Today was one of those days that serves as a reminder of why a person starts this kind of project in the first place. The clouds were showing a kind of texture that looks a bit like fishscales, and as I arrived they were just starting to display a bit of what I call ‘proto-color.’ You know, that kind of tan(ish) pearly pink-grey on the undersides of the blue-grey clouds? Not really enough to call it gold or pink, yet at the same time telling you where the vivid colors might start, if the conditions continue to develop favorably? Yeah, that color.
Hurried up to the overlook by way of the rock-climbing shortcut, hoping that the color wouldn’t start until I was in place. Thinking all the while in the back of my head that it was going to be another of those mornings. Either the color would have faded by the time I was ready, or it would show promise and then never develop, leaving behind disappointment and a hair of frustration – it’s happened before, likely it’ll happen again.
But not today!
At just about 6:30 (sunrise was at 6:46 today – a far cry from the 5:26 it was in June!), the color started. At first it flared that lovely intense red, then shifted to fierce-edged gold just before sunrise. And I had to remind myself several times to get out from behind the camera and just take a minute or three to simply drink in the sight and enjoy.
Because that’s important, too. The photographer’s dilemma is an ongoing question, constantly pushing the photographer to balance capturing with experiencing.
So, then. On a morning like today, I’ll be working with the aperture closed down as tightly as possible. I want the maximum detail in the clouds, since that patterning of color and shadow is what’s going to draw the eye. It lengthens the shutter speed a bit, true, but not by as much as you might think, considering how bright the skies are.
But even the shutter speed you want to choose carefully – don’t just go by your light meter and histogram. Bracket your shots above and below the midpoint. Because right now, the skies are transitioning from the deep blues of summer to the paler, chilly shade of winter, so it’s not just the clouds that are showing some lovely colors. And you can get some remarkable shots, balancing the vivid reds and golds in the clouds with the pale blues, greens, and oranges of the sky itself.