A lesson in the fog

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Wednesday, we awoke to mystery. While we wrung out the rain that had soaked us for days, a shroud of fog had moved in — as if to temporarily obscure the renewal that was going on within, covering spring’s work of clearing out the last vestiges of winter.

By Thursday, springtime had swept winter out the door, arriving two days early by the calendar, though perhaps a couple of weeks behind our internal schedules. The pipers at the gates of dawn were engaged in a full-throated chorus Thursday morning, singing from what must have been hundreds of high perches as I walked into the yard.

Such a contrast from Wednesday, when the fog muted colors and songs alike.

Email newsletter signup

There’s something about the soft-focus, color-drained quality of a landscape in fog that makes us want to grab our cameras and capture the fleeting, swirling moments. With my thoughts on the photography contest I had helped judge on Saturday, I considered the view of our lake, noting the Japanese maple tree, whose leaves made a splash of color amidst the fog’s shades of gray.

Perfect, I thought, bringing the camera to my eye to shoot the photo of a quiet moment at the edge of a motionless lake on a still, foggy morning. But my movements startled a clutch of birds in a nearby tree, and they flew right across the camera’s field of view as I was pressing the shutter.

What resulted was better than anything I could have arranged. Just as the red of the leaves on the Japanese maple provided the perfect contrast to the sylvan scene surrounding the tree, so did the frightened birds moving across the lake provide a counterpoint to the stillness of the water below.

So much of photography is about being ready and in the right place to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Some of the best and most significant images ever captured were lifted to a level of greatness only because something unexpected happened that the photographer never intended to catch, but did anyway, just because he was prepared.

There’s a lesson here that goes much deeper than photography. The great photos, and the great life experiences, are out there. Sometimes, you just have to be ready to capture them.

res spears is the managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at 757.934.9616 or at res.spears@suffolknewsherald.com.