Islands in the Sky

These images are from the Jade Mountains in the southern central area of the island of Taiwan, off the coast of China. In this area there is an interesting phenomena called cloud seas. Valleys will fill up with low clouds, and if you are standing at the right spot on a mountainside the tops of the clouds will appear at your feet and fill the valleys below for as far as you can see.

The fog moves incredibly fast here. I would see landscape in the gaps between the clouds and fog, and I might only get off two or three shots before the mountainside was covered again in the shroud of the cloud. Other times I couldn't set up fast enough to set up a single shot.

My favorite, fleeting moments were when the crest of a mountain would appear, surrounded by clouds. They would look like islands floating in the sea of clouds, like a fantasy scene that could only exist in my mind. Sometimes it would seem like the fog was alive, swirling sinuously around the land, and then there were times when it seemed like the fog was holding still and it was the fleetingly visible land that was on the move. The temples in this area are adorned with dragons, and watching the mist around me, and the jagged edges of the islands in the clouds it was easy to see where the dragons entered the landscape of the mind in local cultures.

At the end of the day the sun sometimes sets over the top of the clouds. While watching this I realized how odd that was for me as a photographer. I've spent the ends of many a day trying to be in the right place at that magic moment when the sun sets under a plane of clouds and the last vibrant colors of the day are reflected on the belly of the clouds. Here, half way around the world, I was watching from above as the light was soaked up into the cresting waves atop the sea of clouds.