Tag Archives: cloudscape

Cloudcatcher & Stargazer

Cloudcatcher. Stargazer. Occasional summoner of Weather. Dreamer – struggling mightily with reality.

Clouds are nearby friends in the sky, the stars are faraway beacons of hope. Surreal and otherworldly, ingredients of dreams but real. This may get a mite esoteric and peculiar, bear with me on this mind trip. During the day there is nothing quite like clouds that will catch my eye. At night it is the stars calling me leaving me gazing deep into the universe, back in time and lost in dreams. Cloudcatcher. Stargazer. Dreamer.

Clouds are a key subject in my photos, I could shoot nothing but clouds all day. I am convinced they are alive. Clouds catch my eye and I run around looking for a foreground subject. Occasionally I feel I have magic powers and can summon the clouds and the weather. Certainly, in USA I had so much good luck with the light and the clouds it surely cannot be a coincidence. Example, I really only shot at Grand Canyon for 3 hours but managed to first summon a huge snow storm for dramatic storm shots, then move the storm out of the way just in time for a sunset. I summoned a sand storm in White Sands. Last year I was able to summon rain in the Namibia desert, extremely rare. All in a days work. Here is an example of clouds I summoned in Arches, Utah, a great dramatic snow storm:

Clouds - Arches - blog

The stars always bring me hope. Hope of space travel and life on other planets. Hope for the future of our self destructive race. A pitch black night allows me to leave the Earth and fly away to other galaxies. The Saint Agustin plains and Very Large Array in New Mexico offered the perfect launch platform and a billion stars to capture:

Stars - VLA - blog

Finally, my home city of Copenhagen in Denmark has more bland and less dramatic weather but is occasionally still home to fantastic clouds. I present an oldie from 2006, a sunset in late autumn. I remember this day well, stressed out from my then fulltime IT job I sat fatigued and zombie-like at Lake Peblinge observing a forthcoming sunset seemingly holding few promises. It was bone-rattling cold, and I felt like going home. Slowly this ‘spine’ of clouds formed and lit up like in a dream. The sky was a burning lava magenta for about 20 minutes and I have never again witnessed anything like it here. On this day, Copenhagen was a tropical town and I promise this is what it looked like:

Fiery sunset Lake Peblinge -blog

Cloudcatcher. Stargazer. Dreamer. Reality?

PS. Two awesome cloud videos for you fellow cloudcatchers: Joe Taylor and Edvard Brun.

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Days on the road

It is 1.30 am and I find myself in Moab, Utah. And it is probably a bad time for blogging but sleep escapes me tonight. I went to bed at 00.15am and then proceeded to have a strange dream and woke up instantly. So here I am; Wide Awake in America. I am a little tired of sleeping in strange motel beds, but the landscapes here are stunningly magical. Every day as I drive through the Southwest I am continually surprised by how beautiful the land here is.

Earlier today I had a bit of a blissful being in the wild moment. Going by directions received by fellow photographers I found the trailhead to Mule Canyon in Utah, the trail leading to House on Fire anasazi ruins. A location I really wanted to visit. I hiked the mile and a half along the wash in brilliant sunshine and arrived at the ruins with plenty of time to shoot them while they are still in the shade. I was somewhat ecstatic that I have found them. They must be in the shade for the ‘fire’ effect caused by reflected sunlight onto the rock above the ruins. The effect is quite simply surreal and really spectacular when photographed at just the right angle to catch the reflections. I shot every conceivable angle and then sat on a rock worshipping the sun for an hour. Just me and not a soul around me and not a sound. Being there. In the moment. In nature. Truly content not wanting to move.

Later I arrived in Moab, Utah and checked into my hotel room. I drove to Arches National Park to shoot the sunset. There is a sand storm blowing but it is still nicely warm. Just as the light show is about to happen Mother Nature drops a large cloud in front of the sun, but the clouds are still great. 17mm wideangle pointed almost straight up with just some gorgeous red rocks in the foreground and I have my shot. I steer my black spaceship back to base.

