35,000 feet over the South China Sea, 2007
Looking out of the window of our jet heading into Hong Kong, I noticed that the towering cumulous clouds were reflecting on the surface of the South China Sea and could not resist digging my camera out of my carry-on and making this image.
It was hard to define the exact boundaries between cloud, sea, and sky. It is this ambiguity that gives this image its incongruous fascination and great beauty. Shooting through the heavy plastic window of an airliner may not be the best way to make photographs, but in photographic expression, content is always more important than form. And this image works as expression.
Railroad Station, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2007
Kuala Lumpur’s train station, built in Moorish style in 1910, saw its last inter-city train leave in 2001. Today it serves as a commuter station and a railroad museum. The colorful dual Malaysian flags draw the eye to the scene, but it is the clouds that give the image its expressive qualities. They appear mystical, spiritual, and lead us to the towers out of the sky, one by one.
Cloudscape, Singapore, 2007
What makes this cloudscape so unusual is the thrust of light that illuminates it. The clouds and the building at lower right have partially blocked the setting sun, creating diagonal slabs of light in the sky. These slabs fan out from behind the building and trees to illuminate the edges of the billowing cumulous clouds that explode over the city. It is the contrast of the light and clouds, framed by abstract buildings and leaves that stir both thought and emotion here. I used a 28mm lens to make the most of its expansive character.
Fourth of July at Coors Field, Denver, Colorado, 2007
Viewing a sporting event from the upper deck of a huge stadium can be a magical experience at dusk, particularly when the cloud cover itself makes a bold statement. In this image, I make the clouds my subject and the stadium becomes context. I use a wideangle lens turned vertically to make the stadium seem smaller and the cloud-laden sky larger.
Civic Center, Denver, Colorado, 2007
I loved the way the evening sky reflects in the windows of this office building. However, it is the various kinds of clouds and their relationship to the building that that make this image so expressive. I create a three-panel wideangle image, squeezing an overcast cloudscape between the left hand edge of the frame and the building. The clouds continue to flow in an almost liquid-like reflection across the face of the office building in the middle panel, and then float free again in the panel between the building and the right hand edge of the frame. The building functions as a giant strainer – processing the clouds from dense to thin as they flow from left to right.
Sixth of July at Coors Field, Denver, Colorado, 2007
On this evening, the cloud cover was completely different, and so was my vantage point and framing. Once again, the clouds are the subject, while the stadium provides the context. I exposed for the clouds, abstracting the stadium. The crowd, so evident in the other image, is invisible here. The light towers play against the feathery white cloud cover, giving them scale. The clouds resemble massive plumes of smoke, symbolic of a community gathering around the “campfire” of sport.
Ascent, Petaluma, California, 2007
A single cloud, a feathery vapor trail ascending into the sky over the tower of a cathedral, can express as much meaning as a sky full of clouds. In this case, the juxtaposition of cloud and church imply a spiritual ascent. I saw the vapor trail in the sky when I was a few blocks away from the church, and walked around it until I was able to position it directly over the tower. The deep blue morning sky was as clear as a bell, and the sun was low, brushing only one side of the tower in light. The lone vapor trail stood out in contrast – the church leans slightly towards it, as if it is willing the cloud into the sky. Of course, we could read the image the other way around as well – the cloud could be seen as descending rather than ascending, almost as if it was blessing the church.
Fan, Petaluma, California, 2007
Wherever I happen to be, I try to take a long walk with my camera early in the morning. I find that the low angle of the sun, and an array morning clouds can often produce striking images. On this summer morning in a small California city, I walked down to an old bank building, which now houses an antiques collective. The morning clouds had formed a fan that was exploding out of the bank building, which is abstracted by back lighting. Radiating clouds suggest dynamism and energy, and perhaps a touch of spirituality, as well. By creating a foreground layer featuring a vintage lamppost, I add a sense of depth perception plus a symbolic salute to a town where the past still matters.
Dusk, Death Valley National Park, California, 2007
The setting sun has turned a stormy sky over Death Valley into a scene worthy of an artist's palette. In the distance, winter winds blow a stream of salt and sand along the base of the Panamint Mountains. The ominous storm cloud overhead contrasts to the patch of clear blue sky, the pristine white clouds, and the golden underbelly of the projectile-like cloud at left. This wildly unpredictable mix of fair and foul weather generates the wind that drives the long thread of dust along the horizon. This image is a weather story, and most of its energy comes from the vivid clouds that virtually fill my frame.
Clouds up and down, Tecopa Hot Springs, California, 2007
Wetlands, the remnants of an ancient sea, can still be seen at Tecopa Hot Springs, just outside of Death Valley National Park. I used a camera with a 28mm wideangle lens to stretch the image in order to include both the cloud filled sky and its reflection in the waters below. The clouds are really the subject here – without them, this would be a descriptive, rather than an expressive, image. They link the sky above to the ground below, making them one and the same.
Summit of Mt. Whitney, from Lone Pine, California, 2007
Lone Pine is just 40 miles from Death Valley -- home to the lowest spot in the US. We could stand on Lone Pine's main street, and gaze up at the highest spot in the contiguous United States -- the summit of Mount Whitney, wreathed in light clouds and blowing snow. These nearly transparent clouds, moving through rays of ethereal lights, give this image its meaning. It is if we are watching a performance. The mountain may take star billing, but it is the clouds and light that provide the costumes and the drama.
Funnels, Death Valley Junction, California, 2007
Just a few miles from Death Valley National Park’s Eastern entrance, I noticed three frail funnel clouds dancing across the horizon. I don’t know if these wispy funnels were caused by gusts of swirling wind, or if they were merely the curving spaces between descending columns of distant rain. In any event, they bring the flow of the clouds in this image almost down to ground level. It is an image of nature doing what it does best – showing off.