By Lynn Dirk
Exercising the brain is a hot topic these days, and Amazing Cloudscapes provides approximately 200 opportunities for doing so in the form of pictures of cloud formations that resemble people or faces. Some faces and forms are very obvious, others subtle, which is which depending on the beholder. Is there anyone who doesn’t love clouds and see faces and other images in them? I have just discovered, courtesy Wikipedia, this is called pareidolia (parr-i-DOH-lee-ə) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon in which a random stimulus is perceived as significant, such as seeing faces on Mars, on toast, or in clouds. Carl Sagan hypothesized we are “hard-wired” from birth to do this as a survival technique that enables us to recognize faces under difficult conditions with only minimal details. Therefore, this is a book everyone can appreciate in more way than one.
A research scientist at the Food Research and Development Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, the author photographer, Joyce I. Boye, has given us some exceptional pictures of clouds – no mean feat as any photographer will tell you: Backlighting is a difficult problem even when you are not looking into the sky. The book provides an excellent way to cloud gaze without risking your eyesight and to really appreciate the shapes, textures, and variety of clouds.
Dr. Boye clearly had fun with her clouds – she has given whimsical names to each picture and added brief reflections on life that the clouds have inspired in her. Clues to identifying the more subtle figures are woven into the reflections when needed. She also includes a poem at the beginning of each of the 3 sections of the book: faces, human forms, and humanoids. Her reflections range from understatement –“Our view of life is often influenced by our perspective” (often?) – to overstatement, “What distinguishes humans from other animal species is our spirited capacity to search for and use knowledge.” As an aside, I keep track of quotes on the supposed differences between people and other animals. My question to those who make the comparison is always the same, “How do you know what animals know, feel, or perceive?” All of her reflections, however, are very heartfelt and imaginative, as you would expect of a cloud lover. If you prefer your own reflections, it is easy enough to just focus on the pictures.
The book ends with a postscript on climate change and its impact on not only the ecosystem but also the beauty of the earth. What cloud lover is not also an earth lover? Boye comments that “as global temperatures increase, cloud formation and cloud movements will very likely be affected.” Ironically, or perhaps just synchronistically, as a fanatical cloud gazer myself, I have recently been detecting what I think are unusual cloud formations. Those with inquiring minds who want to really know, however, can go to this NASA website for a very interesting and complex discussion of clouds and climate change:
And while you are on the web, explore the Cloudscapes website:
There is a very neat section, Amazing Cloudscapes Illustrations, in which side by side, there is a cloud picture and a line drawing of the face or form hidden within it. There are also some free downloads of cloud pictures and you can up load your own cloud pic(s).
Amazing Cloudscapes is planned to be the first of a series of books on cloud art. This is a great book for exercising your mind, for awakening a primal inborn skill, for meditating, for getting in touch with your inner child, and, maybe best of all, for sharing with some favorite child in your life.