Two years ago I witnessed a beautiful phenomenon in Washington Park. It was around 11pm when I came back home from a quick walk in my neighborhood. The weather was clear and humid that night. Two hours later I left the house to grab a last minute item at the bodega on the corner of Lark Street. The temperature had mysteriously dropped about 10 degrees and a dense fog had taken over Center Square. The street lights all around me were casting an eerie orange glow, creating an array of spooky silhouettes. I grabbed my camera and headed to Washington Park to capture the moment.
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I have been looking for this very same fog every fall since then. