#1059. Fog, that was nice! (freeing photography in the mist)

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Nov 11

Pardon my French πŸ˜‰ But this morning’s foggy episode delivered one of the most satisfying photographic experiences, and human experiences, in a long, long, time.

France is in full lockdown. Again. As a substitute for proper crisis management. Following our usual habit of making serious people pay for idiots, we have asked cautious mask-wearers and social-distancers to stay home while no actual enforcement of lockdown rules prevent others from continuing their sharing of covid love.

I shouldn’t complain, we have it easy. Large garden, lovely weather, lovely scenery, two jobs and – so far – good health. We are the fortunate ones.

But it’s got to me this time. Unlike episode one, which felt like a breath of fresh and quiet air, like a nation working together to solve a problem and like a great break from the usual mad rush of life, this one carries more frustration than hope or relief.

Colours are everywhere around us in nature, but we can’t savour them. This season’s usual mix of puffy clouds and sun in the right alignment creates stunning sunsets and sunrises day after day but we can’t move about to enjoy them. The last flowers of the year and glorious berry displays are everywhere to be admired, but no one is there to do so.

It’s not being limited to an arbitrary daily hour in a kilometre range that bothers me. With some creativity, we can weave different paths at every possible opportunity into that space-time box. I can exercise at home. We have music, books and work. It’s fine.

And, as we celebrate the end of WWI, I know I have no right to complain. As our enlightened president celebrates a war novelist on this day, yes, I know I have no right to complain. After telling what has to be the most pampered youth in the history of mankind that “it’s really tough to be 20 in 2020”, Keiser Macaroon is now honouring a man who told of the atrocities of the war. As a way of reminding us they had it far worse back then. And they so did, so so soooooo much worse. I get it, I have no right to complain.

But knowing something intellectually and feeling it deep in your soul are two very different things. The human mind always strives for more. Be that through material possession, intellectual prowess, spiritual enlightenment or connection to nature, we need to (feel we) grow. This is why people are often far happier (in surveys at least) in developing countries than in rich ones. Growth is hope. And this feels like the opposite.

This morning, though, after a generous lie in with Natasha Pulley (well, with her novel, at least) a quick glance through the windows reveals a scene that grabs my attention immediately. Fog like we’ve not seen in a long time has fallen on the landscape, wrapping us in subdued colours and soft contrasts. It is exquisite.

I tell my long-suffering wife to wait for me a couple of minutes while I pop up the road for a couple of snaps, grab my camera, thankful that there’s space on the card and low entropy in the battery, and rush out into a wonderland more soothing than an oil bath on Tatooine. Robert Smith warned us : “Boys don’t cry”. I’ll do my best.

Why does this feel so good, I ask myself, after only a couple of minutes. And several answers come to mind as I blissfully tour my neighbourhood perceiving any subject in a totally new way.

Spontaneity is one. At my first encounter with another person, dragged along by a canine friend as I am by my photon grabber, the strange look the human component of the oncoming duo gives me leaves me slightly disconcerted. Then, it dawns on me that I left home almost straight out of bed πŸ˜‰ Scary hair and tiny t-shirt and no socks (but trousers, no worries). How wonderful! When was the last time I left home so free of plan and preparation, without sacrificing to the holy cows of bureaucracy? Imagine this: taking to the streets without filling in official forms. The cook!

Transgression aside, the photographic wonders offered by fog are obvious justifications for my elation. Very often, photography amounts to spotting something nice and working hard to eliminate all the visual gunge that gets in the way of doing it justice.

Fog does that for us, outlining shapes and compositions that catch our eye, and at the same time eliminating all distractions, as if a Divine Photoshop hand had applied lasso and blur with utmost competence.

As the sun rises, so the mist clears slightly, letting colour through every so subtly, giving all scenes a wonderfully painterly vibe with zero effort from the photographer. It literally is point and shoot and collect, by now.

Then, there’s that inexplicable sensation of protection. Of being sheltered from the outside world and its harsh realities.

To fragile minds such as mine, a society where killing knowingly is permitted but communion with nature is off-limits feels like the pinnacle of cynical violence. Carelessness and self-centeredness have probably killed far more people in France alone (among other places) than guns have in the US this year. But that’s OK. It’s all in the name of individual freedom, right? Yeah, right …

But here, I feel safe from all this stupidity. No one can see me, no one is around. It’s just me and my silly ideas and the plants and the trees and the spiders, free to roam in the perfectness of nature for as long as I want without hiding from five-o.

