Waves Of Clouds Washing Over A Blue Sky

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Finding a great picture of the natural world is often a lot of work. It can require getting up well before dawn; hiking up mountains; standing around in the cold for an hour waiting for something to happen; trudging through water, snow or mud; or crouching uncomfortably to get a better angle. Sometimes, though, great nature photography can be achieved just by looking out your back window.

I love to take pictures of sunrises and sunsets. Getting shots of the clouds lighting up with color is what I did to practice when I first started out as a photographer, and I’ve never stopped enjoying it. Even though Anji and I work primarily in wedding and engagement photography now, I still get up early in the mornings to check whether it’s worth getting out my camera to take a picture of the sunrise. I find that the work to get these shots combines the right ratio of patience and time invested to rewarding pictures in the end.

Winter is the best time to take sunrise and sunset photos, because the sun’s rays pass through the earth’s atmosphere at a very low angle. This scatters the blue wavelengths of light more, leaving more of the oranges and reds that makes sunrises and sunsets so beautiful.

This only works, however, when the sky is not completely overcast. Unfortunately, many of the days that we have been in Hannover, Germany, have been clouded over. Even more frustrating is the fact that many of the clearer days have had cloud banks on the horizon that effectively squelch good sunrises and sunsets. Cloud banks higher in the sky are fantastic for nature photos, because they catch the sun’s rays and light up in colorful ways. Clouds on the horizons, however, just blanket the sun and keep it from illuminating anything.

But sometimes the key to turning a bad nature photography scenario to a great one is looking at the world from a different angle. The other day, I was looking west out of our dining room window at what was shaping up to be a disappointing sunset. The sun was sinking behind a thick bank of clouds that I knew would swallow up the light, so I resigned myself to not chasing after a beautiful sunset. I went to sit down in our living room and happened to look out its east-facing windows. I saw there a beautiful blue sky behind rows of long white clouds. The day’s dying light gave the clouds a bit of shadowing, making them appear more textured and wavelike. I grabbed my Nikon D750 and 24-120mm lens, stepped out onto our balcony and fired off a couple of shots. To highlight that the cloud patterns stretched across a vast expanse of sky, I merged a couple of the images together in post-processing to create a panorama photo that offers a wider angle than I could have with my gear alone.

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