In 2009, Kelly Delay was an interactive marketing director for a large law firm. One day, July 1 to be exact, he decided to take a picture of clouds every day for one year. He uploaded the photos to his site, clouds365.com, and to Facebook, where they got great response. The Facebook group, which allowed only 25,000 images, hit the limit after only three months. Not only was DeLay posting photos of clouds, but so were his fans. So he added a community section to his site, allowing others to post more pictures. Today, his site gets 10,000 to 15,000 unique pageviews a day, and his Facebook group has more than 142,000 fans.
His images have been so popular that, after his company downsized in 2010, the 44-year-old made shooting, editing, and posting pictures of clouds his full-time job. “It was something that I was forced into,” he says. “But I was ecstatic that it happened.” DeLay has been shooting clouds every single day for more than 1,100 days.
Now DeLay, who’s married with two young daughters who are budding meteorologists, makes a living by consulting, asking for donations on his site, selling prints, doing assignment photography, and taking photos for book covers. (If you live in the UK, you’ll see his art on the cover of John Grisham’s The Litigators.) Though shooting clouds with a Canon 5D Mark III seems like the ideal way to spend a day (or three years), it hasn’t always been easy on the family man. He has had to leave birthday parties early and schedule shoots around piano lessons, but he’s confident his daughters are learning a thing or two from his experiment.
“There’s a part obsession, but it’s good in healthy doses,” he says. “Seeing me follow through on something and being passionate, I think,
has been very important.”
And then there are the days when there is literally not a cloud in the sky. “It’s happened 75 times where there haven’t been any clouds whatsoever anywhere,” DeLay says. Those are the days he has to pull up radar, jump in his car, and go cloud chasing. Sometimes he’ll end up in Oklahoma. Other days, he goes to Galveston. He once made a 600-mile trip to get a shot. The extra effort isn’t a bother to DeLay. “I promised myself, and I promised others that I would shoot.” So he does.