Backstory: Covering clouds and climate change


LONDON (Reuters) – One day Reuters photographer Phil Noble was hunched behind the goal line in the northern English city of Manchester, thousands of soccer fans braying behind his back.

People take part in a ‘Cloud Sketching’ workshop during the Cloud Appreciation Society’s gathering in Lundy, Britain, May 20, 2019. Picture taken May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble

The next he was 200 miles (320km) away across land and sea, trying to spot a cloud in the skies above the isle of Lundy – home to 27 humans and, at the last count, 375 puffins. (

He had traveled there to meet reporter Mari Saito, who usually spends her time among the skyscrapers of Tokyo.

They were both there, on a speck of land just half a mile across in southwest England’s Bristol Channel, to cover a gathering of cloud enthusiasts for a story on climate change … and clouds.

“We wanted humanise a topic – climate change – that can sometimes feel too large to grapple with, and our aim was to take our time and pull together a piece of more literary journalism,” said Saito.

The article recorded members of the Britain-based Cloud Appreciation Society singing the praises of the meditative and aesthetic benefits of watching clouds – while around the other side of the world, scientists presented data suggesting climate change could one day clear the skies.

The Reuters team’s first job was to set up a base – a challenge in a place with a generator that shuts off at midnight and very little cell coverage – and put up their tents next to a field of sheep and wild ponies.

“The only way I could reach my editor was to climb to the southern end of the island and stand on top of a pile of old rocks next to a castle built centuries ago,” said Saito.

The next task was to try to find some decent clouds to photograph and film.

“As I arrived on the ferry, the cloud was one big bank of grey,” said Noble.

Things improved slightly soon afterwards, and he had to move surprisingly quickly to capture wisps of cirrus and banks of stratocumulus in stills and videos and time-lapse animations, before they started drifting away on day two.

After a long weekend of interviews and trekking, the pair were able to relax.

“At the end of the day, we couldn’t go wrong on an island like that, a rugged paradise. There are worse places to be ship-wrecked” said Noble. “On my last day,” said Saito, “I walked around the island alone and rested on a cliff overlooking the sea and the sky.”

Editing by Andrew Heavens


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