Photo Stacking Technique Makes Clouds Look Like Brush Strokes in the Sky

Stacking long-exposure photos of stars leads to some pretty neat photos and time-lapse videos, but what happens if you use a similar technique for clouds? That’s what photographer Matt Molloy does. His “photo stack” images of landscapes show clouds that look like smears and brush strokes across the sky.

Here’s what Molloy tells us about how the images are created:

To make these ‘photo stacks’, I first shoot a timelapse, taking a photo every 5 seconds or so. (Settings differ depending on the subject and lighting conditions). I then merge several photos into one image using Photoshop. I start with the first image from the timelapse as a normal photo and then blend the rest of them with the ‘lighten’ blending mode. This only adds things that are brighter than what was in the first photo, and so you can see things like the paths of stars as they move across the sky. (The movement of the stars is actually from the earth’s rotation).

I think it’s an interesting way to observe time. You can see a time frame of several hours in one image, something our eyes can’t do naturally.

You can find more of Malloy’s work over on Flickr and on 500px. He has an entire set devoted to images created with this photo stacking technique, including many photos of stars.

(via Visual News)

Image credits: Photographs by Matt Molloy and used with permission

  • Anthony Harrison

    Most of these look like a blurred image or a terrible photoshop effect/filter.


    You dont know what you are talking about it…….

  • Paul Balchin

    That is BEAUTIFUL! I love the reversal: Nature mimicking Photoshop

  • Alex

    this is great!

  • Neil McDonnell

    This is astonishing. So utterly beautiful.

    Purists be damned.

  • Anthony Harrison

    Just my opinion

  • Marvin Josef

    A few of them aren’t quite my cup of tea. However they are really interesting.

  • Dave

    I love innovation in photography. This technique is a home run IMO.

  • dbgg1979

    Nice. I’d like to try this on my next sunset shoot. :-)

  • SwissTengu

    Have to test that ! it’s brilliant, really :)

  • Kev Beardsley

    Fantastic & Inspiring, well done that man.

  • OmniMode

    Some of theme look like ice crystals, and other ones look like God is covering the Earth in bubble wrap.
    Cool technique!

  • Pelu Che

    just wonderful

  • Bob Montoya

    you sir, are a trip.

  • Jaisen Mohamed

    looks like a bunch of clone stamping and motion blur… artistic tho..

  • Seema


  • Ramiz Hassan (India)


  • PhlyBoy OhSoMazinG

    This is beautiful

  • Oj0

    I think it’s something quite unique, they look like oil paintings which I believe was the desired effect.

  • Trevor Dennis

    What a nice idea. I’d be inclined to use an ND with low ISO and small aperture, so each exposure lasted for at least half the time lapse interval. That would smear the shots together, and remove that stutter effect. I guess you could chose any of shots from the series as the background layer, but using a late shot might be problematic as all previous exposures are going to be brighter, and wipe out the last shout using the Lighten mode. Perhaps fixable with masking, but I suspect it would need some experimenting to get right. Definitely something to try though.

  • CommentR

    You look like a duckling butthole. And you know: opinion is just like a butthole: everyone has it, nobody’s interested in the others’ one. ;)

  • CommentR

    Well that *is* creativity!