Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fog and photography

click photo to enlarge
"It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog", Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), Polish-born author

Fog is much used as a metaphor. Its literal obscurity and lack of clarity, the way it can bewilder and confound our senses and lead to confusion, is often used by writers to illuminate and illustrate their poetry and prose. In the quotation above Conrad uses it to explain a truth that we often forget in our awe and adulation of the "great and good" - that great triumphs are often achieved despite rather than because of the actions of the protagonists who are often shielded from the reality of the situation by blissful ignorance!

I suppose that if you live in an area that is prone to fog - say Newfoundland - you might well wish for less of it. But if, as in the UK, it is a meteorological phenomenon of the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness", with occasional visitations at other times of year, then its appearance can be enchanting. For the photographer fog presents great opportunities: the horizon is suddenly very near; the silence that appears to accompany the arrival of fog, and the indistinctness of objects on the periphery of vision seems to make you depend more on your eyes. Colour is beautifully muted by fog, and silhouettes present themselves in places where they never do in clear daylight.

My photograph of this yacht, undergoing some refurbishment, fastened to a jetty in the tidal reaches of the River Wyre at Skippool, Lancashire, would normally have a background of river, distant riverbank and more distant hills and sky. It would be quite a busy backdrop. However the fog has removed all this visual clutter to leave simple, strongly outlined shapes against a soft, moist background. In fact, the fog has given me the chance of a better image than I would usually get at this location. I decided to simplify a little more by presenting the shot in black and white to give greater emphasis to the shapes. For this image I used a wide zoom lens at 22mm (35mm equivalent), and set the camera to Aperture Priority (f8 at 1/400 second), ISO 100, with -1.0EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen