Why take color pictures of a black & white sky? Why photograph the sky?


Need a photography project? Stumped for new ideas? Looking for inspiration? Things are looking up!

This very morning there was an unexpectedly gray cloud cover when I got up.
While not especially photogenic (from where I stood, visually and emotionally?) it reminded me of another morning sky which I shot from this location.

Seeing the sky is like being in a master painter’s studio, getting to watch the trying out of variations on a theme. The sky is really the same as a watercolor painting in that it is: Light reflected off, and viewed through, layers of water-based color on multiple layers.


Many people don’t ever seem to look up. This is prevalent in cities and suburbs where the weather has less impact on peoples’ day and lives than on that of sailors and farmers, trekkers, and troops, and all the others who are out under those skies.

I ask a question on the first night of my photography classes to students who are  new to me:
“Is the moon ever visible during the day? And, if so, when?”
Some answer “in the morning” or “afternoon”.

The fact is, that the moon is in the daytime sky half the lunar cycle. That is, out of every 28 days or so, it is in the day sky 14 days. Allowing for the times it is visually too close to the sun for the eye to see, let’s say that the moon is visible, in the daytime, roughly 10-12 days a month.  (allowing for clouds like this morning!) Most people never see it.

I’ve even had students who declared that the moon is never visible during the day. Ever.

We live in different worlds. (After all these years on earth, I’m still amazed that people don’t seem to inhabit the same world as I do)


I’ve shot photographs of the sky on black & white film, color negative film, color slides, in 35mm, medium format, and 4×5 view cameras, and on compact point and shoot cameras, and DSLRs.

I generally have no plan for the pictures. I don’t usually expect to print them. I just take these photos because I love the skies, and I love photography, and I love the act of taking the pictures. That’s enough incentive, isn’t it?


The color digital camera photographs shown here were shot one year and one week ago.

I used a Nikon D80 with a Nikkor 18-200mm VR ll lens. Settings were (in the range of):

  • RAW
  • ISO 100
  • 27mm
  • 1/750 sec.
  • 8.0
  • Approximately .5 stops under exposure (to increase saturation).

I opened them in Adobe Camera RAW with minimal processing, so they represent how that morning did, and still does, appear to me. I have many, many color photographs of colorful skies, but this morning’s sky, made me think of this high gray sky of 53 weeks ago. These are color digital photographs of a very gray sky. They are not color digital photos converted to black & white digital photographs (which will be the subject of another blog) The reason that digital color works here (short version of the answer)  is that there are subtle color variations that  digital white balance addresses with delicate effect.

Shoot whatever you like. Enjoy it. Look up occasionally.


Ken Storch

Author: P U

10 thoughts on “Why take color pictures of a black & white sky? Why photograph the sky?

  1. Great shots! Just this morning, I also looked up at the sky and thought it deserved a photo, but I got distracted with other things, and never shot it. Thanks for the reminder, shoot it when you see it……………

  2. beautiful skies.
    i like your pictures.

    i take lots of pictures of skies.
    sometimes i use them for backgrounds.
    sometimes i print them.
    sometimes i wish i had taken pictures of a sky that i passed up on.

  3. I love to photograph the sky. It’s one of my favorite subjects. Here in AZ there is always something spectacular to see when you look up.

  4. Before I woke up, I knew that I wanted to photograph the sky. I tried, unsuccessfully, because I did not know how to use the tripod – facing the sky PLUS I was not certain of the camera settings.

    I am reading and tomorrow and every tomorrow I will be photographing the sky until I get it right 🙂

    I own a digital, Canon 30D



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