How To Take Great Photographs And Exclude Sky
Exclude sky while taking great photographs.
Landscape is one of the most popular and natural subjects to photograph, and it normally includes the sky.
Once you step outside, landscapes are everywhere.
They can be rural or urban, depending where you are.
Literally you just point and shoot.
Sometimes the landscape shot can include non landscape objects that are photographic subjects on their own.
People are often included in landscape photographs, sometimes just because they’re there at the time.
At other times they can be included to show scale, how big something is in relation to a person.
They can also be included for effect, or to add mystery or intrigue.
Animal photos usually include landscape
Almost all wildlife photography is shot as part of the landscape.
Generally, the photographer would try to fill the frame with the subject, but it’s hard to exclude the landscape, completely.
Then there are times when a lot of the landscape is included to show the animals natural environment.
Such photos can have a large or a small amount of landscape.
A still life image can be of anything that doesn’t move.
Generally it wouldn’t be a natural part of the landscape though, like a rock or a tree.
However it could be anything man made, like a fountain, a boat or even a building.
Normally still life images comprise smaller objects that are gathered and grouped specially for the photograph.
However a park bench or a hanging flower basket could be photographed as a still life.
The sky is ever present
These are all valid constituents of a landscape photograph.
One thing which is usually present to some degree is sky.
If you’re outdoors then the sky is overhead, and always available for a photo opportunity.
When you look straight ahead the horizon is directly in front of you.
Below the horizon is the Earth and above it is sky.
If you look out to sea, or across featureless, flat land, the horizon is there, where Earth and sky meet.
If there’s objects like buildings, mountains or forests in front of you, you may not see the horizon.
Excluding the sky
Generally when you take a landscape photograph some of it will be sky.
If the elements in front of you are high enough, you can exclude the sky.
This can happen if you’re very close to the object, like standing right in front of a building.
It can also happen if you’re standing in a wood.
If you’re not that close, you can zoom in to cut out the sky.
Sometimes you might want to deliberately exclude the sky.
When shooting landscape it’s desirable to get several different photos.
A wide angle view showing a wide area.
Some less detailed but still large enough areas.
There’s also a temptation to zoom right in to individual details.
These will often exclude the sky.
Looking at some photographs without any sky
The first photo in this article is one of these.
I zoomed in to pick out the bench and footbridge.
In doing so the trees behind them fill the rest of the photo, not leaving any room for the sky.
It’s early autumn so the trees are beginning to turn rust coloured, and leaves have started to fall.
The second photo was taken very close to the first.
It shows the Owenriff River at Oughterard, Galway.
The footbridge in the previous photo spans this river.
There are trees and buildings in the background.
The camera is looking slightly down in this shot rather than straight on.
If it had been I don’t think the sky would be in the image anyway.
This photo was taken some months earlier than the previous one, the leaves are not on the trees yet.
The third photo I have also shows a bridge.
This is a small bridge shot from very close range.
The bridge doesn’t quite go to the top of the photo, except at the top right.
Behind the bridge there are trees so there’s absolutely no sky in the photo.
This was taken at a very rural location.
Photographs featuring bridges
This is a different photograph of a bridge.
It’s in a valley and crosses a stream rather than a river.
There’s a house and a tree nearby.
From the vantage where it was taken these features stand out in the landscape.
It’s not a very big area, but it is surrounded by featureless green fields in all directions.
It’s a deceptive photo because there’s a lake surrounded by mountains close behind.
From this viewpoint these features are very noticeable, but apart from here they aren’t.
It’s one of those times when you can zoom in to get a photo which is very different to a wider shot.
Reflections in water make for great photographs
The next photo is also a zoom, this time a very obvious one.
Again it features a bridge, this one over a canal.
It mainly shows a reflection in the water.
This is why water is so fantastic to photograph.
It can reflect anything that is close to it.
Here it’s reflecting the houses and trees to the left side as we look at it.
t also shows the underneath of the less than inspired bridge.
This is a busy photograph and you need to study it a bit.
Normally when you zoom in this close you get a well defined detail.
In this case, at first glance, there’s just confusion.
However if you give it more than a glance it becomes clear.
The sky is here, reflected in the water.
Landscape photographs featuring water
While the sky features in most landscape photos, water finds it’s way into a lot of them as well.
Water is totally transparent and completely colourless.
It reflects colour very well though.
When there’s water in a photo like this you don’t have to see the sky to know what colour it was.
This was taken on a cloudy day without a hint of blue in the sky.
Rowing is a popular sport in Ireland and this was taken during a regatta, the annual Galway Regatta.
It was taken several years ago, and if I remember correctly, this crew was well beaten.
This regatta used to be a big event, but not so much any more.
An autumnal landscape
This photograph has a lot more in it than landscape, or even waterscape.
What with vehicles and boats all over the place, the landscape is little more than a backdrop.
The photo was taken in Autumn and the seasonal colours are very much present in the vegetation.
