Cloudscape over Portsmouth, New Hampshire


The landscape never looks exactly the same from one day to the next. Weather conditions differ; cloud cover and the type of clouds can be vastly different; the angle of light changes – even if only slightly; tides change; water can be still, choppy or somewhere in between – and so on.

A scene is never static. No matter how many times we view it, it’s never precisely the same as any other time we’ve looked at it.

Photographers are well acquainted with this phenomenon. Shooting at a consistent time day after day (say, at daybreak) or at the same location on multiple occasions, it’s obvious how changeable things are.

This, of course, can be just a little bit frustrating! It often requires quite a bit of patience and perseverance to make a photograph.

Last week as I left the house before dawn to head over to the Atlantic coast, I looked up and could make out some lovely patchy clouds in the darkness overhead – and in every direction. It also appeared that the horizon was in the clear. This called for a quick change in strategy since the location at which I’d been planning to work needed something of interest along the horizon in order to be successful. Completely clear conditions there meant that spot would need to wait for another day. Off I went instead to downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to try to see what I could do with that lovely sky overhead and the steeple of the iconic North Church in the center of town. This had the makings of a spectacular show of color, since the dappled clouds were all set to pick up some wonderful pre-sunrise light.

Once I got to Portsmouth and was up high enough to see the horizon, I had a little surprise. There was thick cloud cover right along the horizon line…THEN there was the strip of perfectly clear sky I’d been able to make out while driving. That meant there was a good chance those nice clouds filling the rest of the sky wouldn’t be able to pick up any pre-sunrise color because the sun would be blocked until it cleared that narrow line of overcast.

Making matters worse, those dappled clouds which had showed so much promise began filling in before my eyes – threatening to become quite bland in a hurry.

Unsurprisingly given the conditions at the horizon, there was no pre-sunrise color. So I waited. And waited.

As the sun got high enough for its rays to peek over the overcast, finally some faint shades of magenta and purple colored some of the sky overhead. There was a band of color in that cloudless space above the horizon where the sun was now nearly peeking through….and then it was all gone. Complete overcast quickly took over. In a few hours it began to rain.

Not the morning I’d hoped for given what I’d seen overhead just an hour before.

That said, it still turned out to be an interesting cloudscape.

Cloudscape over Portsmouth, New Hampshire


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