The top of the world is the atmosphere, not the Jackson County airport, where I took the photo at left. What a wonderful mix of gases (mostly nitrogen) blanket the planet. If not for the properties of water and light, we'd have no spectacular sunsets or riveting sunrises.
On many a summer night here lately, I find myself racing up to the airport around 8:20 p.m., eager to know what awaits my eyes. The necessary conditions to instigate such a dash are cloud cover of about 50% or more, and no other commitments in my schedule. The light show to ensue is worth the 40 minutes of solitude on a mountain top, consistently captivating and predictably pulchritudinous. Only occasionally is the song of the wind broken by another visitor by car to the Airport. Usually the visitor to this visual vista stays for a few minutes with their car running, only to leave, seemingly satisfied with a quick survey of the parking lot, where I soon find myself alone again, my only company the cumulus.
The light that evening was unobstructed by stormy conditions, and pregnant with poly-chrome possibilities, refractions regnant. The day's water vapor had been built up into towering volumes of droplets, ready to reflect back to me the coming colors of the departing sun. The cloud were at first unremarkable, displaying the typical white to gray range. As the angle of the sun relative to the horizon became more acute, yellow began to emerge from the bottom of the clouds, like mustard gas preceding some alien ship or burning meteor. As light typically does during sunsets, it had to pass through thicker amounts of atmosphere as it carved an arc toward the edge of the world. In virtue of this fact, the reflected rays assume a more ruddy hue, so that the last clouds to be illuminated by the sun directly are a pink or red color, eventuating in blues and purples. Shortly before the disappearance of the sun, some of the more distant clouds take on a blue, which contrasts vividly with the emerging ocher. This is because the light they are reflecting is that of shadows. Reflections of reflections of the rest of the atmosphere, which appears to us as blue during most of the day.
Clouds are elusive and their forms fleeting. To view clouds at sunset from the east or west, is to witness a process that has endured for billions of years. This cyclical dance is as durable and aged as the spin of the Earth and the motion of stars, yet new every day, never the same.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.