharp eye on the sky for weather that will produce great clouds. Let’s get started!

Clouds = texture

First let’s examine how clouds can turn boring into brilliant. This image below of a Whippet was taken on a hill, on a clear day without any clouds at all. The plain blue background is striking, but the solid color perhaps lacks interest:

Whippet, portrait on hill

Now consider this shot, taken of the same dog back in the same location, but on a day with large summer clouds. The difference is immediately obvious – the clouds add some much-needed texture and drama, elevating this image above the plain blue version (and earned it a spot in an upcoming Whippet calendar).

Whippet, portrait on hill

A good landscape photo can also often benefit from some cloudy texture:

Farm fencing, fields, clouds

Reach for the sky

Finding a way to include clouds behind the subject is one of those photographic puzzles that we have to solve from time to time. Often, the key is to figure out how to raise the subject, or lower yourself. A great way to do this is to utilize a hill. Generally, the bigger the hill, the better, but even tiny knolls and rises can work.

Here’s a shot taken on a large hill, where I was able to get much lower than the horses.

Herd of horses grazing on hill, clouds

The hill blocks out anything distracting, and gives the photo a clean horizon line. But again, if this was just a blank, blue sky, the photo wouldn’t be as interesting, and wouldn’t pack as much of a punch. The clouds provide added texture, and help balance out the top of the photo.

Now here’s a photo where the subject was on just a tiny rise.


Getting this shot required a little extra work on my part, as I had to get myself and my camera down close to ground and look up, but it worked. What you can’t see is that there were actually a lot of distracting elements all around the scene, that I was able to remove just by getting down low. A big part of photography is understanding what not to include in the viewfinder.

You can also take advantage of subjects that are already higher than you are.

Person pitching loose hay on haywagon with tractor, clouds in sky

Person pitching loose hay on wagon with tractor, clouds in sky.

Silhouettes optional

Remember, not all subjects against a sky have to be black silhouettes. Because the horses and clouds are being lit with the same light, from the same direction, detail and color remain consistent for both. In the case of the Whippet image, I used a large reflector board to illuminate her body, until her brightness matched the sky and clouds, preventing the Whippet from becoming underexposed.


It’s great to be able to use clouds as a storytelling device. Let’s look at a few examples of this:

Windmill on farm with clouds

I thought the big weathervane was an interesting subject, but the terrific approaching storm clouds were what really made me look twice. The weathervane says “weather,” but the subject combined with some actual weather maybe suggests the question, “What’s going to happen when the storm comes?”

How about this one?

Two cowgirls on hill with dramatic clouds and fencing

Again, even though the clouds aren’t the star, they’re still pulling their weight composition-wise, and add a lot of drama and balance to this shot. The cowgirls and their fence may be the main subject, but the clouds are adding some storytelling, too. It looks like rain, is that good? Do the cowgirls want rain, or not? It’s all up to the viewer to decide.

Girl on farm hill with clouds and stormy skies

Increase depth of field

If you’re using a telephoto lens, or if you’re close to your subject, you may want to stop your lens down a bit to increase your depth of field and keep your cloudy background looking distinct. If you would normally shoot a portrait at f/4 or f/5.6 for instance, try using f/11 or f/16 to help retain cloud detail.

Colorful clouds

One last takeaway, remember that clouds aren’t always white and grey. As with all types of outdoor photography, the golden hours can be your friend. In the case of clouds, a great sunrise or sunset can make the clouds turn red, pink, and orange. Don’t necessarily shoot towards the sun either, look on the opposite side of the sky to find more subtle, but still beautiful, colors.

Moon and clouds

Got a favorite image with a cloudy background?

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The post How to Use Clouds to Enhance and Improve Your Images by Daniel Johnson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Phantom City: Thousands Spot Towers Floating in the Clouds

20 Oct

[ By Steph in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 3.54.54 PM

When thousands of residents of the Chinese cities of Jiangxi and Foshan reported seeing a ‘floating city’ in the clouds earlier this month, theories attempting to explain it ran wild, speculating everything from experimental holographic technology to glimpses of an alternate reality. A shaky video captures what appears to be the silhouette of a city skyline high above the horizon, at a larger scale than that of the real skyscrapers on the ground.

Naturally, conspiracy theorists are having a field day with this one, even going so far as to wonder aloud whether NASA is attempting to establish a new world order through something called the ‘Blue Beam Project.’ The most likely explanation may not be quite as exciting, but it’s still a fascinating phenomenon that has mystified people for centuries.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 3.54.44 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 3.56.53 PM

As Wired explains, a Jesuit priest named Father Domenico Giardina swore that he saw a crystal city floating in the air over Siciily in 1643, which quickly transformed into a garden and a forest crawling with armies before it all disappeared. You might think he’d claim he had a mystical vision sent from God, but he actually mused that perhaps minerals and salts were rising up into vapors in the clouds and condensing to become a sort of moving mirror. That may not be entirely accurate, but it’s relatively close to the truth.


