CNN Photos

Finding beauty in violent storms

Camille Seaman is known for her dramatic images of icebergs that reveal the beauty of these ancient yet threatened objects. She recently turned her attention to a different natural phenomenon, weather, and applied the same fine-art aesthetic to capture its power and brilliance.

Seaman credits her daughter with the inspiration for the series “The Big Cloud.” At 8 years old, she was watching a storm-chasing program on television when the idea hit her: “Mom, you should do that,” she said.

Interested, Seaman searched the term “storm chasing” on the Internet and discovered a whole industry and community that she never knew existed. “That’s how it began,” she said.

Since 2008, she has built on that initial burst of curiosity to produce powerful images of storm clouds brewing throughout the Midwest, in what she considers an extension of her iceberg work.

“After spending so much time in polar regions and experiencing the loss of sea ice and other signs of melting, I was curious as to what the effect was to the temperate zones if melting was occurring at the poles,” she said. “I had no idea it would be as powerful an experience as it turned out to be.”

Seaman’s self-assigned task of finding and capturing breathtaking images of storms did not come easily. She worked with experienced storm chasers and relied on their knowledge to help get her into position.

“There is definitely some luck involved, and skill on the part of the forecaster and navigator. I actually enjoy the fact that there is not much I can do,” Seaman said. “All I can do is make sure I am ready for the few moments I have – that my equipment is ready and that the light is in my favor.”

Seaman had no time for a tripod and often hardly enough time to take more than a few pictures before having to move on. “Sometimes we had just 30 seconds before we had to pile back in the car,” she said.

There were several factors Seaman had to be mindful of: “Road hazards, the threat of being struck by lightning, keeping dry, fitting these enormous clouds into your lens, communicating the emotional experience of being there.”

While she concedes storms can be frightening and their power should not be underestimated, Seaman hopes people will think more critically about the interconnectivity of all things on Earth.

“Clouds are a beautiful metaphor. They are so ethereal; they cannot be touched but you can see them,” Seaman said. “You can watch them as they form from ‘nothing’ and grow and rage and boom and sparkle. They rain or snow or blow and nourish and destroy; they create and build; they damage and flood. They move resources from one place to another.”

In the end, Seaman says, she wants viewers to walk away from her images with more than just a fear of storms.

“I hope that my images evoke an emotional response for the viewer, so that they might feel something,” she said. “And that is the start of a relationship – when you feel something.”

- Raymond McCrea Jones, CNN