Photo Cascadia Blog
Feeling Blue: 10 Tips for Shooting on Blue-Sky DaysSeptember 6th, 2017 by David Cobb
For a good part of my life I’ve had a comic posted on my wall of a guy sitting in a chair with the caption, “Dare to be boring.” Sometimes I embrace that in my photography when trying to get creative with abstracts in a mundane landscape, or when embracing the blue skies above. Maybe it’s all the smoke from fires lingering overhead, but these days I’m feeling blue and I would like to see a little of it in the sky too.
I like great light as much as the next person, but in these “Red or Dead” times of landscape photography, when some are shooting for another click on social media, then the redder the sky the better. But when I dare to be boring, it’s time to embrace the blue. Not only does blue sky photography sell pretty well to clients, it can also look good. What follows are the times I’m more apt to embrace the blue sky around me with a polarizer attached, and my white balance set to 5200 Kelvin.
1) When there is water involved.
If there is water in the scene, then blue skies generally look appealing to the eye, since the water reflects blue like the sky and it might pick up the reflections of the land pretty well too. The images below show a photo I took in 2008 from the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Oregon, and a garden I photographed for my upcoming book. I like them both, and the garden I photographed in southern California is on the cover of my new book.
2) When there are puffy clouds or dramatic skies.
Skies can make or break a landscape photo, and even during those blue sky hours they matter. I love those puffy convective clouds in the Palouse region of Washington, but any dramatic blue-sky clouds will do.
3) When there is a complementary color on land, such as yellow flowers, gold fields, or red rocks.
Need I say more?
4) When there are harmonious colors on land that blend well into the sky.
These colors work well together, so why not?
5) Sometimes the blue light is just better.
At Canada’s Peyto Lake the early light is often not good. When all that beautiful turquoise water is below it’s best to show up at 10am after a few clouds have formed, and take advantage of blue on blue.
6) At the “blue hour.”
Well, duh. The light evens everything out during the blue hour in the morning and at night.
7) When I’m in canyon country.
This is a great time to head for a slot canyon or stay in the shade to photograph bounce light.
8) When I’m in Yellowstone National Park.
This park—and other geologically active areas—have minerals and pools which show up better when there is blue sky and the sun is high.
9) When I’m shooting black and white.
I’m no Ansel Adams, but he did well on blue sky days and so can you. This is also a good time to pull out the infrared camera.
10) When I’m in a desert or in tropical climates.
If I’m on a tropical island or down in the Baja desert, then blue looks cool. Plus, I wanted to throw in this picture of Sean Bagshaw with his dorky straw hat.