The temperature went down to an unexpected twenty-nine degrees the night before I created the accompanying photograph.
An outside temperature of twenty-nine degrees is not that cold if you're sleeping in a warm house, but it is very cold if you're
in a sleeping bag not rated for temperatures anywhere near freezing with only a thin piece of foam between you and the cold
metal bed of a pick-up truck. I was very happy, to say the least, to see the glimmer of dawn begin to replace the darkness of
After reluctantly climbing out from the comparative warmth of my cocoon, I noticed that a blanket of fog was enveloping the
campground. Fog is a magical element of nature to me. Fog has the ability to make an ordinary scene appear extraordinary.
I've spent many happy times photographing fog and so I know how quickly it can disappear. Not wanting to miss the moment,
I ate a half-frozen breakfast bar and drank a cup of reasonably warm coffee in an attempt to revive my numb mind. The attempt
failed. Nevertheless, I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and headed towards the Greenbrier River that flows near the
campground. Like I said, fog is magical. Combine it with a water source such as a river and the magic can be enhanced
Upon arriving at the bank of the river, I quickly realized that too much of a good thing can be too much indeed! The scene was
so enveloped with fog that the water was barely visible. Waiting for the right combination of ingredients to come together for a
photograph is very similar to arriving at the right ingredients in a cake recipe. Too much flour can make a cake dry. Too much
water, milk or eggs, can turn a fluffy cake into a gooey mess.
I attempted to create some photographs while the fog was thick as pea soup without achieving, or expecting, any artistic
satisfaction. And so, out of learned experience, I sat down on a fallen tree trunk and waited.
One of the most important things a budding artist must learn is patience. You can't hurry art. Artists must wait for the elements
to be presented in the proper order. It is then up to the trained artist to be able to react to the subject with competence and clarity.
Only then can a work of art be realized. This basic principal is something that applies to all artists working in all artistic disciplines.
Gradually, the fog began to lift and, in doing so, revealed the magical elements of the river and the thick forest on the opposite
bank. The moment that I had been waiting for had arrived!
I quickly reacted to the temporary scene before me by moving slightly down-river in order to get the view that I wanted. I set up
my tripod and camera, made the necessary artistic decisions (including lens focal length, composition and exposure) and
created the photograph.
The fog, which had been the original element that drew me to the river, was now a supporting cast member to the scene…
acting as a magical umbrella for the river and nearby vegetation…as well as the trees…some of which are still partially hidden
in the mist. The fog, while not the star, was an essential element. Without it, the resulting photograph would not have nearly as
much visual impact. In a sense, the fog was the visual icing on the cake.
If the sky had been a deep blue, the photograph would have been just another pretty picture. But with the canopy of fog, the
photograph says so much more. It conveys a sense of mystery. It conceals as well as reveals. The gentle light, as a direct
result of the elevated remnant of fog, illuminates the scene with a radiance that is more calming and intimate. To put it simply…
it's deliciously sweet.
I continued to photograph for a few more hours after the fog had completely vanished. While I was pleased with several of the
photographs that resulted from my later efforts, none matched the quiet, ethereal atmosphere of the photograph in this spotlight.
The moral of this story should be fairly obvious. An artist must be dedicated to their art and their subject. This dedication often
involves sacrifice. For me, my sacrifice at Watoga State Park meant sleeping in the cold and then missing out on a breakfast in
front of a warm campfire in favor of standing beside a cold river in an early morning fog. This artistic dedication, and patience,
was necessary in order to be in position for an experience that far outweighed the sacrifice. In my opinion, an artist must give in
order to receive.
I did have a hot meal later that day. It tasted even better because of my experience that morning. And thankfully, the temperature
the following night was in keeping with the rating of my sleeping bag. I slept like a baby knowing that I had created an image that
I would be proud to exhibit.
I've sold several fine art prints of this image…and not just to people from the area where I created it. I guess that proves
something that I've known for some time. The magical elements of nature are unifying. As humans, we are all connected to
nature. It's in our genes. It doesn't matter where you live. We all desire natural beauty in art.