Neil Bellenie  

Delta Clouds by Neil Bellenie

May 2022 - Delta Clouds

About the Image(s)

These spectacular cloud formations were over the Sacramento River Delta in February. The clouds were moving quickly and in different directions according to their altitude. I was driving back after an afternoon taking pictures around the Delta and was struck by this amazing display of the power and beauty of Nature.

8 comments posted

Paul Smith   Paul Smith
The textures in the clouds are mysterious...need to know more. Tell us you camera, camera settings, SS, lens et al. And tell us about the bridge in the distance. There is a story here!   Posted: 05/01/2022 12:51:28

Neil Bellenie
Canon 5D mkiv with Canon 35mm lens. Exposure (1/2500, ISO 100 F8) was -2ev (this brought out more detail in the clouds). In post I cropped some foreground and increased vibrance and texture.

The Bridge is the Senator John A Nejedly Bridge. It is fun to drive over as it goes up and over in a continuous arc.   Posted: 05/02/2022 20:13:48
Paul Smith   Paul Smith
The cloud texture looks like thick strands of cotton. Really interesting! Nice image   Posted: 05/03/2022 10:04:04

Dawn Gulino
Neil, the clouds are amazing and the shadows from them only add intrigue! I like how you included only a sliver of the grass in this composition.

A few small things I might have tried editing. While the clouds are the main focal point, I'm wanting to see a bit more on the horizon, perhaps by opening up the shadows a bit? I'd also like to see a bit more details at the top of the frame in the clouds, I really like the dark, but think if they were lighten just a bit more, it would make the image even more powerful.   Posted: 05/17/2022 07:49:37
Mark Bargen   Mark Bargen
Dawn, I agree regarding the "sliver" of grass. To me, that helps to emphasize the broadness and flatness of the delta. In my comments below, I suggested cropping much of the blackest clouds out, and an unanticipated consequence was that the panoramic format further accentuates that effect. I overlooked the significance of the shadows cast by the clouds, and I was perhaps a bit heavy handed in brightening up the landscape. I might rethink.   Posted: 05/17/2022 11:27:03

Mark Bargen   Mark Bargen
Hi, Neil, welcome! For this round I'm undertaking to review each image after viewing only the image and its title, but not the accompanying description. Once I post my comments, I'll turn to the description and others' comments.

The title gives me a sense as to how you mean for me to read this image, what you felt was important enough to make the image. It seems clear that it is first and foremost about the clouds, which is well, as they do dominate the image, especially by virtue of the very heavy weight of the dark, nearly black clouds spanning the top of the frame. Technically, it's unfortunate that they are underexposed, and no detail is recoverable. I'm guessing that you were (quite rightly) protecting your highlights. It might be that the scene presented more dynamic range than your sensor could span; if so, then this would have been a good occasion for exposure bracketing.

Your title also tells me that *place* is important here. I think you did a good job with your composition of conveying a sense of the flatness and broadness of the delta. The impact is rather muted due to the darkness.

You'll quickly learn this about me: I happen to really enjoy post-processing, and I frequently "tinker with" others' posted images. I do this for two reasons: I like to point out treatments that the maker might find attractive and worth exploring; I also find I often learn more editing other folks' images than I do with my own, as I'm not as invested in preconceived notions as I am when working my own images. I hope I don't offend.

In this case, I made all my edits in LrC. To my eye, the image benefits greatly when one gives the viewer better access to the foreground. To this end I made two local adjustments. First, I added a linear gradient coming up from the bottom, nudging up the exposure, shadows, and dehaze, feathering out just above the horizon. I then added a more complex mask near the horizon: a skinny horizontal radial gradient, intersected with a luminance range limiting it to the darks, and then subtracting the sky with a brush. With this mask I aggressively lifted the shadows and blacks.

In your original, there's a framing effect created by the black clouds on top and the dark delta on the bottom, which helps to keep the eye within the frame. My adjustments to the foreground ruined that effect. Inasmuch as the black clouds carried (to my eye) much too much weight, I cropped down from the top, but was careful to retain enough to suggest that still darker ones are just out of
sight above. I find that I like the panorama format, as it serve to emphasize the breadth of the scene.

At this point I had to give some thought to the clouds themselves, as they are the main character here. Having mostly eliminated the indistinct dark ones, the remaining ones show a lot of variety and interest. Perhaps this is just a consequence of the JPEG compression, but I find them to look a bit "harsh", as sometimes happens when one over-sharpens, or gets heavy-handed with dehaze. When working with clouds, I try to always remember that a bird needs to be able to fly through them. I tried to subdue the harshness by adding one last radial gradient, gently nudging downwards the contrast and nudging upwards the shadows and whites, and gently nudging downwards the "presence" sliders.

Now you might not care at all for these "tweaks". I'll read your narrative to learn more about your intention. If you were trying to convey a sense of peril, of looming danger, then my edits would certainly have worked against that aim.

  Posted: 05/17/2022 09:27:34
Comment Image

Darcy Quimby   Darcy Quimby
Just a thought could you add a small border of white to the picture. I think this would stop at least my eyes from being drawn out of the picture.   Posted: 05/17/2022 15:56:49

Ed O’Rourke   Ed O’Rourke
I've driven along CA 160 and crossed the Antioch bridge many many times however I have never perceived it quite like this; you must have a much more artistic eye than me. Per your title it is, in my opinion, the clouds that make this photo and I like the way you have them in sharp focus with lots of detail. I think you composed this well by including the ground in the foreground with the bridge providing a bit of a interest item and then having the band of cumulus clouds above the ground.

I think the clouds at the top are too dark and underexposed, which I find distracting. I that regard I like the cropping that Mark did. You have power wires running through the photo just above the ground and at the bottom of the first line of clouds which I find distracting. I know it's a lot of tedious post processing but I think it would help to erase them. I also find the smoke stack from the steel mill distracting and I don't think it adds to the photo   Posted: 05/20/2022 18:36:30


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