Clouds and Contrails by Collette LaRue

Clouds and Contrails

Digital Photograph printed on PVC

Collette LaRue, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Flow Project Coordinator-Green Bay, Flow Artist 2022

Cloud spotting is a cherished personal pastime. As a child, LaRue spent untold hours, her gaze skyward, conjuring winged horses, floating fairies, and mystical creatures lazily changing shape while drifting across the sky. The practice of seeing shapes or recognizable patterns in clouds is called “pareidolia.” Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon where the human brain perceives familiar patterns or shapes, such as faces, animals, or objects, in random or vague stimuli, like clouds. LaRue’s intention with Clouds and Contrails is to create a moment of reflection on the two types of clouds in the scene.

Representing the Earth’s natural water cycle, clouds play an essential role in regulating planetary temperatures. In contrast, contrails suggest the impact of air travel and greater human activity on atmospheric dynamics, exacerbating the dramatic arc of global warming. One only needs to briefly pause and lift one’s eyes skyward to view the unfolding drama.


Collette LaRue (b. 1963) is a conservation photographer based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Living at the edge of the Great Lakes waters, LaRue captures the lush sensations, creature inhabitants, and delicate flora fostered by the cool climate.

LaRue is a recipient of University of Wisconsin–Green Bay Cofrin Research Grants in 2020 and 2021, and the Jerry Dell Award in 2022. Her current long-term projects include a photographic survey of Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), the largest freshwater estuary in the world.

In 2021, LaRue presented her first solo exhibition, Conservation Works. Additionally, she has exhibited at The Trout Museum of Art, newARTSpace, and UW-Madison.