Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blog about Fog.

Canoeing recently toward Seattle's Salmon Bay in misty conditions, I began to experience an unsettling feeling of déjà vu. Not being able to define what was causing it, I was left with a sense of unease. Had I turned off the car lights before I left? Then quite suddenly it sprang to mind. I was transported to Deception Pass, then moments later to Sun-moon Lake in Taiwan. These places, while far apart, were being pulled together in my mind by the mist in the air.

Mist obscure locks Seattle Salmon Bay
Salmon Bay Seattle in fog

 Our visit to Deception Pass had been to capture images for a magazine article. At Sun-moon Lake I was teaching a class on kayaking technique. Here in Ballard we had come out for fresh air and to see what interesting ships might have docked since our last visit. But despite the very different circumstances I felt  a very visceral connection between the three times and places.
Winter mist near Ballard Bridge Seattle
Ballard Bridge and Fisherman's Terminal

 Yet the mist in the air was quite different in each case. Why should I sense such a strong connection? Maybe with the veiling of the view, I had become more aware of scent, differences in temperature, and the dampness of these three occasions. Our sense of smell is very evocative, so that alone can tie memories together. But these experiences were so different from one another.

Colorful lake ferry boat in Taiwan
Colorful ferry boat frames a canoe

 Sun-moon Lake: It was rainy season in the mountains of central Taiwan. We were surrounded by muddy slopes of woodland, dense giant bamboo and prolific ferns. The rich, mournful toll of bells carried across the water from a nearby hilltop temple that remained hidden by mist the entire time I was there. It was wet but not steamy. There was the distinctive smell of lake water and a sense that the color green was all around. That is apart from the colorful kayaks and the paddlers' clothing, emerging from the fog as if materializing from a fizzing clump of random pixels, and the colorful ancient ferry boat by the dock. (More on Taiwan)

Kayaks emerge from the mist
Kayaks emerge from fog, Sun-Moon Lake

Deception Pass by contrast smelled of the salty Pacific Ocean and the water was chill. The snaking yellow-brown cords of bullhead kelp added a dank smell to the sweet resinous scent of the evergreen trees: trees I sensed as shadows against the sky. When the mist dissolved we could see rock, sections of churning water, parts of forest, but seldom all at once.

Bullhead Kelp and twisty currents in canoe pass WA
Current and kelp at Canoe Pass

The fog teased our eyes with a glimpse of this, a snapshot of that.

Heron flies above the water near Deception Pass WA
Low-flying heron

Of course it was great weather for photographing kayaks on the water close up. (for the German "Kanu" magazine) The light was bright, hinting of a sunny day with a cloudless sky, but was diffused by the fog layer which eliminated the challenge of harsh contrast so often found here between dark shadow beneath the cliff and sun reflecting from the water. 

Nigel Foster surfs against the tide, Canoe Pass
Canoe Pass WA

Eventually the fog began to dissipate, revealing more and more of the background, and the sun shone thinly by the time we landed for lunch.

We land for lunch near Deception Pass while the fog dissipates
The sun almost shines!
Now cruising silently along Fremont Canal, I felt more than enough winter chill in the air to make me wish I'd worn socks on my feet in the open canoe, yet there was barely a breath of moving air. Massive steel hulls towered above deep reflections. Across the water a woodland of stubbly masts stood in the mist above the smaller fishing boats clustered around Fisherman's Terminal. The ring of hammer against steel echoed across the water and light flared from a welder's torch. I felt the dampness of mist in my beard.
Stubbly masts in the mist
Fisherman's Terminal Seattle

You can find modular kayaks and accessories at Nigel's new store
nigel foster kayak store