Clearing Storm at Sunset - Wake County, NC © jj raia

Clearing Storm at Sunset – Wake County, NC © jj raia

For landscape photographers, it is the sky that can really influence the success or failure of a photo, since a dull gray or cloudless blue sky can appear pretty lifeless. But add some clouds, at any time of day, and those clouds can immediately take the image up a notch. But there are times when we are not at a “great location” when there are interesting cloud formations and lighting, and are disappointed we are not where we would like to be to utilize this great sky in an image.

The beautiful, harmonious color throughout the image above, along with the combination of smooth color gradations of the background clouds, set against the gauzy, textured and sunset lit clouds in front, drove me to hastily grab my camera, and take this photo in the comfort of a lounge chair from the back porch!!

If only every photograph would come along as effortlessly…

We can, however, increase the odds of being somewhere when there are expectations for interesting skies by keeping an eye on various weather apps. There are a few that I’ve found to be useful.

For general and hourly forecasting, Weatherbug is quick and easy. The Clear Outside app gives a more detailed, hourly view of cloud cover as a percentage of low, medium and high clouds, as well as dew points, fog, wind speed and direction… even when the International Space Station is visible at your location! is a web site that  gives you a radar view of the three levels of clouds and their movements, while the MyRadar app gives you up to the minute radar of actual precipitation, whether rain, ice or snow.

A combination of Weatherbug and Clear Outside is what I generally check to judge expected conditions for the following morning, and whether it’s warranted to set the alarm. But as with any forecasting, they can be incorrect as I have discovered on way too many occasions. Maybe it’s just better to look out the window and go from there.

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