Shooting Challenge: Clouds

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Clouds

As children, most of us stared into the clouds, spotting all sorts of wild stories taking place. For this week's Shooting Challenge, we ask, why did we ever stop?

The Challenge

Take a photo of a cloud. Simple! However, there are bonus points to anyone who sees something in the cloud and can convince me to see it, too.


In other words, the best entries should cause a mass hallucination, but spotting shapes isn't a prerequisite. Beautiful photos make fine entries, too.

Oh, and the photo doesn't need to *just* be of clouds, but they should be the prominent subject.

The Technique

Cloud photography can be difficult to expose properly while ensuring that professional-looking contrast between clouds and sky.


This will be, by far, the biggest technical hurdle of this challenge. But the solution is relatively simple—a bit of trial and error mixed with a polarizing filter.

An explanation from Weatherscapes:

The sky around clouds is polarized to some degree, most around 90 degrees away from the sun, and least near the sun or opposite the sun. If you use a polarizer, you want to block out the polarized light from the blue sky partially, to increase contrast.

You must be careful doing this, however, since clouds are already much brighter than the blue sky, unless it is very hazy or dusty. It is easy to overexpose the cloud or underexpose the sky using a polarizer. Both will make your photo look very ugly.


The Example

Our lead photo is by flickr's mnsc. Clearly taken from the air (and probably not using a polarizer), the backlighting on the clouds provides detail only around the edges. It's a reminder that, to a large extent, you're at the mercy of nature and your perspective. But then again, there are a lot of ways a cloud can be captured.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, July 18th at 8AM Eastern to with "Clouds" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameClouds.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameCloudsWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.


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This is my favorite shot that I have taken of clouds. I have taken a couple today now that they sky is not overcast. Got a couple I am meh about so, I will be waiting for sunset time to try my luck some more.

Edit: Hmm, picture post fail so here is the link. []