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Clouds as ‘lovely monsters’: Camille Seaman at TED2013

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May
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Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Clouds. We think of them as light and fluffy, sometimes a touch menacing. But TED Fellow Camille Seaman sees something even deeper in the clouds above her.

Camille Seaman: Haunting photos of polar iceCamille Seaman: Haunting photos of polar iceSeaman, who is known for her stunning images that give personality to icebergs, was raised as a Shinnecock Indian, in a culture that taught her that everything is interconnected.

“When I was a little girl, my grandfather took me to sit outside in the sun on a hot summer day. There were no clouds in the sky,” Seaman says on the TED2013 stage. “I started to perspire, and he pointed up and said, ‘Look, do you see that? That’s part of you up there.’”

That moment stuck with Seaman. And recently, it sent her out storm-chasing, looking for supercell clouds. These clouds are particularly dramatic — they can be 50 miles wide, reach 60K feet in the atmosphere and release grapefruit-sized hail.

Camille-Seaman-1As Seaman shows her incredible images, which turn these clouds into “lovely monsters,” she talks for a moment about the experience of witnessing these clouds.

“Storm-chasing is a very tactile experience,” she says. “The colors in the clouds, of hail forming, the green and the turquoise blues. The movement, the way they swirl … As I stand under them, I understand what I have the privilege to witness is the same forces, the same process in a small version, that created our galaxy, solar system, our sun, this very planet.”

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Camille Seaman’s talk is now available for viewing. Watch it on TED.com »