It has been one of those days. Days on the road. From magical moments in America’s nature to waking up in a motel bed, an inner as much as an outer journey. That sums up the present life of this travelling photographer.  An image that sums it up? Well, since I am saving the hero shots for my new website, here is what I really love about this US road trip. Simply driving down a back road in gorgeous Navajo Country, Arizona and shooting a dramatic cloudscape at sunset with a storm approaching over the red soil. A bit of magic for just a few minutes, what this is all about. (There is a stitched version of this that will be the final version, this is is a quick preview).

navajo storm - blog

Layers of gold

I learned many things during our Laos trip and one of them was to really appreciate gorgeous mountains. As every reader knows by now I tend to go on (and on) about wide open dimensionless desolate flat spaces. But driving around the incredible gorgeous mountains of East Laos blew my mind. Everywhere, absolutely everywhere my eyes darted, majestic mountainscapes were present. Another added bonus of mountains and the air in these altitudes were the incredibly blue sky and simply stunning cloudscapes masterly painted onto the big big sky.

The mountains pose a challenge though, finding somewhere to shoot! Driving on a small path in a 4WD, most of the time there are bushes, trees and all sorts of stuff in front. To get a clear shot requires testing gravity or towing a really tall ladder! Or just the patience to wait for a spot to pull over where the view is unimpeded. One afternoon as the sun was low and setting we were treated to some ethereal rays of lights shining through the clouds and I created this image:

Laos mountainscape golden hour blog

This is just a single image slightly cropped. There was not always time to setup tripod and shoot stitched panos etc. The important lesson here is take what you can get. I have warmed the colours some, in the original it has a more cold cast to it but I feel perfectly fine about altering the look of a scene like this. I am attempting to create art, this is not a documentary nor photojournalism. I was able to capture the dynamic range in one raw file and then worked the image in Lightroom and Photoshop to bring out the deep in shade foreground slight and warm the colours. What do you think of the result?

Patterns in the sky and the ground

As a follow up to my post about Patterns in the Desert, I present images once again from the beautiful sand dunes outside of the towns Swakopmund and Walvis Bay in Namibia. Patterns, shapes and lines are all very essential tools for composition and when Mother Nature presents you with the Namibian smorgasbord you are in heaven as a landscape photographer!

One afternoon after a little visit to Walvis Bay we drive on the backside of these dunes and we happen upon these extraordinary patterns in the ground. What they are and what caused them I honestly could not say. What I can say is I had a brilliant time lining them up in my viewfinder at sunset, creating images like this one:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Walvis Bay Dune Patterns
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Later that same afternoon, the clouds felt left out so they demanded attention by creating these beautiful cloudscapes at dusk. Both of these shots were shot using a 3 stop  ND grad filter, an essential tool here as the sun sets on the other side of the dunes and the ND grad filter is necessary to even exposure and get detail in the foreground.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Walvis Bay Dunes at Dusk 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Incidentally, I find it incredible the way a smell, a taste or a sound can be linked so strongly to the memory of capturing a photo. As I study these photos I taste “Jungle Energy Muesli Bars” in my mouth. I very distinctly remember wolfing down these energy bars at night when I loaded these raw files into my laptop and was rather pleased with the result – and the muesli bars!

Finally; these gorgeous dunes are small in comparison to the massive 400 meter tall Naukluft dunes but are still about 50 to 100 meters tall and spread out over 30 kilometres of coast between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Witness from above, these gorgeous dunes, neighbour to the sea.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Swakopmund Dunes from the air 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Amusing anecdote from this day. As I am shooting these images my friends Gudrun and Svenn are waiting in the car a few hundreds meters away. It is a rather windy and chilly day. I feel an urgent need to use the bush toilet (should it be called desert toilet here?) to relieve myself of the nice coffee from a café in Walvis Bay. I water the sand and hear intense whistling and woohoo’ing from my friends. As they are at least a few hundred meters away and it is dark I can’t really see what they are doing. So I gather they are cold and tired and want to go. I hurry (with the shooting not the peeing) and get the last few shots, it is almost pitch black anyway and I rush back to them. At which point I of course learn they were laughing and whistling at the sight of me, the camera, the tripod and the desert toilet situation. I can be rather slow at times!

