Clouds make a huge difference in scenic outdoor photography. Think about it: the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets are those with clouds to add color and texture to an otherwise featureless sky. Even during the day, clouds considerably change the feel of a scene - dark and gloomy clouds, puffy white clouds, or striated winter clouds - they contribute immensely to a photograph.
Ah, but California is frustrating in that regard. The state has so much natural beauty, but it also has seemingly endless sunshine. When composing an image, I often look for an interesting foreground AND background - and a lot of times, I want the sky to be the background. Sometimes I won't even bother getting my fancy cameras out on a bright sunny day since it makes for undramatic lighting and background.
This recent trip to Death Valley National Park surprised me, though! After a few days of completely clear skies, clouds began to roll in from the west. They weren't the most amazing clouds I'd ever seen, but they sure helped complete this scene with the 700-foot-tall Eureka Dunes towering over one of the driest valleys in North America.