A grove of trees lining a bank of the Potomac River on a foggy morning
Stephen Girimont

Stephen Girimont

Owner, The Intimate Landscape, Fine Art Prints

Fog Enshrouded Trees

For once, the fog did what I was hoping it would do...

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had high hopes for foggy mornings only to be severely disappointed by clear conditions. Or when the fog decides it wants to stay in the treetops and not descend to ground level; oh so frustrating! Just in the last week alone, we’ve had three mornings with forecast conditions conducive to fog, only to have actual morning temperatures just a bit too high for the fog to form.

And so it was on a recent Thursday evening that I found myself trying to control my expectations because all my weather apps on my phone were telling me to expect fog the next morning. But once bitten, twice shy as the saying goes, so I set my alarm for an hour before sunrise but told myself if a quick glance out the window didn’t show any fog, I’d hop right back into bed.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear the next morning? Miracle of miracles, the fog had arrived as promised! Beautiful, thick, milky-white fog. I grabbed my camera kit, loaded it into a pannier, clipped the pannier to the rear rack on my bike, bungied a tripod to the top of the rack and set off in the mist to the Potomac River a few miles from my home.

“Oh, you have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!” I believe were the words out of my mouth as I arrived at the park. The fog, so nice and thick at my house, was practically non-existent at the park on the river.  The problem was that the fog layer was hanging over the river at a height of about 100 feet or so, leaving the park completely clear. Skunked once again, I was thinking.

A repeating pattern of squares within squares in Confluence Park on the Potomac River near Leesburg, Viringia.

I decided to wait, however, and see what the fog might do. I didn’t know if the fog was in the act of lifting, in which case the show was over before it even began, or if it might actually descend to river level. As I was waiting, I decided to see what I might find in the way of compositions and I discovered something that didn’t exist until fairly recently: a repeating pattern of squares within squares!

A few months earlier, a historic marker had been placed near these bench swings. The marker commemorates this location in the history of the American Civil War and The Battle at Edwards Ferry, which happened on this spot back in 1861.

The last time I photographed these bench swings from this angle, that historic marker didn’t exist. But I noticed that if I positioned my camera at just the right spot, the background swing and the historic marker mimicked the positions of the two foreground swings, making a repeating pattern of squares within squares, which I thought was pretty neat!

But that wasn’t the composition I’d come out to photograph on this particular morning and by the time I’d finished photographing that first scene, I noticed the fog was indeed starting to descend into the park. So I shifted my camera and tripod into the background of the squares-in-squares scene to focus my attention on the wonderful grove of trees stretching off into the distance through the fog.

The grove of trees I'd come to photograph.

I love how the sun rising over the river on foggy mornings like this adds just the barest hint of soft side-lighting to the trees. If the fog gets too thick, it just eliminates that light altogether, which, in fact, it did just a few minutes after I got the image I was looking for.

I have photographed these trees in fog before but as the background of one of the bench swings. Today, I wanted to capture just the trees themselves because I’ve been fascinated by how they form a natural lane into the distance that fog just helps turn a bit mysterious. Also, in the time since I’d last photographed these trees, some of the lower branches had been cut, and the ground cleared quite a bit, which made for a cleaner appearance for this composition.

An earlier image using the trees as a background for one of the bench swings. Taken almost exactly a year before.

As fond as I am of photographing the southwest, the ability to easily return to local scenes, time and time again over multiple years, is a luxury I’m working to take advantage of as often as I can. I’m looking forward to returning to these scenes often. Ooooh! I know! In snow! Oh, now I can’t wait for winter…

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