A Day in Fog

Young Oak in Fog — Jordan Lake, NC  © jj raia

Young Oak in Fog — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

It isn’t often that fog greets us in the morning, so when I looked out the window the other day, I saw thick fog and wanted to race out to capture all the mood it can offer before it eventually burns off. It was a late start being 8:30 already, but it only takes 13 minutes to get to a bridge overlooking Jordan Lake. That was the first stop, but not much came of it, so I was off to another spot, but slowed down along a road with some open forest and a few young oaks still holding on to their autumn leaves.

Woodland Thicket — Chatham County, NC — © jj raia

Woodland Tangle — Chatham County, NC — © jj raia

I parked the car and spent quite a bit of time walking along that stretch of road, trying to find something of a focal point, and found several. Each time I set up for a photograph, I needed to be aware of the traffic, because the camera needed to be set up on the roadway (no shoulders) to get the most advantageous angle. So there was a lot of composing, and moving out of the way several times without tripping the shutter because of the cars whizzing by. But I did find this singular tree (top), and if the tripod was placed just right, one of the grasses curved up and led directly to a few curved branched on the tree to form a sort of s-curve. It’s just a gentle line that the eye might follow through the frame. That’s why it’s important to move around the chosen spot to determine the optimal camera placement (left/right and up/down) for your shot. Additionally, the sun may shine through the fog from time to time as it did for the image above, so patience can also help when working in fog, because conditions are always changing.

For the image at the top, I needed to make two separate frames, one focused on the nearer grasses in the lower part of the frame, and another focused on the more distant reddish/brown oak leaves. Needless to say, each frame needed to be taken without moving the tripod, and there just didn’t seem to be enough time between cars to get both done without interruption. At times, the camera had some difficulty focusing in the fog, and I had to focus first, switch to manual mode to not lose the focus point, and then compose, before taking the shot; the reverse from the normal procedure. Then refocus and take the second frame. And the dense fog made visibility down the road for oncoming cars sketchy at best. I would often hear them before actually seeing them!

After dodging the traffic a while and getting a few images, I was back by the car ready to go on to another location, when a car pulled up with (surprise!!) two friends out to capture the fog as well. When something unexpected like that happens, the day immediately becomes more memorable and fun in the shared experience, so it was a pleasant surprise. They were the same husband and wife team I spent a week with in Acadia National Park in the autumn of 2018 that completely changed my outlook on photographic trips.

Foggy Flight — Jordan Lake, NC  © jj raia

Foggy Flight — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

After a bit, we headed off to another spot overlooking the lake and spent some time trying to capture the mood of the morning with a few birds that happened to be in the area. I had to boost the ISO a bit to “freeze” any birds, but again, the difficulty was focusing in the dense fog, with the camera “hunting” for something to latch onto in the almost completely white scene when looking out onto the lake. It is only a stroke of luck I was able to get this single, flying bird almost in focus, and needed to do a little extra work in Photoshop to make it appear sharper than it was originally. But when I finished making the bird almost sharp, because it could never be more than an outline on account of all the moisture in the air between the bird and the camera, the right side of the frame was empty.  I had also taken a photo of a line of trees in the area, also barely visible through the fog,  so I incorporated part of that photo into the one with the bird for better balance throughout the frame. There wasn’t any preconceived image at the time I tripped the shutter, only trying to get the bird into a frame which included something to give the viewer a sense of place. Luckily, the other frame completed the post-conceived image that came to mind during the processing.

Young Oak and Winter Grasses — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Young Oak and Winter Grasses — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Then it was on to another spot by the lake where a small open meadow of grasses and young oaks was backed by a denser forest, and we found several compositions there. All in all, the dense fog lasted right until noon and provided several hours in which to find spots to photograph that, without fog, would not have even caused us to stop. But it was a special morning, made more special being shared with friends.

Meadow in Fog — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Meadow in Fog — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia


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