Article: The beauty and power of clouds

The Beauty and Power of Clouds

Last Updated: 2021-03-06

Hiding in plain sight. That's how I would describe the secret life of clouds. Clouds are beautiful... mesmerizing... calming... powerful. They are born, they grow, travel vast distances across the sky and then disappear into nothingness. They are in a constant state of changing shape, size and in some cases color and brightness. And even though clouds are often up in the sky over our heads, we generally can't see any of this because clouds and people are on different timescales. Due to their enormous size and how far away from us they are, their rate of change is not aligned with our perception of time.

A growing cumulus cloud A cumulus cloud starts to grow.

Given their slow rate of change, they seem almost static to us. If you glance momentarily at a person walking down the street, you will see that person moving. But if you glance at a cloud for a moment, you will likely not see the cloud moving at all. It's like looking at a picture of them rather than a video. Yet even what appears to be a picture of a cloud can be awe inspiring. Cumulus clouds in particular are so fluffy and soft-looking that you just want to hug them. Well, I do. Just seeing a cloud can spark the creativity in all of us.

"Check it out, there's a cloud that looks like a face!"

"Oh, that one looks like a rabbit!"

"Do you see the one over there that's in the shape of a heart?"
Cloud looks like Groot Do you see the face in the cloud...or Groot?

The full splendor of clouds is revealed when we see them in motion on our time scale. In other words, we need to speed them up to see their graceful motion. We can't change the laws of physics and speed up their time reality, but we can use time lapse photography. Using time lapse (sometimes referred to as interval shooting), we can take a picture of a cloud, allow some time to pass and then take another picture. After taking a lot of pictures in this manner, we can string all of the pictures together. Viewing the string of pictures one after another at a faster rate than the rate at which they were taken makes the clouds look like they are moving faster. So in a sense, we've converted the timescale of clouds to our time scale. And viola, we have revealed the secret lives of clouds!

Close up of a cloud Viewing clouds up close.

Like a lot of people, I'm fascinated by clouds. There are all types of clouds, but I like the various forms of cumulus clouds best. Those are the big fluffy marshmallows in the sky that I want to hug. And I especially like to watch clouds in motion, so I created a time lapse video of clouds. The video below shows the beautiful and sometimes powerful motion of clouds that we cannot see with the naked eye. This is what's really happening in the sky above us.

Clouds can be powerful Clouds can grow to become awesomely massive.

The following video was shot during the monsoon season in Phoenix, AZ when really warm and surprisingly moist air rises up into the sky from the desert below. This produces all types of very active clouds including cumulus, stratocumulus, nimbostratus and - my personal favorite - cumulonimbus clouds. Behold the beauty of budding cumulus clouds and the grandeur and power of massive thunderheads. You'll never look at clouds the same way again. Enjoy!

Click to watch the video

If you'd like to try your hand at time lapse photography of clouds or anything else, check out the One Lens Two Time Lapse Calculator to determine how long to let your camera or camcorder record in time lapse mode for the perfect duration video.

This article, the pictures and the video are Copyright One Lens Two. All rights reserved. These materials may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without the expressed written authorization from One Lens Two.

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Article Contributors
John Miller John Miller is the owner of "One Lens Two" and "In and Around Phoenix". He is also a co-owner of "Fooding Around Phoenix". John is always looking for collaboration opportunities so contact him using one of the options below!