Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Cloud Conceptualization I

Clouds are one aspect of nature which we have a tendency to admire from afar without ever really looking beyond.

Clouds are almost exclusively water vapor that has formed into various shapes and sizes dependent on a variety of conditions - atmospheric makeup, chemical content and composition, and relative density. When we see clouds from the ground, we frequently don't imagine them as three-dimensional, or even as structural entities, but they are.

Though hardly solid, clouds have a definite structure. A camera often sees this when we do not.

Since a JPEG image is just data, whereas what we see is merely reflected light, Photoshop can be used to manipulate an image to reveal cloud structure, which in turn can be color-balanced to bring out the true qualities of a photo. Clouds provide atmosphere and can add emotional overlays to a photo.

But before we get into too much after-processing, it's important to bear in mind that the camera is designed to take the picture you want it to take. Clouds, for example, look different based on something as simple as exposure time.

Here are two pictures of a simple sky and tree landscape taken on a cloudy, overcast afternoon. The first one was taken with normal exposure time, but the second was taken with -1_1/3 exposure time. The difference is quite noticable.

Although the shots are from slightly different angles, they were taken within 30 seconds of each other. Since a camera uses whatever light it gets, it often pays to manipulate how much it gets - as evidenced above, this simple adjustment can drastically alter the nature of a picture.

After-processing in Photoshop could theoretically make the first picture look like the second, but the closer your fresh picture is to what you want - right when you take it - the better.


The images above were captured with a Canon PowerShot A550 digital camera.

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