Michigan winter days can be wonderfully atmospheric. When conditions are right, a type of fog settles in. Objects, even at distance, are still visible, but their outlines are soft and diffused. It is as if they are here but not here. Monet captured this quality quite well in a painting appropriately entitled “Houses of Parliament: Effect of Fog, London, 1904.”
On a very cold winter’s morning in Lansing, Michigan, I was driving on Chandler Road when I noticed two oaks standing close together in a pasture. From the weather report, I knew that there was a good chance that the next morning would be gauzy. I decided right then and there that I wanted to photography those oaks; I was hoping to create an elegant, atmospheric, and minimalistic image.
Chandler Road is a two-lane country route. No paved shoulders exist. In fact, the edges of the road drop off quickly from the pavement’s edge. In order to stand reasonably comfortably, I knew that I’d need to set up my tripod as close to the road as possible. I also knew that, especially in a foggy situation, I’d have to keep a sharp eye out for vehicles. I would be almost invisible to drivers.
Almost every time that a car or truck appeared out of the cottony blanket coating the countryside, I’d quickly clamber down the snowy embankment to a place of safety. When they zoomed past, I’d climb back up to my tripod and resume shooting. It took some time, but I finally obtained the shot I wanted.
I have taken special care in printing this artwork to preserve the gentle atmospheric conditions of the day. The scattering of grasses near the oaks suggests a horizon where otherwise none exists. And the oaks themselves, softly rounded, offer rounded shapes and a touch of texture in a smooth field of gauzy winter white.