Imagine taking your first airplane flight on your own at the age of two- and-a-half as you head to reunite with your parents overseas. Imagine further having to land offshore due to a storm and discover the mesmerizing effects of watching storm clouds from above.
That person was me and one of my earliest memories of cloud gazing.
Ever since that magical moment, I have since requested a window seat and have always and continue to be awed at the sky and land as seen from above. When other travelers are sleeping or watching a movie, I look out for atmospheric conditions and unusual aerial views, often trying to capture what I see with my camera.
During my latest trip flying home from Dublin, I managed to capture a scene which reminded me of one of JM Turner’s atmospheric watercolor sketches.
But my cloud gazing also happens in my own backyard looking upward….
Or mirrored in the wet sand….
Or even through my car windshield while watching a stormy sea wondering what’s it’s like to be ‘OUT THERE’.
Rumor has it that Turner was tied to a ship’s mast in order to experience the full power of a storm at sea - a good story… but according to Curator of Maritime Art and History, Dan Finamore, a myth perpetuated by Victorian Era leading art critic, John Ruskin.
I surmise that if Turner were alive today, he’d be a storm chaser.
Stormchasing is a term used to describe the pursuit of witnessing severe weather phenomena and has, in the last decade, mushroomed into an adventurous recreational activity compelling those who seek to venture out and experience that moment when sky and land interact.
“While witnessing a tornado is the single biggest objective for most chasers, many chase thunderstorms and delight in viewing cumulonimbus and related cloud structure, watching a barrage of hail and lightning and seeing what skyscapes unfold.” (quote fom Wikipedia)
According to a recent interview I conducted with a husband and wife ‘chaser’ team into what motivates them to head out for their yearly pilgrimmage in what is known as ‘tornado alley’ is both – The Science – the challenge of interpreting complex forecasting data in order to pinpoint the exact location of a storm supercell- and The Art – the experience of seeing the ultimate beauty of the natural world unfold – both facets, a perfect marriage of aesthetics and thermodynamics at play.
Finding the best and most safe vantage point for this pursuit is an artform in and of itself and one that conscientious chasers adhere to. For a glimpse into the day in the life of one such adventurer, check out TornadoGirl’s Weather and Life blog
In looking at this photograph taken by Fine Art Photographer, Erika Gray I can’t help but wonder what kind of mood she was in while capturing this image East of Denver and which painting Turner’s Apothecary Mood-O-Meter would prescribe.
Recently, the Mood-O-Meter diagnosed me as Phlegmatic and suggested I contemplate Turner’s Ship in a Storm.
I like the monochromatic calmness despite the context.
Later during the week, I was inspired to look skyward hours after having been warned of an impending tornado headed in the near vicinity of my home, only to learn it was redirected…whew! There in the sky, for a moment, I sought solace in capturing what reminded me of Turner’s infamous yellow.
Editor’s Note: Turner & the Sea is on view until September 1, 2014. Random sample from the exhibition comment book:
– Feeling soaked and motion sick. I wiped salt from my face.