Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fog: dangerous, but oh so beautiful

It cannot be that happiness, joy and death are so closely linked together.
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner ( on climbing K2)

It is a tricky business driving south down Vancouver island on a foggy winter's day. Every driver seems bent on speeding and driving too close to the bumper of the car ahead. Do they have no imagination, can they not see that a sudden layer of thicker fog would have everyone tied up in a massive collision? I’m a little tense and feeling self righteous as I ease my VW van down the road. I’m also distracted by the sheer beauty of the mist shrouded landscape we are passing through. Tall grey trees, tail lights glowing in the mist, the occasional clear areas that speak in absolute clarity of what would have been taken for granted on any other day. 

Finally, in the early winter’s dusk we pull up at the Crofton dock to wait for the ferry to our home on Saltspring Island. I step out into the cool fog and begin to take photographs. There are a few technical problems in these conditions; the shutter speed is slow and I have to switch to manual focus because the camera cannot find anything definite to automatically focus on. I find myself propping the camera on things to get a 'clear' picture or boosting the ISO to obtain a faster shutter speed. Those are the background operational things, but it is the ethereal loom of lights, the soft blacks of wharf pilings and their reflections that pull me deeper into this experience. The fog has created new possibilities from a familiar setting. Images that would not attract my attention normally have a mysterious life of their own wrapped in the misty dark pierced by the glow of dock lights.

Once at Vesuvius on the island side, we follow a line of traffic to Ganges and then head on uphill into banks of fog. It is dark now and the headlights are of little use amid swirls of vapour. Soon we are crawling along with our eyes swivelled towards the side of the road. We follow the thin yellow line that marks the edge until it is time to branch off onto a smaller road beside a lake. Headlights come up from behind and blind me in the rear-view mirrors so I find a place to pull over and let two pick-up trucks roar past.

Onward slowly, looking for another turn off, and then up once more into denser stuff still. Practically, so slowly do I drive, Heather could be walking beside the van as we both try to keep us on the road. That abrupt turn at the summit, it must be here somewhere? “TURN NOW!!” says Heather and we are round and miraculously the fog thins and then we are driving through crystal clear moonlit woods. A few more foggy bits close to home and then I gratefully slide out of the drivers seat and carry an armload of firewood to our house. Home at last!

Its always good to have an adventure like this foggy day has provided, and I think I got some good photographs back there at the Crofton dock. Interesting how one's appreciation of beauty is so often associated with the elevated awareness experienced in dangerous times.

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