Most of the boats and vehicles have colours that are in the Autumnal range as well.
This photograph was taken at Lough Derg, one of the lakes on the River Shannon.
It’s the southern most of several lakes dotted along the Shannon.
Most of these lakes are shared between different counties.
There are portions of Lough Derg in Counties Clare, Galway and Tipperary.
And more water
There isn’t a sign of Autumn in the next image, It’s definitely Summer.
No single colour can look as multi coloured as green.
The vast majority of trees have green leaves, but they all seem to be different.
While grass in a particular area is mostly the same, a newly mowed lawn looks different to one that isn’t.
There’s a lot of different greens in the vegetation here.
There seems to be a few more in the reflections on the water.
The sky doesn’t get a look in in this one thanks to the wonderful trees.
I think if it was winter that it would make a little appearance.
The photo was taken in Cong, Co. Mayo which is very close to Ashford Castle, one of Ireland’s foremost hotels.
It’s a very small but scenic village, situated at the very northern end of Lough Corrib.
Lough Corrib is the largest lake in Ireland, Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland is bigger.
There’s a fine drive around the lake with Galway City at one end, and Cong at the other.
It’s a drive of varied terrain passing through the villages of Headford, Oughterard and Moycullen.
Is it the sea or are they lakes?
Connemara is an area of County Galway between the sea to the west and lough Corrib to the east.
The next photo was shot in Connemara.
The area has a plethora of small lakes dotted throughout.
This photo was taken close to the sea.
I don’t know whether the water in the photo is regarded as lakes, or sea.
There doesn’t appear to be anything that could be classed as a river here.
It looks like the sea is meandering right inland.
On a map it looks like it’s still the sea, but it’s a few miles inland from what is definitely sea.
The mountain at the back is what’s blocking the sky out of this one.
The photo was taken from a height and is looking down on this confused looking waterway.
It’s part of a very wild but scenic landscape.
The entire west coast of Ireland is crammed with scenery, with much of it as wild as this.
This photo was taken looking north but there’s equally impressive scenery to the south.
Different things blocking the sky
The River Corrib enters Galway City as one river and then splits into several.
Some of them flow into and out of The Eglinton Canal.
This photo was shot at a place where three separate waterways come together.
This new stream flows back into the main river roughly one hundred yards from here.
On this occasion it’s not trees but buildings which is obscuring the sky.
One of the streams is flowing right under the building on the left.
Ireland’s only fjord
Another very green photograph, but once again several different greens.
It shows a section of the River Erriff which flows into Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord.
The trees surrounding the river at this point is blocking the sky.
This is natural vegetation, not cultivated, and there’s so many different trees here.
Woods are one place where it’s very easy to take photographs without any sky.
They’re full of trees that grow very close to each other.
As well as the sky they exclude a lot of light as well.
Without much light penetrating the tree cover vegetation at ground level can be different.
You wont find the same quality of grass as there is in well lit places.
Where horses and sheep roam free
You can point the camera straight in front, and avoid sky by shooting sloping land.
It can be a hill if you zoom in close enough, or a mountain.
This photo is of a hill.
The area in which it was taken has mountains, but this is only a hill.
I zoomed in to include the horses.
It’s rough terrain with lots of rocks strewn around.
Most of them are just the top of the rock with the rest underground.
Some of the smaller ones are lying on top of the ground.
They probably broke off from the larger ones over time.
Horses and sheep wander freely in this area.
The sheep have painted markings to denote ownership.
I don’t know if the horses are wild or if not, how ownership is established.
The number of them is very small so they may well be wild.
Zooming in to shoot part of a mountain is one sure way to avoid the sky.
There’s details on there to pick out, like the trees in the foreground.
Farther up you can see some streams that drain water off the mountain.
The last photograph is a close up of such a stream.
This one is at the bottom of a mountain.
There are a lot of rocks in the path of this stream.
Effectively they’re causing several tiny waterfalls.
Each is only a few inches deep but they result in white water along this stretch of the stream.
Some of the projects on this site can be done in one go.
Others are ones you work on over time.
This is an ongoing one.
If you go shooting landscapes, shoot other things as well.
This will help you build a varied portfolio.
Even if you specialise in one genre of photography, don’t stick to it exclusively.
There’s so much to shoot in the world, try many types of photography.
Digital photography doesn’t cost much
The great thing about digital photography is that little expense in taking the photos.
You’ve got the camera to take them, and the computer in which to store them.
The memory card where they were stored in the camera can be reused.
As long as the hard drive is not full, it doesn’t cost anything extra to add more photos.
When using film it does cost to take a photograph.
The film can only be used once.
It does cost to develop and print the images, either doing it yourself, or bringing them to be developed.
When you shoot with a digital camera you can keep going until the memory card is full.
If you have another with you, which you should, you can continue.
Shoot details that you wouldn’t with a film camera.
Some of them will be good photos which you would never have taken.