Time-lapse photography is a widely-used technique that can condense lengthy videos to help show the breadth of work done or to animate processes that would otherwise appear invisible to our perception. The blooming of a flower, perhaps, or the movement of the stars across the sky.
In this video, the technique of time-lapse photography does something far more eerie—it shows the clouds literally draining of color as the sun rises in the Virgin Islands.
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In this lengthy video, set on a hillside in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, a towering cumulus cloud goes from looking like a fiery inferno, glistening with gold and orange, to appearing as if all the color is “draining” out of it as it turns to its far more common color of white as the sun rises and the sky turns blue.
The color of the clouds is really dependent on the angle of the sun and the placement of the clouds in relation to the Earth’s atmosphere.
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Sunlight is “white” on the visible spectrum, but that is only when it has unimpeded access through the Earth’s atmosphere, such as during most of the day. As the sun nears the horizon, however, its light has to travel through more of the Earth’s atmosphere, and the particles in it can scatter more of the light, leading to the brilliant, colorful sunsets and sunrises we all adore. Blue light scatters first, and the warmer colors like yellow, orange, pink and red scatter last, which is why we see more of those colors when the sun is near the horizon.