My universe is now 50 meters wide, not 2km, but I can take it wherever I want. The protective bubble of fresh light and blurred outlines shelters me from reality. It’s like walking into a cartoon world that changes at will. A word in which all is delicate and natural and kind.

And the 20 minutes or so that my outing lasts feels more like a couple of hours, so fulfilling it has been. Rediscovering ultra-familiar landscapes in this – literally – new light has felt like a micro vacation in a place where everything is clear, pretty and soft. Like discovering a new place without the hassle of travel. When was the last time you plunged into a wonderland without prior bookings and showing your passport?

As I head back, the sun no longer in my nose but gradually piercing the veil in my back, the soft filter qualities of the mist reveal themselves in a different way, making colours pop in a subtle way and I realise just how peaceful and fun this has been.

It’s as if seeing – and walking in – a very familiar setting but in different light, had the same effect as being far from home in some exotic location. A lot of the familiar details wiped out and a slight feeling of pleasant disorientation.

It is only when you let go of tension that you realise how strongly it had gripped you. I am stunned at how relaxed this combination of spontaneous walk out into the street to discover this wonderland has left me.

Amazing what a great fog can do to lift one’s spirits, right? πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

 

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  • Jack T says:

    Excellent images. Inspiring.

  • Lucy says:

    Wonderful images, especially when seen here in a NYC that is offering only rain. Many thanks!

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    Keiser Macaroon – almost fell of my chair laughing.

    I despair for upcoming generations who will be so easily duped into accepting consensual hallucination , something akin to mass stockholm syndrome.

    β€œThose rabbits stopped fighting the system, because it was easier to take the loss of freedom, to forget what it was like before the fence kept them in, than to be out there in the world struggling to find shelter and food. They had decided that the loss of some was worth the temporary comfort of many.”
    ― Alexandra Bracken, The Darkest Minds

    That said fog certainly gives an added sense of isolation from reality to your images – something we can all relate to even if we do not accept it.

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    The spiders web images particularly take my fancy and to me they are a metaphor for most governments responses to this rona thing – “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

  • Peter says:

    Pascal, lovely images but the impact of one comment sticks with me “This is why people are often far happier (in surveys at least) in developing countries than in rich ones.”

    In developing countries people are happy with what they have. In rich ones they are unhappy because they don’t have what some others have. Materialism and envy and the feeling of “lack” affect far too many in the developed countries while those elsewhere don’t have the time to complain.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Peter, one definition of optimism is thinking we can have an effect on our future. Pessimistic people feel that everything is out of their control. People still climbing the slope have stuff to look forward to, prospects. Whereas those at the peak and beginning to go down feel a lot different about their future. And, as you suggest, being busy helps eliminate the rambling.

      Cheers, Pascal

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    You should be fogged in more often, Pascal! You’ve β€œweathered” the challenging light and have produced some lovely atmospheric glimpses of life behind a delicate veil of fog – bravo! I too am attracted to the spider webs – if only they would always be outlined with water droplets, since I have a habit of walking straight into them on a regular basis!
    Your encounter with the walker & dog duo was quite funny – I’m sure he has a story to tell his friends, too.
    Your observations about how some people are rigorously following the masking rules, while others are rigorously ignoring them reminds me of the same issues we have in the US. Although those who refuse to mask here also insist that the virus is a hoax, that the masks are killing people, and that it’s against their constitutional rights to wear a mask – hint to those Trump-loving idiots: there’s nothing in the constitution about mask wearing! Anyway, those of us who understand how viruses work and believe in science continue the good fight without their help.
    Wishing you more spontaneous photo sessions!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Nancee πŸ™‚

      I remember crawling super quietly in a swamp with a long telephoto trying to get close to Caspian Terns, many many years ago. Suddenly my face hit a spider wab with huge inhabitant included. The other birders weren’t amused to see that screeching figure running out of the reeds covered in mud πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ Droplets do help.

      Yeah, that whole personal freedom pretext thing… Maybe the people using it should remember that the US constitution states “promote the general Welfare” in its preamble. Long before the first amendment …

      Cheers πŸ™‚

      • JohnW says:

        Birders got no sense of humour … I’d be taking pictures of the poor miscreant … arm’s flailing, legs pumping, camera abandoned. Bet the birds had a good laugh.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Excellent! πŸ˜‰ Straight to Youtube!

          Not so sure about the laugh. Caspian terns are quite rare in France. I’d heard about them, left uni for coastal swamps where they had been sighted and found many others there. All with spotting scopes on tripods.