What we’re actually seeing in the video from China is most likely a ‘Fata Morgana,’ a rare type of mirage caused by a certain set of weather conditions bending light rays in just the right way. The clouds are essentially reflecting the nearby city. It’s most often seen above bodies of water, which explains the origins of the legendary ship the Flying Dutchman and hundreds of other age-old sailor stories about disappearing castles.


The images above show how two ships appear to change shape from one second to the next as well as an illustration of the Flying Dutchman, and a video of a ‘ghost boat’ that looks awfully similar to it. In the second video, what looks like a landscape becomes an amorphous, dissipating blob.


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[ By Steph in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

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Invasions: Clouds of White Balloons Take Over Public Spaces

10 Feb

[ By Steph in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

invasion 1

Profusions of white balloons seem to explode from the interiors of houses, squeeze through basketball hoops and hover between the trees in the forest like odd bulbous clouds in this series by artist Charles Pétillon. ‘Invasions’ gives these normally free-floating objects a life of their own with a swarm-like presence within architectural spaces and landscapes.

invasion 3

Each photograph depicts a particular metaphor, making a statement on various topics. ‘Family Memories,’ top, shows the white balloons “symbolizing childhood naivety,” while ‘Play Station 2′ aims to “question the viewer on the uses of games in all forms, their evolution and their influence in society.”

invasion 5

The forest scene, entitled ‘Mutation 2,’ mimics the molecular structure of DNA, placing it in a picturesque environment to symbolize the effect of humans on natural spaces, with our tendency to modify everything to our own uses.

invasion 2

invasion 4

‘Invasions’ brings the balloons to retrofuturistic architecture designed in the late ’70s and early ’80s to examine our visions of the future and how quickly they become obsolete. ‘CO2′ represents the scars we leave upon the world with our lust for objects like cars. The artist sees the balloons as a way to visualize each of these ways in which we thoughtlessly proliferate, invade or evolve.

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Behind the Shot: Clouds over Skagsanden

22 Nov

In this article, nature photographer Erez Marom shares the story of his panoramic shot ‘Clouds over Skagsanden’, taken earlier this year in the Lofoten Islands in Arctic Norway. His article covers everything from preparing to shoot at the location, to the shoot itself through to final post-processing of the resulting image. Click through to read Erez Marom’s article ‘Behind the Shot: Clouds over Skagsanden’

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B&W Challenge Day 1 – Point Reyes National Seashore Clouds

29 Oct

My friend Kelly Castro recently challenged me to the 5 Day B&W Photo Challenge on Facebook so I thought I would share my entries. The challenge is merely for fun and an exercise to think creatively. Having been in Dad mode the past several months I thought this would be a good way to get back in the game.

The photo above was taken in the Point Reyes National Seashore where I was tuning up and trying out some new gear. Taken mid-day on a bright sunny day I was trying out a Singh-ray More-Slo 10-stop filter. The effort was experimental and the output translated nicely to a textured black and white image.  Stay tuned for more B&W.

I should also note that the B&W challenge requires that I invite another photographer to take part each day. Today I nominate Richard Wong.

Copyright Jim M. Goldstein, All Rights Reserved

B&W Challenge Day 1 – Point Reyes National Seashore Clouds

The post B&W Challenge Day 1 – Point Reyes National Seashore Clouds appeared first on JMG-Galleries – Landscape, Nature & Travel Photography.


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Magical Photo Project by Gianluca Giannone: The Ships That Sail Through The Clouds

30 Dec

Have you ever seen a boat floating in the air like birds in a movie, drawing or dream? There is a place on Earth where you can witness these floating ships with your own eyes. It’s the small studio of Luigi Prina. There are tons of ships right next to each other sailing in the air. Luigi Prina had been Continue Reading

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How to Photograph Dramatic Clouds at Sunset

10 Oct

The difference between a nice sunset and a dramatic sunset is all about the clouds.

Of course, the difference between a dramatic sunset and no sunset is all about the clouds too!

A clear sky at sunset might turn a shade of pale blue or pink, which is beautiful and calming, but with just the right amount of clouds the sky becomes alive with fire and drama as the day’s last rays reflect off the clouds making them red, orange, purple and pink.

Desolation Sound Marine Park, British Columbia, by Anne McKinnell

Not all clouds are created equal though. They come in many shapes, sizes, densities, and altitudes, and they all refract or absorb the light in different ways that can drastically change the quality of your photographs.

Types of Clouds

Clouds that hang low in the sky and form a band on the horizon or appear like a thick blanket covering the sky will block the sun’s high-flying rays and make the sunset pretty anti-climactic, if you can see it at all.

Sometimes large and lumpy clouds that are brighter on the top and dark on the bottom can create a lot of contrast, making for a very moody atmosphere. Rain, snow, and hail clouds fall under this category, as the weight of the excess moisture weighs them down.

