Thursday, 5 May 2016


Long-standing readers may recall my sometime reputation* as a "horizonless photographer".  That is, not someone whose imagination and capacities are boundless (if only), but one who rarely includes any sky, or indeed much distance at all, in his pictures. You may therefore have been struck by the sheer quantity of skyscape that has made it into my recent photographs.

It's the clouds! I don't know about any other UK observers, but I have been astonished by the changes in the quality of the clouds over southern England in recent times. Talk about your "rows and flows of angel hair, and ice-cream castles in the air"... I sometimes open our front door in the morning, and gape in wonderment at the cloud theatre taking place overhead. It's amazing! The humblest view of suburban rooftops is rendered sublime beneath these towering swags of luminous and purple-shaded water vapour. They seem to have more substance, more sculpture, and more drama than I can recall seeing before. They're also a lot lower, arranging themselves artfully behind trees and buildings, rather than lurking bashfully high above the con-trails.

Something is going on. Unfortunately, I fear that that something is probably climate change at work. Warmer seas, warmer air, changing jetstreams, changing atmospheric dynamics... Put it all together and it adds up to more better clouds. It's a delightful visual treat, but it does feel rather like admiring the sparkle of an iceberg towards which we are inexorably and fatefully drifting.

And, no, I have not been using HDR (perish the thought) or "constructing" these skies! They're just there, and the Fuji seems to enjoy recording them as much as I enjoy looking at them. Not to shift one's attention upwards a bit would seem perverse. After all, I was never a self-declared horizonless photographer.

And talking of clouds, and changes, and ice-cream castles in the air...  If you're a Joni Mitchell fan, you've probably already seen this performance of "Both Sides Now" from 2000, in the orchestral arrangement by Vince Mendoza. Wow... Talk about songs of innocence and experience... Incredibly, she was 23 when she wrote that song, in March 1967, but now she really has seen both sides, several times over, and dropped an octave in the process.

* You are absolutely forbidden to read Elisabeth Spector's generous words in the comments to that T.O.P. post. Absolutely. Oh, all right, go on then... (Thanks again, Elisabeth).


Mike in San Diego said...

All of which brings to mind her wonderful orchestral recording titled "Travelogue." Thanks for the reminder. I'm enjoying it right now.

Mike C. said...


My younger self (I was 13 in March '67!) would have sneered at the idea of orchestral arrangements -- the solo singer-songwriter with his/her guitar and profound lyrics was the whole point, a reaction against our parent's generation's love of the slick orchestration of silly songs. I'm still never *entirely* comfortable with the idea, but this arrangement in particular moves me in a way the original no longer does.