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The evolution of a cloud…

October 5, 2016, 10:24 AM

Sometimes, you don’t notice the way things change right in front of your eyes until you analyze them a bit more.  I was recently in the Philadelphia/King of Prussia area with Elyse on what was primarily a fire alarm-related mission (more on that later), and was photographing the Manayunk Bridge.  First of all, for those not familiar, the Manayunk Bridge is a former rail bridge that was closed to rail traffic in 1986, and which reopened last year to pedestrian and bike traffic as a rail trail.  I had previously known it as the big arched bridge that the Schuylkill Expressway goes under, i.e. this, as seen in November 2001:

The Manayunk Bridge, photographed November 22, 2001 from the Schuylkill Expressway

I also got a somewhat decent photo of it on this particular trip:

The Manayunk Bridge, photographed from the nearby Green Lane Bridge

I admit – this wasn’t a great photography day, and so most of what I shot will likely never be published.  However, while I was shooting lackluster photos of infrastructure (really, most of them just plain sucked), a cloud moved in front of the sun, blocking out the light that I needed for these photos.  So rather than stand around waiting for the cloud to move, I focused on the cloud, taking a total of twelve photos of it over the span of about four minutes.

Whenever I look at clouds in real time, they always seem static.  Yes, they can be observed moving across the sky, but they don’t really seem to change very much.  I suppose it’s because we’re watching it as it unfolds, and aren’t really able to look back and compare.  Kind of like how our communities are constantly changing all around us, but we don’t notice the changes because they’re very gradual, and we’re changing right along with it.

However, when I reviewed my photos after getting home, I noticed the way the cloud changed shape, and how I interpreted those shapes changed very much.

In any case, this is photo #1, taken at 3:58 PM:

Photo #1
In this first photo of the cloud, I thought it looked like underwear, or a diaper.

Photo #4, taken at 3:59 PM:

Photo #4
Now, a bump near the top is becoming more pronounced.

Photo #6, taken at 4:00 PM:

Photo #6
A canyon has developed in the top of the cloud, and a white cloud has moved up to fill it.  I thought that it looked like an eagle at this point.

Photo #8, taken at 4:00 PM, about 40 seconds after #6:

Photo #8
The “canyon” has become less pronounced, the eagle’s head has separated, and the left wing has gone away.

Photo #10, taken at 4:01 PM:

Photo #10
The eagle’s head has moved further away and begun to dissipate, and the whole thing now looks like a person standing on a rock, holding a sword and shield, or Moses holding the Ten Commandments.  I could go either way on what it is.

Photo #12, taken at 4:02 PM:

Photo #12
Remnants of the eagle’s head continue to move up, and change shape, but still looks like the warrior/Moses.

Shortly after this, the cloud moved out from in front of the sun, and I resumed taking mediocre photos of the Manayunk bridge, and then took more mediocre photos from the bridge itself.  I guess I had an “off” day regarding photography, but these things happen sometimes.  Besides, photography wasn’t my main purpose in coming up here – fire alarms were.

I’ve turned my camera on clouds before, such as in Virginia Beach in 2004 (I always thought that cloud looked like the British Isles), and in Richmond in 2013 (that cloud was just a spot), but never for an extended series before.  This was a fun exercise, and I must do this again some time.

Categories: Nature, Philadelphia