February 17, 2010

Scene, In A Different Light


Here's a photo I did a few months back for a post called Morning Light, when I was waxing lyrical about the magical qualities of dawn's rosy fingers (no snickers, please - that's 'dawn' with a small 'd').

Here's the same scene the other morning.

Except it's not really the same scene, is it? The boats and the docks are pretty much where they were before, but the light is different. The fog has transformed it into a different place.

When I don't have to drive, or fly, or navigate through it, I love the fog. It must be my photographer roots. Photographers are always looking for 'magic light' - the early light I found in Morning Light, dusk, approaching thunderstorms. But the most magic light of all is fog.

Fog simplifies and clarifies. It reduces color to a palette of grays. It forces us all to see in black and white.

It isolates objects against a misty background, helping us to consider some things we might have overlooked. It emphasizes shape and form that may have been previously obscured.

It cloaks the middleground in a shroud and obscures the distant. Scenes are reduced to a few simple planes. The real becomes surreal; the misty, mystical.

Fog shakes up our assumptions about what is real. Things we see every day are now different. It reminds us, if we let it, that anything we know about life is merely perception - and that perception can change with time and with perspective.

Fog can teach us a lot, if we give it a chance.

Here's one guy who was completely oblivious to the mystic quality of the fog all around him and to the great lessons about life and the cosmos that fog can teach us. All he was interested in was breakfast.

I don't know who this guy is, but he's got an awfully long neck for a seagull. He must be a friend of Joe's. He likes fish.



  1. Thanks, brother. Lovely start to my day with the help of these images. I'm coming home to SF end of March. Looking forward to some foggy goodness ... and a couple of Irish coffees at Buena Vista, of course.

  2. Lovely pictures - great light and reflections in water.

  3. Those are some ugly cleat hitches. And where are the Flemish coils?

  4. Thanks, JP.

    Tillerman, it's sad, but the recent decline in sailing is perhaps best evidenced by the appalling lowering of standards at O Dock. The problem is so widespread that management is no longer fining slipholders for failing to Flemish.

    Some cynics have attributed this to the influx of immigrant refugees from the hardscrabble docks in the marina that are currently being rebuilt. I have greater faith in my fellow sailors from all docks, though, and feel that new cultures can only enrich us. But our signature coils may live on only in memory and in the occasional Blogger profile photo.

    Greg, if you're headed this way, give a shout - maybe we can hook up.

  5. Excellent Shoots and true words homie!

  6. Yet another reason why San Francisco Bay should not host the America's Cup. If the local sailors there no longer have the basic decency to Flemish their coils, how can we rely upon them to run a fair America's Cup regatta?

  7. Who wants to see a FAIR America's Cup regatta?

    The Cup is all about fighting as dirty as you can, without getting caught.

  8. beautiful pics, O Docker. I love how calm the water is - the mirrored reflections in the water are great.


  9. Fog is indeed magical. Once upon a time, Pat and I lived in Houston, in a second-floor apartment on a bluff overlooking a horseshoe-shaped bend in a bayou. On the other side of the bayou was a country club, so there was very little to indicate that we were in the fourth-largest city in the United States.

    In the early mornings, before the heat of the day moved in, fog would shroud the bayou and the trees on the other side. The fog seemed to muffle the noise of the traffic, and it almost felt like I was in some other universe, Middle Earth, perhaps. Instead of city smells, the fog carried soft, wet smells, mimosa trees in bloom, rich black topsoil, green grass growing. In and around the water, there were ducks, egrets, turtles, otters, and, yes, even the occasional alligator.

    Alas, that apartment complex is no more. On a trip back to Texas, Pat and I drove through the old neighborhood, and we discovered that the local flood control authority had condemned the complex, torn it down, flattened the bluff, and carved an ugly rip-rap-lined channel for the bayou so it would flow straight and not flood the neighborhood. The rest of the lot where the apartment complex once stood is now barren ground, filled with weeds and fire ants and discarded furniture and appliances.

  10. A Great White Egret would be the mystery gull with the long neck. Also, I have yet to see a proper flemish coil at any marina here in fly-over land, so no hope of an America's Cup here, I guess. Dang. Very beautiful pictures and story too. We live next to a wetland, so we get some low-hanging fog sitting just above the grasses and when the morning sun filters through the trees it truly is worth seeing.

  11. Thanks for your images, too, Carol Anne.

    Capt. Puffy, I believe you're right. The Sacramento river delta is on a major migratory flyway where wildfowl habitat had been something like 90 per cent plowed under over the past 150 years.

    But wetland preservation and restoration efforts in recent years seem to be bringing the birds back. The egrets and blue herons are the stars of the show. You can sometimes see whole fields of egrets at this time of year.

    This guy is unusually tame though. I've noticed him on O Dock for a few weeks now. He's more approachable than some of the yacht club members.

  12. Nice shots!!
    I love the calm of early mornings.

  13. I use that effect. But it us usually due to leaving the camera in a cold place and then taking a picture in moist air. :o

    Nice pics. I can almost see the little footprints of Carl Sandburg's cat.

    Fair America's Cup regatta? Ha! We'll see you in court.

  14. Long necked birds- I try to live life without egrets.