Sunday Stills: The Silver Lining of Clouds

When I was young, my favorite summer days were those when cloudless Southern California skies promised idle afternoons baking my body at our local beaches. It wasn’t until I was older—after inflicting untold damage to my skin—that I started to truly appreciate clouds. Not only do they provide a respite from the heat and help block harmful UV rays, but they can make the sky so much more interesting to photograph.

Although one of my favorite things to photograph is the contrast of colors and shapes against a bright blue – and cloudless – sky…

… I am more often drawn to the interesting shapes and colors that clouds add to the image. Below is the same image with clouds (the original) and without (edited). I think the clouds add interest to the image, but you may prefer a clear sky. Many photo editing tools allow the original sky to be swapped for another so, even if Mother Nature offers one sky, you can choose something else.  

Looking towards San Miguel de Allende from the botanical gardens.

Sometimes cloud formations are so beautiful, they are the focus and there is little need to include much else in the image.

Have you ever seen clouds that are so perfectly situated in the sky, it’s almost if they were painted in that way?  

Ring around the sun in San Miguel de Allende.
Ring around the top spire of the Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende.

Clouds can also add interest to black and white landscape photographs. Without the puffy white clouds, the sky in both of these photos would have been dark gray and black and, I think, less interesting.

Big Island, Hawaii
Big Island, Hawaii

And, as any connoisseur of sunsets will agree, clouds – or the lack thereof – can make or break a spectacular display. After some practice, you can start to guess whether you should have your camera ready or not before the sun drops below the horizon.   

Key West, Florida
Southern California.

This week’s theme for Terri Webster Schrandt’s Sunday Stills photo challenge is Clouds and Fog. See Terri’s photographs on her blog, Second Wind Leisure.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

115 thoughts on “Sunday Stills: The Silver Lining of Clouds”

  1. Weird. I can’t “like” your post. But at least it was emailed to me so that function works. Your photos are fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed scrolling through the images.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. What a lovely post, both verbally and visually! Because I grew up in the middle of the Midwest, where it’s flat, flat, flat, cloud formations were something we really noticed. And when I was out in California for grad school, I really missed them when we had day after day of sunshine.

    San Miguel is on my list of places to travel, once this dratted pandemic is over. I can tell by your photos that I’m going to love it!

    1. I remember being so impressed with the clouds – both the puffy ones and the more ominous ones – on our Midwest road trip. Since we have so many clear blue skies here, I always get excited when interesting clouds start to form.

      You will love San Miguel. We spent about seven weeks there and I’d love to go back.

  3. I had fog this morning. I couldn’t see past my back fence it was so thick!

    I love your skies! I prefer clouds to cloudless for most photography the exception being night sky photography.

    I LOVE those red hot pokers against the blue sky. Great contrast and colors.

  4. Amazing captures of clouds and their multiple formations, Janis. I do love your black and white images for the stark contrast it provides. Your sunset photos are spectacular. So glad you could share with Sunday Stills this week.

  5. Stunning photos, Janis. You have an artistic eye for creative shapes in your photography. The contrast against a canvas of bright blue….I had not thought about it this way until now. Really cool, interesting effect at the botanical gardens. For a second, I thought I could see Bernie Sanders.🙂 Thank you for sharing your exceptional photos!

  6. Hi, Janis.
    1) Hooray to you for rejoining in on #SundayStills. I love your photography and always learn so much from it.
    2) Speaking of learning, how did you do that slidey thing with the botanical gardens. I seriously want to try that myself!
    Awesome post!

  7. Beautiful photos and there is reason why each one appeals to me. I am always looking up and studying the sky. I think my interest in clouds is somewhat influenced by living in Southern California. Our weather shifts are so subtle and I look for ways to appreciate even the merest change. Often the only hint I get is in the clouds! Lovely post.

  8. wow – all photos show nature’s beauty and i know what you mean about liking your and seeing in the sky what feels like a painting or it was painted there
    😉
    the circle in the sky was my fav of this post

  9. Now that’s a beautiful collection of “sky photos,” Janis. While I adore blue skies, especially when taking photos of places we visit, I agree that clouds are a necessity for magical sunsets. I had no idea that you could actually edit a photo by deleting the clouds.

    1. These days, you can pretty much edit a photo any way you want. It is sort of sad, but I guess it also opens up possibilities. We can’t always be at the right place at the right time. I also think it’s important to acknowledge when a photograph has been edited to that extent.

  10. Absolutely beautiful pics! While I like days with a mix of clouds and blue sky, I also love spectacular mid-winter cloudless skies like today in Minneapolis. 25 degrees, no wind, and 3 inches of fresh white powder on the ground. It was the perfect day for a couple miles of snowshoeing at the Minnesota Arboretum. Check it out. Great, great place to shoe, walk, cross-country ski, and in growing season, take in the seasons.

