Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Three updates

with 33 comments

UPDATE 1: Do you remember the recent view of clouds that I photographed in the Badlands of Alberta on September 3rd? (For variety I’ve included an alternate view above.) While it seemed strange enough for those clouds to be casting shadows onto the sky—actually onto thin clouds in the sky—a mystery remained. The shadows appeared to lie beyond the clouds, yet the sun must have been beyond both, so how could we make sense of the shadows’ position?

Searching for an explanation, I e-mailed two people involved in meteorology. Les Cowley at Atmospheric Optics replied with a link to a post that included a photograph and a schematic diagram of the situation. Troy Kimmel replied with a link to Christoph Gerber’s Atmospheric Phenomena post “Where is the shadow?”, which also explained that the shadows in such pictures are actually in front of the clouds casting them. That post includes a stereo pair which confirms that in spite of the illusion that the shadows are beyond the main clouds, the shadows are actually in front of them. If you’re good at free-viewing stereo pairs intended to be looked at cross-eyed, you can give it a shot. Because crossing my eyes to that extent boggles my brain, I reversed the position of the halves to put them back in proper left-right orientation so I could free-view them in 3-D; sure enough, the shadows are in front of the clouds casting them.

UPDATE 2: Do you remember the jackrabbit I photographed in Calgary on August 27th? After posting, I learned a good deal about that kind of rabbit, so I added another paragraph to the text and also a link to more information.

UPDATE 3: In the comments on the post about the glacial meltwater lake at Mount Edith Cavell, I added a photograph showing an overview of the scene, including the mountain that looms above the lake.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 9, 2017 at 4:46 AM

33 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. This is just crazy!


    November 9, 2017 at 6:22 AM

  2. What a terrific capture and explanation, it’s intriguing in its abstraction.


    November 9, 2017 at 6:40 AM

    • Abstraction and intrigue: a double delight, made triple by getting to witness, record, and ultimately understand a strange phenomenon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2017 at 6:53 AM

  3. What a fascinating phenomenon. Love to see it live someday.

    Sherry Felix

    November 9, 2017 at 6:51 AM

    • I don’t know how common the phenomenon is, but it took me till age 72 to experience it. I hope you get to see it too, and without having have to wait that long.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2017 at 6:57 AM

  4. Did you do this “eye test” on purpose this morning? I am good at crossing my eyes, even for a long period of time but I believe I failed the free-view test. Les Cowley’s link made phenomena a bit easier to understand. And after looking at the other two updates, I got way too side tracked this morning investigating this hare and rabbit business. Now I’m hankering to find those swamp rabbits (which I now believe are hares) down at the river. It’s a good thing my summer work is finished and I can gallivant to the river more often. You have inspired me to get photographs!


    November 9, 2017 at 6:56 AM

    • Yes, go for pictures now that your summer work is finished, and good luck getting a clear view of the swamp rabbits you merely glimpsed last time.

      If you’re not accustomed to free-viewing stereo pairs, it can be difficult. A 3-D viewer makes the process much easier, but I realize few people have 3-D viewers they can pull out of their closet the way I can (I made 3-D photographs from the late 1970s into the ’80s).

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2017 at 7:17 AM

  5. Fascinating, thanks. Appreciate the follow through.


    November 9, 2017 at 7:38 AM

  6. Stunning


    November 9, 2017 at 7:49 AM

  7. The photo of the meltwater is what I thought was stunning. This, the clouds….that is just about the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen. I thought at first you’d manipulated the image in some way!


    November 9, 2017 at 7:51 AM

    • We’d driven out to Dinosaur Provincial Park to see the weathered features of the land—i.e. the badlands—but the first thing that grabbed my attention was the sky, for reasons you can well understand. What a gift. I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing, but I knew I had a great photo opportunity.

      A similar thing happened a year ago today. We were headed from El Paso to Hueco Tanks State Park to see the petroglyphs I’d long heard about, but the real show that morning turned out to be in the sky:


      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2017 at 8:11 AM

  8. With these photos, I think one can see why some people believe in aliens and UFOs visiting us.


    November 9, 2017 at 8:37 AM

  9. Even though I still don’t fully understand the explanation, it’s good to know there is one. Best of all is that you got a chance to see such a thing and record it. There have been a few times when I’ve thought, “I don’t have a clue what I’m looking at, but I think it’s worth recording.” In my personal book of “rules” for nature photography, “Photograph first; interpret later” ranks right up there.


    November 10, 2017 at 7:48 AM

    • You’ve got it in that rule. We can always throw away a bad or mediocre picture but we can never keep one we didn’t take. A motto I used to recite to my math students transfers well to photography: When in doubt, try it out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 10, 2017 at 8:24 AM

  10. That is so cool!!


    November 11, 2017 at 7:56 AM

    • I imagine it’ll end up being a once-in-a-lifetime view of clouds, though I’d certainly welcome a repeat.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2017 at 8:00 AM

  11. Great research! I think I need my afternoon espresso if I’m going to try to follow, but it’s enough right now to know you ferreted out this information.


    November 12, 2017 at 3:58 PM

    • Ah, I got to this comment after your other one. I see what you mean about the linked photograph; it’s almost as if the branches were casting shadows on a close backdrop. Strangeness lives.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 13, 2017 at 4:01 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: