Le nuvole. Queste (s)conosciute
by Alberto Bregani
I dedicate a significant chunk of my recent book, La montagna in chiaroscuro. Piccolo saggio sul fotografare tra cime e sentieri (Ediciclo, May 2017), to clouds.
In it, I write, “I know clouds, how they form depending on the season, on air temperature, on atmospheric disturbances coming or going. I can imagine and predict their shape and consistency-long, thin, ethereal, or dark and heavy with rain—and how they will change the light and all the other cards on the table, such as contract and reflection. I know how they move, when they rise up through the gullies and valleys in the morning and up along and above the cliff faces, or when, in the evening, they tire and decide to stay and cover the valley instead of moving on to make way for the sunset.”
In landscape photography, and especially in mountain photography, knowing about clouds, what they represent and what they can tell us about the weather, is of fundamental importance. They are our best friends not only when it comes to composition, but also because they can tell us what is about to happen in the sky and all around us in a few minutes, in an hour, or later in the day, if we know how to read them.
So I would recommend that any of you who are interested in this aspect of photography read a fun little book entitled Atlante universale delle nuvole. Come si chiamano e come si classificano le nubi, by Damiano Zanocco (2006, Italian edition, Antiga). Zanocco is a paragliding instructor who has a degree in forestry sciences and who first studied clouds in order to learn how to fly among them and then to interpret them in order to better understand the environment around him.
If you can read Italian, see if you can find this book either online or from your favorite bookseller. Keep looking until you find it, and you will learn the names of those clouds you’ve been seeing for so long and how and when they form, as well as learn to read them so that you can be ready at just the right time to take a great landscape photo together with those clouds.