Storm Cloud by Anne McKinnell

The most radiant displays of colour emerge when the clouds are very high in the sky. They are usually smaller, whiter, and thinner than the low-lying clouds, and they are able to catch the sunlight from beneath, allowing us to view those fiery colours from the ground.

These are more likely to occur when the weather is hot and dry, which is why desert landscapes are famous for their magnificent sunsets. When you want to create a dazzling sunset photo, these are the clouds you want to look out for.

Mesquite Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California, by Anne McKinnell

Predicting the Weather

Sunsets don’t last very long, so it takes a little planning and a lot of luck to have nature set up the perfect sky for you. You never know when the ideal conditions are going to present themselves, but if you tune your senses to the weather and its patterns, you will start to get an idea of when you can expect to see the right amount of clouds in a sunset sky.

Watch the sky over the course of the day to see what kinds of clouds are forming and how fast they’re drifting overhead. Check your local weather forecast to find out when the sun will go down, and try to judge if they’ll be sticking around based on the time of day and the speed of their movement. Keep informed about any storms coming in that will bring low-hanging clouds along with them.

If you have a great view from your back yard, all you have to do is keep your camera at hand so you can dart out when you see a great sky. On the other hand, if your aim is to travel to a more distant location to get your shot, you’ll have to be a little more precise in your calculations to avoid hauling all your gear up a mountain only to have the clouds dissipate. Your best bet is to choose a location that will be beautiful with or without clouds – that way, if nature doesn’t cooperate, you haven’t wasted the trip.

Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park, Texas, by Anne McKinnell

The Perfect Exposure

The most effective way of bringing out the natural saturation of coloured light is to underexpose very slightly – between a half-stop and a full stop. This darkens the rest of the image, making the colour pop in comparison. Use your exposure compensation to adjust this.

To make sure you get the best possible exposure, bracket your shots. This means taking several images at different exposures, so you can analyze them on your computer at home in order to determine which is the most successful. This can be done manually using your exposure compensation setting – take one image using the camera’s default settings, then take one that is underexposed by half a stop and one that is overexposed by half a stop. Some cameras will have an automatic bracketing option that you can utilize to change these settings for you.

Another option is to create a high-dynamic range (HDR) image by combining multiple exposures as I did in this photo of a Joshua Tree. I made one exposure for the sky, another for the mid-tones, and another for the shadows and combined them in post-processing.

Joshua Tree National Park, California, by Anne McKinnell

If you want to soften the appearance of moving clouds, use a long shutter speed to blur them slightly. If they are drifting slowly you’ll need a longer exposure to achieve this than if they’re gliding swiftly across the sky.


When you’re going after sunset-specific shots, there’s a good chance that your foreground is going to be silhouetted against the sky. When this happens, it’s easy to forget about the foreground all together. This is a mistake. Remember that every part of your frame is important. The darkened foreground is simply negative space, and should be composed just like the rest of the image. Look for interesting shapes or objects to place in the frame to create a focal point that enhances the picture. If you want your foreground to be more visible, use fill flash (flash with the brightness turned down) to lighten the subject slightly without overexposing.

Fort Stockton, Texas, by Anne McKinnell


When you bring your photos into an image editing program, you might have the urge to crank up the saturation and make the colours really bold. Resist the urge to go overboard on this feature; a 5% increase is all right, but much more than that can cause your image to take on a cartoonish look that could make it appear inauthentic. If your software allows you to, change the “vibrance” instead. This option is similar to saturation, but it focuses its effects on the pixels with lower colour intensity, preventing over saturation. Be ginger with your adjustments, and when in doubt dial them back a little bit to ensure the alterations are subtle and the final image looks natural.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

How to Photograph Dramatic Clouds at Sunset

The post How to Photograph Dramatic Clouds at Sunset by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Grand Teton Peak in the Clouds

27 Sep

Grand Teton Peak in the Clouds

It’s time again to explore… after a week of wandering I’ll be back to post again.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

– John Muir

Copyright Jim M. Goldstein, All Rights Reserved

Grand Teton Peak in the Clouds

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Tag Clouds: Geek Street Artist Remakes Messy Graffiti

07 Jun

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

graffiti tag cloud project

To the uninitiated, used to seeing it but not to reading it, graffiti scrawl can seem illegible. In a play on both tagging and technology, this artist turns traditional tags into computer-style tag clouds, among other geeky street art projects.

graffiti geek tag clouds

Mathieu Tremblin could be criticized for stripping the soul out of the works he modifies, but that is too narrow a reading of his art. He is really not suggesting a better way to graffiti, just commenting on what is there, and making what is right before our eyes already a bit more visible.

graffiti getty images spoof

In another work, he spoofs the ubiquity of digital watermarks by photographing a physical equivalent straight-on. We are so used to seeing these as after-print overlays on pictures, it takes conscious effort to realize it is part of the actual landscape.

geek graffiti removal project

Then, a complete reversal but in much the same mindset: a series of images where he has digitally stripped out graffiti by overlaying patches of Photoshopped color. In this case, it takes some time to recognize this is not just another case of painted-over graffiti removal.

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