  11. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos, Janis! Clouds are one of my favorite features of nature. They intrigue me because their appearance is constantly changing due to the winds or the light. When I see a particularly amazing formation, I feel blessed because they last for only a moment in time and it was my good fortune to notice it.

    1. I’m not surprised at all that you are a big fan of clouds. Isn’t it interesting how different they appear all around the country. We seldom – if ever -get those big thunder clouds seen in the Midwest, for instance. I find myself looking upwards a lot to see what the sky is doing.

  12. When seasons are in transition, I find the skies are usually grey, so I welcome the clear, cloudless days. That said, I do appreciate a towering thunderhead!

    Very cool tech-y bit, there, of the San Miguel de Allende with and without clouds!

    1. Completely gray skies – especially over days and days – can be dismal, for sure. I appreciate the variety and love a mix of bright blue and puffy white clouds. That slider tool was fun to use… it makes me wonder what else the block editor has to play with.

    1. Thanks, Marty. That Key West sunset was amazing… it just kept getting better and better. Funny thing, most people turned away from the sunset once the sun dipped below the horizon and went about their business. Little did they know that the best part was yet to come.

  13. I wish one could remove the clouds in real life! They are ok in moderation but I love bright blue skies and sunshine. Rain or snow clouds are ok in small quantities but sometimes here in the winter the cloud cover is endless. Love that you know all these cool tricks!

  14. I feel the way you do now about the sun’s rays, so clouds offer that much needed respite. Your photos are stunning, Janis, and I’ve always been fond of clouds and their artwork in the big blue. Like sunrises and sunsets, I can’t take enough photos of them. Lovely post!

  15. You have captured some beautiful skies Janis – I can’t remember the last sunset I have seen – it has to be decades and likewise for a beautiful sunrise. In the City, you can’t enjoy them to the full extent due to rooftops and wires and I don’t like to be out in the dark due to crime. I will just enjoy yours vicariously. 🙂

  16. Wow, wow and WOW. Loved your story and the clouds. So many variations here and everywhere. I wish I knew more about certain cloud formations and the ways in which they are weather forecasters. I know here in Australia I am glad for, now anyway, to have cloudy skies bringing some rain after a weekend of heatwave temperatures.

    Denyse #sundaystills

  17. I can remember slathering ourselves with baby oil and baking in the sun with my friends to get a tan. Ugh! What were we thinking? I think clouds add an interesting element to the photo too. And I can’t wait until we can go back to San Miguel de Allende!

  18. Those are gorgeous photos of the sky and clouds! Whenever I’m feeling a little low, looking up seems to help. It’s usually beautiful up there, and it’s always interesting!

  19. Ah … thank you for sharing the views of your side of the world. I’m with you on clouds – they add an interesting dimension to the scenes. I also enjoy the contrast of a clear blue sky against brightly colored objects. I could sit for hours and watch clouds float by. Especially on a beach!

  20. Gorgeous cloud photos, Janis. I lived on the Canadian prairies for a number of years, where the sky is big and the cloud formations can be spectacular. On the west coast where I am now, we have plenty of clouds and fog — different, but also visually interesting.

    Jude

  21. Janis I guess we are in the cloud tribe, as lovers of cloudy skies. Your photos at the end of cloud formations are wonderful. Love the photo of yours that is predominantly clouds. I don’t need any thing else.

    Here on the coast of Oaxaca we have noticed the difference in the skies from the winter months (now) to the summer ones upcoming when the skies are completely blue. For sure the different cloud formations give tremendous character to the horizon and the variety is just astounding.

    Great post. Thank you for calling our attention to our appreciation of clouds all around. Will think of you as we go for our beach walk tonight.

    Peta (& Ben)

  22. Wonderful photos! You make me long for spring and blue skies. I also love clouds, they are so fleeting though, it’s hard to get a picture of them. You’ve got some great ones here.

  23. Your clouds are spectacular! Yes, clouds add drama to a scene, particularly the kind you show here. I also love to look at the sky and make up stories with the cloud formations. 💙

  24. Janis, these are stunning photos. I was impressed with how much you could change your sky. Leya was doing something like that on her post about going from forgotten to favorites. Did you do that in Photoshop? That brings up another question I am going to ask Lisa Coleman tomorrow. How do you determine which photos to keep and which to throw away? Are there criteria you uses for culling your photos?

    1. Are you referring to that slider that shows the sky with and without clouds? The original had clouds and I substituted a cloudless sky from another image… I think I did it in PicMonkey, but you can do that in most more advanced photo editing programs (and, by advanced, I mean not the freebee ones that come on your phone or computer). The slider is a great new option in the new Block Editor… neat, huh? I am looking forward to reading your interview with Lisa.

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