          But I was me … photography first, tripods be damned πŸ˜‰ So there I was, trying to shoot flying terns with an 800mm Kowa spotting scope of so so photographic quality, with a very slow focusing wheel, on Velvia. It felt like riding a bull, to be honest. And at the end of 2 rolls, my arms couldn’t carry the thing any more. But *boy* was it huge fun πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

          And the 2 or 3 acceptable shots were such trophies!

  • Lad says:

    Pascal,

    Thank you for this post, with equal portions of beauty and insight! Like Ian, I am entranced by spiders’ webs, but not for the political implications–instead, the beautiful architecture, somehow amplified by fog. But all the scenes you show us are inviting, and they encourage all of us to get out in something other than bright sunlight. I share your sense that walking in the unfamiliar can transport and re-vitalize us. I suspect even walking a normally busy street at an unaccustomed time (very early morning, e.g.?) might accomplish something similar. At any rate, this is wonderful. It shows what delight can be found even in lockdown just outside our door, so long as we have our pants on–and carry a Hassy? πŸ˜‰

    • pascaljappy says:

      Indeed, anything out of the usual rhythm can be considered a small adventure and has the same revitalizing effect on us.

      As great as the Hassy is, I think that any camera would have produced great results in that gorgeous light πŸ™‚

      Thank you for the kind words, Lad πŸ™‚

  • David says:

    Pascal I very much enjoyed your images. I completely understand your feeling regarding photographing in the fog. Most times it can be very mystical and calming.
    Best David

  • Staale says:

    As the saying goes: “You can’t add days to your life, but life to your days…” Great Photos! That aside, I believe the WEF has been addressing the pandemic issue for +/- 20 years, ushering political leaders and governments around world to prepare for the “big” one. Now with total failure and economical devastation a reality (bar civil servants and the elected or should I say elevated people), we can now see how this will pan out, with Macaroon, Merkel & Co slapping themselves on their shoulders and congratulating each other for a fine job done. Good luck world!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yup. And that really, really, isn’t the big one!

      What we have learned through all this is that, if a real big one came along, like Ebola, we’d all be dead. Meanwhile, very poor African countries triumphed over Ebola while we were struggling with Covid. Pathetic us …

  • Jean-Claude Louis says:

    That second image of the spider web is exquisite !
    “Nebulat ergo cogito” — Umberto Eco (How to Travel with a Salmon)

  • Dallas says:

    Pascal, ah fog, I love shooting in it and you have done such a superb, congratulations.

  • JohnW says:

    Amazing how some excess water vapour can transform our Ho-Hum backyards into a dreamscape. All that’s missing is a Unicorn led by a Fairy.

    But those spider webs … Oh, those spider webs! Exquisite!

    Do French spiders drink red or white?

  • philberphoto says:

    Ah, Pascal, you shouldn’t do this. It plays in the hands of the burocrats -the pox on them!- who use this as a “cache-misΓ¨re” for their own failings. A cache-misΓ¨re (litterally hide-misery) is a device to hide misery from observers. Because they can say: see, lockdown isn’t that bad now, is it? And dare I say that your fogged-in pictures are brilliant, or is that an oxymoron? My absolute favorite is the third from the top. Just wonderful. Keep going, lockdown will soon be over and we will all return to the drudgery of a predictable daily routine. Except for the tens of thousands of needless dead, and the hundreds of thousands who grieve. But it is seems, they matter not to the powers-that-be… Stay safe, all of you, this virus is really, really mean.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    May I make a suggestion? – if checked by the national guard, and quizzed as to your whereabouts and your excuses, just tell them you wandered out of the house for your legitimate 1 hour walk and got lost in the fog.
    As to the politicians – some are better, some are worse – but in the end scarcely any of them really care about anyone else but themselves – not even about each other, as you can see every time they challenge one another/
    This generation of kids deserves better. I am entirely with Greta Thunberg. My generation had no right to be (and no excuse for being) so ignorant, selfish, short-sighted and destructive. Our legacy is our shame. FWIW I first started fighting this battle in the mid 1970s and so I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to change the attitudes of those who SHOULD change. Should have done it LONG ago.
    Sorry about your rabbits, Ian – but I suspect your rabbits are like everyone else’s sheep – misled by the people in power!
    Enough of politics. This is a forum for breathing fresh air and vitality into creative photography.

    So – turning to the subject I’ve decreed to be the “pense du jour”.

    I believe we’ve had this discussion before, offstage, my friend. And here’s a perfect example of how I interpreted the meaning of our discussion.

