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Thread: Cloud Separation

  1. #1

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    Cloud Separation

    When photographing storm clouds that have no break in them where sky is showing do you use a filter? If so which one?

    I saw some beauties yesterday on my way home from work, guess I should have had the camera with me. They had dark areas as well as very light, almost white clouds mixed in.

  2. #2
    よろしくお願いします! Andrew O'Neill's Avatar
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    Re: Cloud Separation

    Yup, sure, why not...but I usually don't go beyond a #15 wratten. Also depends how bright the clouds are relative to blue sky. If they are bright, then nothing stronger than #15....Depends how much drama you want. You have to consider everything that is in the scene as they may also be affected to some degree by the filter.

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    Re: Cloud Separation

    Chris, depending on the atmospheric conditions (haze, drizzle, etc.) I use only a polarizer for storm clouds if no clear sky is showing in the frame. This for B&W films. If you're lucky and have a rainbow visible the polarizer can also enhance the color saturation and sometimes help to render a double rainbow more clearly when using color films.

    Nate Potter

  4. #4

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    Re: Cloud Separation

    No, filters would be of no or little use. Clouds are monochromatic, so without any blue sky, filters would just act as neutral density filters. One might try a polarizing filter...have no idea if it would do anything, but just holding the filter to your eye and rotating it should give you an idea if it does or not.

    Using exposure and development to increase the contrast would be one tool to use.

    Vaughn

  5. #5
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Cloud Separation

    I disagree Vaughn. Clouds like these are oftentimes not monochromatic but have steely blue undersides and warm tops. I find that about a light orange filter and careful exposure will enhance contrast and make them feel three dimensional.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

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  6. #6
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    Re: Cloud Separation

    Even on very cloudy days, UV (near the deep blue spectrum) penetrates....hence the phenomenon of sun burn at the beach on a cloudy day and the need for at least a UV (if not an 81B) filter with transparency film.

    (If you don't believe me, check it with a color temperature meter.)

    Therefore, either a yellow or red filter will have some effect of seperating tones in the clouds by acting as a minus blue filter as well as increasing the overall contrast. This will not be as noticable as on a sunny day with white puffy clouds, but it will happen.

    It will take experimentation to realize the effect, so shoot he same scene with and without filters to see what happens. There will be almost no effect if the clouds are near the same tone of gray.

    The polarizer will also help, as already suggessted, by literally removing the glare from the countless microscopic water droplets in the air and removing that specific haze that reduces existing contrast.

    As you will already be dealing with dark conditions, and the filters will subtract significant light, be sure to use a sturdy tripod (preferably wood if you're in or even near a thunderstorm warning).

    It's not as predictable as good weather photoraphy, but you will see differences.

    Tim
    "One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude." Carl Sandburg

  7. #7

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    Re: Cloud Separation

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    I disagree Vaughn. Clouds like these are oftentimes not monochromatic but have steely blue undersides and warm tops. I find that about a light orange filter and careful exposure will enhance contrast and make them feel three dimensional.
    I've been wrong before and will likely continue the trend. -- thanks Kirk!

    Vaughn

  8. #8
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    Re: Cloud Separation

    I just went back to the master. In "Examples, the Making of Forty Photographs" there is a detailed description by Ansel of the making of his famous 'Clearing Winter Storm' image in Yosemite. He very definitely talks of using the K2 (Wratten?) light yellow filter for the image.

    It's all about tonal separation.

    Tim
    "One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude." Carl Sandburg

  9. #9

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    Re: Cloud Separation

    I assume you're talking about black and white photography. If there's no color in the sky or the clouds then no filter will create contrast. In b&w photography a filter creates contrast or tonal separation by passing some colors and holding back others. If the colors that the filter passes and holds back aren't present in the sky or the clouds then the filter won't do anything (except increase your exposure time). Using a UV or a polarizer to reduce haze is a different queston.
    Brian Ellis
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    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  10. #10
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    Re: Cloud Separation

    Brian,

    I've always read, and found it to be accurate, that balck and white filters also reduce or eliminate atmospheric haze. That is the specific reason that Adams cites for using the K2 on the "Clearing Winter Storm' image.

    Also, we can't see all the colors (back to UV) that the filters and film effect.

    By removing both the UV and the haze, the filters do enhance contrast even though we may not recognize actual colors visually in a scene.

    Tm
    "One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude." Carl Sandburg

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