•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Why I Never Shoot Sky


I hate sky. You may have noticed that most of the photos I post include as little sky as possible. Most of the time it's in my way, and I do my best to push it aside. I like the way an overcast sky can intensify some colors, but, unless I want the effect of a gray day, I'll try to sneak under its grayness. Even worse are the all too common "atmospheric" days where the blue isn't quite blue and the light at dawn and dusk isn't quite as intense as it should be. Such gray-blue emptiness adds nothing of interest to a photo and is so bland it is good for nothing but a timid yelp of existential boredom. A crisp blue sky makes a great flat background, but it's rare one needs or wants lots of great, flat background.

Add to those the days when it is too wet or snowy to shoot, and I've shot in some, and that's half the year, at least in Connecticut, when I don't want to shoot the sky. What's left is an assortment of days with clouds of various kinds, most good only for adding a bit of texture to great, flat background.

This was the first shot I made yesterday at Straight Farm when the clouds were rioting, Fasalt and Fafner trampling across the hills. We've had a spell of god-cloud weather lately. Last evening at Straight the line of approach was right over the nearby hill so it was impossible to get the measure of the cloud until it was almost overhead, and I ran for cover from rain and lightening several times but neither happened.

What did happen was a lumbering parade as good as anything Macy's can put together. The problem was that the parade began at the top of the hill behind the barns and to the left in this picture, and stumbled along the side of the mountain and down the long grasslands in front of the barns, and the sun alternately burned deep behind the mass of clouds and powered through, dappling and casting spotlights randomly. Sometimes soundless shadows slithered over the lumpy hills, while I ran circles around the barns, up the hill and back down, trying to predict where the next good extravaganza was taking place.

It has bothered me that I've been so far unable to compose an image making use of the full cluster of barns at Straight. The problem is that trees and orientation keep it from getting decent light. Last night clouds taught me how to shoot it.