When I tell people that I take photographs of clouds, the conversation goes one of two ways. They laugh, look at me incredulously and ask, why? Then they will reluctantly admit that, yes, they did look at the sky once but couldn’t see much and haven’t bothered since. Or the other one is they laugh and then tell me they love clouds too. Both groups then ridicule me when I explain that I’m a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society, membership number 2553. I might as well have told them I’m a train spotter. They are laughable though, trainspotters that is.
I was curious as to where this interest came from? I don’t like to call it an obsession; it makes it sound like I’m forever walking around staring at the sky ooohing and aaahing, pointing at random clouds going, “that’s a giraffe, oh, and there’s a chicken” But I did walk into a lamp-post once while looking at a rather lovely Stratoformis Undulatus. (Fluffy cloud to you) So being curious I asked my mum. After all, afflictions of this nature tend to find their footing in childhood: Possibly formed after a horrific day lying on the grass in a cowboy outfit and told to find 40 different animal shapes in the clouds or it was no dinner for me. I failed, went to bed hungry and I’m still looking all these years later. I was close. No sooner had I mentioned my interest in clouds, that she whipped out her little photo album and began to show me the fine-detail she had captured of a Congestus Radiatus. (Fluffy cloud again)
But I think Nairn, where I’m originally from, was the inspiration. It’s what I fondly call, my big sky country. Now, it’s nothing like the State in America with the same moniker. Nairn’s just a small seaside town in the north of Scotland with nothing to obscure the skyline. And being next to the sea, warm moist air flows in and it’s all a natural cloud factory. As far back as I can remember Nairn was known for its breeziness. Back in the ‘70’s, before we had the modern convenience of mobile phones, we dabbled with Citizen Band radio or CB for short. Everyone and everything had to have a CB name, or ‘handle’. Nairn’s handle was, ‘The windy city’. So there you go. I can’t imagine any other reason for naming it after Chicago – the original Windy City, which, incidentally, Nairn bore no relation to; apart from Charlie Chaplin used to go there for his holidays and he did resemble a Mafia Don. 28 CB enthusiasts couldn’t be wrong?
A few months ago I got very excited when I spotted some ‘mamma’. (Breast like formation on the underside of a big fluffy cloud) Not because they were breast like, but because I had never seen that cloud type before. All cloud names have a Latin base, so the names always look familiar and mean what you probably think they mean. It’s similar to flowers, except those in the know will baffle you with Latin names, while the rest of us just call it a daisy. Frankly, trying to point out to someone that there’s a; stratocumulus stratoformis undulatus mamma up there is pointless. It’s probably gone by the time you’re finished saying it anyway. There are some mysteries left, up there. Noctilucent clouds are really only seen in summer. Forming 40 miles above the earth, they’re too high to get accurate information on, and how they form when there is apparently no moisture at that height is beyond – not just me – but most scientists. Their name is derived from the fact that existing at such high altitudes, they are illuminated by the Sun, at night. Usually a ghostly blue colour, I saw some last year and immediately ran around my flat frantically updating my Facebook page. Sad? …Yes I know.
I’m not trying to convince you to love clouds as much as I do, but maybe pay them a bit more attention. Just watch the top of a Cumulonimbus (A big, big fluffy cloud) for a few minutes, watch it grow and rise and transform. If you’re anything like me, it will mesmerise you. It’s a bit like meditation, but you don’t have to listen to some guy telling you to walk into a garden and then say hi to an alien called Namaste. It gets you out of the house too.
All photographs copyright © Ricky Cameron