It was a cool breezy Sunday morning, which is unusual for August. I stepped out back at a little after 7 AM and noticed the mid-level clouds being driven by the wind across the sky and that made me think of doing some cloud-blur photos. The place I chose to make the photos was Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Refuge as it is close by and I had no other plans.
I hiked up to an overlook that I knew would face away from the rising sun for my first photos. The first photo below was 1/50 second and has no cloud blur. Compare that to the second photo with a 30 second exposure. The clouds were moving so fast, that I really didn’t need a super long exposure to get much motion blur. You can also see how quickly the light across the landscape was changing from picture to picture as the clouds moved across the sky. I think that during these photos a bug must have landed on the filter because there is a darkish blob in the sky that I worked hard to get rid of Lightroom.
With cloud blur photos, the direction that the clouds move makes a big difference in your final image. If the clouds are moving straight toward you it gives you a surreal sense of motion compared to being blurred side-to-side across the image. In the image below, facing a different direction, the clouds are moving away toward a point to the right of center in the photo and form leading lines. I wish I had been able to point those leading lines at something interesting, but I got the old round-topped hill in the distance. At the time I was mainly thinking about framing the hill with the two trees, but I don’t think that worked so well.
I moved up the trail toward the base of the hill and set up to get the trail leading to the hill with the clouds smeared across the sky above. Even with the 10-stop filter, smallest aperture, and base ISO, it was difficult to get a truly long exposure. The photos below are 30 second exposures, I may have been able to push it to 45 or 50 seconds without blowing out the highlights. The first is shot at 24mm and the second at 14mm, I kind of like the first but tell me what you think.
Anyway, my main takeaways from this shoot were: on a cloudier day I might have gotten way with 1 minute or more exposures, you are at the mercy of the wind with cloud direction, and check the filter for bugs before shooting. Thanks for reading.