    There isn’t any “one place”, when you think of taking photographs where you live. We have to have “the eye”. We have to “recognise & note change”. While we might take a thousand shots before we have a masterpiece, we have to work to find the subject and make the masterpiece. And doing this where we live is actually probably easier in the end, than blasting away with your camera while travelling.

    Because we TRY harder.’ We don’t just snap and walk on, to keep up with our friends or families. We WORK at it.

    And your fog has presented you with an entirely unexpected and wonderful opportunity to do just that.

    Kama is with you!

    • pascaljappy says:

      The police don’t worry me much, to be honest. The unofficial rule is to never tell the French off.

      Yes, we work at it. And, even more important to me thant the resulting photographs, we have a lot of fun πŸ™‚

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        That’s odd – that’s exactly what I find with our gilets bleus – I even end up having coffee with them, occasionally – and being polite doesn’t cost me. Yet heaps of people swear and curse about them – not just “generally” – but in relation to the exact same cops.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    PS – I hope you have a drying cabinet for all your gear – I’d be be petrified of taking $10 or $20 G of gear out in that weather!

  • Sean says:

    Hi Pascal,
    As I read and got to the bit where you looked out the window and took the decision to go outside with camera, I immediately thought spontaneity. I continue reading and there it is in bold “Spontaneity”.
    A question though: Did the novel you were reading act as a contributory influence and possible resource to springboard from, when reacting to what you saw in your spontaneous fog soaked endeavour and resulting images crafted?

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ah! How interesting. Natasha Pulley writes about 19th century London and there is indeed a lot of for (smog, really) and that could have been an influence πŸ™‚ Good catch, Sean!!

  • Frank Field says:

    Pascal — Thanks for your post. I know that I am more concerned about safety from the darned virus now than at any time since it began. Pure exponential growth of new cases in the U.S. and so it appears much of Europe. In the interregnum, before we see any possible political leadership, I believe as you say that we must take our own personal responsibility for our safety. Stay away from crowded public places, stay away from indoor venues, even shopping. A good time to find the less frequented hiking trails close to home and bring the camera along. Stay healthy. Frank

    • pascaljappy says:

      Indeed. The less frequented hiking trails are a personal favourite, but there aren’t that many in my 1km radius. It’s like living with an anklet but having committed no crime πŸ˜‰ Stay safe. More importantly, enjoy the little things. That’s what I’m taking away from this whole fiasco. Cheers πŸ™‚

  • PaulB says:

    Pascal

    Usually, fog is seen as depressing and a reason to stay inside.

    Though, sometimes we are given gifts. This day was a gift.

    I like the spider webs.

    PaulB

  • Paul Watson says:

    awesomely done , next time , get the wife or neighbors kid to put on a hoody and get them to go lurking in that fog. Two major advantages , awesome surreal moody pictures with a bit extra , and if there are any real jack the ripper types lurking in that fog. Well just remember to get the picture before scampering off , the model always gets taken first.

  • Claude Hurlbert says:

    Wonderful photos, Pascal. Fog really is a best friend.

    Reading your post and admiring your photos, I am reminded of W. H. Auden’s last book of poetry, “Thank You, Fog,” written in the early 1970s, I guess. In the poem of the same name he thanks the fog that had settled on the countryside and his home for keeping his loved ones close (as they don’t want to travel with lowered visibility), for quieting things down, for helping all to see the value of settling in.

    “No summer sun will ever
    dismantle the global gloom
    cast by the Daily Papers,
    vomiting in slip-shod prose
    the facts of filth and violence
    that we’re too dumb to prevent:
    our earth’s a sorry spot, but
    for this special interim,
    so restful yet so festive,
    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Fog.”

    I am not inclined to critique the news media for those occasions when they manage to tell us the truth these days, especially when conspiracies and lies seem to be running amok in the world, but I am well on board with the peace that a morning or night of fog can offer. As a photographer and writer, you capture it all so well in this post: the relief from larger perspectives (with all the social realizations they can entail), the joy of seeing differently, of color and light interpreted by the filter of a different sort of transient reality, the pleasure of creation set loose to reaffirm our lives and, even, existence.

    Claude

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you so much, Claude. That poem does indeed speak to me. Ironically, we could say the same of lockdown, that keeps us close (when we are not afar to begin with) and that’s exactly how I experienced the first. A peaceful moment of collective brotherhood. It must have been very different for family with 5 kids in a small flat πŸ˜‰ But it was restful, full of optimism as the country healed, wonderful. This second one is so different … All the best, Pascal

  • Lani says:

    Oh that second spiderweb is an architectural masterpiece!
    Your spontaneity paid off, didn’t it?

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