Nature the Artist

Studying clouds and attempting to predict the weather is a full time job for any outdoor photographer. It is how we try and increase our changes of getting that special shot. It is also incredibly fascinating. Clouds are for dreamers and I never tire of observing or shooting nature’s big canvas known as the sky.

On a warm Summer night you will often get some high level cirrus clouds that looks like Nature the Artist did a few lazy and casual soft brush strokes here and there. Usually these clouds disappear before sunset but occasionally they stick around and when they do the colours are quite spectacular. Wednesday night was a good example of cirrus clouds here in Copenhagen and I was in place to capture this panorama:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Copenhagen Harbour Summer Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is a 170 degree view of Copenhagen shot directly into the sunset across the harbour. It is a good spot for getting as much sky as possible and the same spot as this Harbour Storm panorama. It was in the middle of a warm Summer week here in Copenhagen with temperatures above 30 degrees creating cirrus clouds. Everything is relative someone once said and what we call heat wave is a cold day in the Northern Territory! Nevertheless a super lovely day and sunset.

Tech specs and oh the horizon, the horizon

This panorama is 7 vertical images stitched in PTgui (PTgui really had to save me this time, more about that later). Shot with 17-40mm L  lens at 20mm, f/22.0 using 1.3 second exposure with a Cokin neutral density filter attached. RAW files were developed in Lightroom 2.0 and the final stitch received very little post production in Photoshop. Nature the Artist did all the work here, I just painted a bit more light into the shadows to show more of the buildings and added a vignette. The horizon is straight in this final version. It may appear slightly curved due to the wide 170 degree view but it’s straight. It wasn’t always so…

FBJ-crooked-horizon I have an uncanny ability to spot anything crooked, any horizon not straight even if it’s off by just half a degree. I use this super hero power to “help” other photographers straighten their horizon by politely pointing it out on their blogs; normally with some level of sarcasm. Well the photography gods are not without humour! When shooting the above panorama my head was in the clouds. I levelled the tripod and then moved it forward to the edge of the pier resting the front leg on a raised edge. Guess what. It’s not level anymore!

My tripod should carry a sign saying “I’m with Stupid!”

With my head in the clouds and also slightly trying to look cool because there are several interested people next to me on the pier I shoot away – and don’t even look into the viewfinder because hey! I have super powers. Thank the maker that PTgui is so good at stitching because on the right is the leftmost shot of the original files. Super powers indeed Human Spirit Level Man. Oh the horizon!

With my head in the clouds

I tell ya it’s not easy getting any photography done with all these UEFA EURO 2008 footy matches on every night! Nothing can stop me though when the light looks to be special and after having sunshine, rain and hail storms visit us during Monday I knew it would not be dull.

I chose a spot at the end of Lake Peblinge and decided that tonight was all about the sky, forget the city. I wanted a cloudscape. Clouds are so common most people overlook their astounding beauty and their importance in a landscape shot. Like an umbrella in a studio Clouds reflect light and will light and colour your scene. Clouds are for dreamers. Enough nonsense, here’s the shot:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Tropical Cloudscape at Lake Peblinge
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I used my 17-40mm wide angle lens, but did end up using one of tighter shots at 40mm as the composition was better. I shot at f/22.0, iso50 and used a neutral density filter to cut light and be able to expose for 6 seconds maximizing colours and light. I am standing on top of the bridge (it’s more like a road that crosses the lake) “Fredensbro” and it was blowing a gale as the water demonstrates! When shooting a scene like this be very careful with the red channel, it is very easy to blow out if you just measure luminance. The Canon 5D displays an RGB histogram but if don’t have that then measure the light on the clouds and underexpose by a stop and bracket your exposure. The red channel will be at least a stop brighter than the other channels. The compressed 8bit jpeg above actually has a bit of blown red, but the original doesn’t. Blown reds are ugly, avoid them like the plague!

The clouds and colours on this evening were from another place. These are clouds on fire, tropical colours that really do not belong in cold Scandinavia and it was a mesmerizing light show. Clouds for dreamers. With my head in the clouds. Trying not to fall over.