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TED2013

Camille Seaman: Photos from a storm chaser

February 28, 2013

Photographer Camille Seaman has been chasing storms for 5 years. In this talk she shows stunning, surreal photos of the heavens in tumult.

Camille Seaman - Photographer
TED Senior Fellow Camille Seaman photographs big ice and big clouds. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Everything is interconnected.
00:12
As a Shinnecock Indian, I was raised to know this.
00:15
We are a small fishing tribe
00:19
situated on the southeastern tip of Long Island
00:21
near the town of Southampton in New York.
00:24
When I was a little girl,
00:27
my grandfather took me to sit outside in the sun on a hot summer day.
00:30
There were no clouds in the sky.
00:35
And after a while I began to perspire.
00:39
And he pointed up to the sky, and he said,
00:42
"Look, do you see that?
00:45
That's part of you up there.
00:48
That's your water that helps to make the cloud
00:50
that becomes the rain that feeds the plants
00:53
that feeds the animals."
00:57
In my continued exploration of subjects in nature
01:01
that have the ability to illustrate the interconnection of all life,
01:04
I started storm chasing in 2008
01:09
after my daughter said, "Mom, you should do that."
01:11
And so three days later, driving very fast,
01:15
I found myself stalking a single type of giant cloud called the super cell,
01:21
capable of producing grapefruit-size hail
01:29
and spectacular tornadoes,
01:33
although only two percent actually do.
01:35
These clouds can grow so big, up to 50 miles wide
01:41
and reach up to 65,000 feet into the atmosphere.
01:47
They can grow so big, blocking all daylight,
01:51
making it very dark and ominous standing under them.
01:53
Storm chasing is a very tactile experience.
01:58
There's a warm, moist wind blowing at your back
02:01
and the smell of the earth, the wheat, the grass, the charged particles.
02:05
And then there are the colors in the clouds
02:12
of hail forming, the greens and the turquoise blues.
02:15
I've learned to respect the lightning.
02:21
My hair used to be straight.
02:24
(Laughter)
02:26
I'm just kidding.
02:27
(Laughter)
02:29
What really excites me about these storms
02:31
is their movement, the way they swirl and spin and undulate,
02:34
with their lava lamp-like mammatus clouds.
02:39
They become lovely monsters.
02:43
When I'm photographing them,
02:45
I cannot help but remember my grandfather's lesson.
02:48
As I stand under them,
02:52
I see not just a cloud,
02:54
but understand that what I have the privilege to witness
02:56
is the same forces, the same process in a small-scale version
02:59
that helped to create our galaxy, our solar system, our sun
03:03
and even this very planet.
03:09
All my relations. Thank you.
03:14
(Applause)
03:16
Translator:Timothy Covell
Reviewer:Thu-Huong Ha

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Camille Seaman - Photographer
TED Senior Fellow Camille Seaman photographs big ice and big clouds.

Why you should listen

Camille Seaman takes photographs all over the world using digital and film cameras in multiple formats. Since 2003, her work has concentrated on the fragile environment of the polar regions. Her current project concerns the beauty of natural environments in Siberia. 

Seaman's photographs have been published in Newsweek, Outside, Zeit Wissen, Men's Journal and more, and she has self-published many books on themes like “My China” and “Melting Away: Polar Images” through Fastback Creative Books, a company that she co-founded. In 2008, she was honored with a one-person exhibition, The Last Iceberg, at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.

Read the TED Blog's Q&A with Camille Seaman >>

Browse a gallery of stormcloud photos >>

The original video is available on TED.com
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