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Tree and Pond, Fog

Tree and Pond, Fog. Cosumnes River Wildlife Preserve, California. January 23, 2011. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell - all rights reserved.

 

A solitary tree and a winter pond on a very foggy Central Valley morning, Cosumnes Wildlife Preserve.

 

On my first visit to this wildlife preserve in California's Central Valley (located between Stockton and Sacramento) I was thinking that I might have a chance to photograph wildlife, namely that incredible number of migrating birds that spend their winters in the rich, wet areas of this part of California. I knew it would be foggy, but I like that. (If you have followed my blog for even a short time you have perhaps seen some of my "barely there" photographs in which most details are nearly entirely obscured by clouds, rain, mist, or fog. )

 

I was not disappointed by a lack of fog! When I arrived it was so thick that I couldn't see more than perhaps 100 or 200 feet! The Central Valley fog us tule fog which rises from the wet ground rather than blowing in from somewhere else. (The latter is the type of fog in, say, San Francisco, where it often blows in off the ocean.) Since tule fog starts at ground level, it often is not that thick. On a number of occasions I've been driving (slowly!) though terribly thick tule fog in the Central Valley, so thick that it seemed risky to drive at even 25 mph, only to look up and see stars in the sky overhead! On my way past Tracy on this morning, as I entered the fog I noted that it was perhaps only 30-50 feet deep. Because of this, the fog has a special quality that is not found as often in the ocean fog that is more common in the San Francisco Bay Area. The tule fog seems often to me to have a luminous quality that I attribute to the light that comes down from above even in the thickest fog.

 

That was somewhat the case here. I walked into the slough area across the road from the visitor center at the Preserve, and into an area that is mostly open fields in the summer, but mostly a giant pond in the winter. Everywhere around me I could hear the hundreds or thousands of waterfowl - ducks, geese, and who knows what else - I later saw egrets and sandhill cranes - but I could see almost nothing. Eventually I could just barely make out his small tree standing on a shallow area where some grasses grew. I wondered if the photograph would have enough contrast to even be usable, but in the end there was just enough detail. (Hard to see in the small jpg, but certainly there in the 12 x 18 test print I made.) At first I thought it would end up being a monochrome photograph, and I spent a lot of time taking it through my workflow with that in mind - but something just wasn't quite working for me, so I decided to reconsider and try a color rendition. In the print, this ends up looking better to my eye in several ways. First, the soft blue cast that I thought I'd want to avoid, more strongly evokes for me the feeling of actually being there, especially that luminous quality of the tule fog light that I mentioned earlier. In addition, I think that some of the very subtle color variations turn out to be important.

 

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Taken on January 23, 2011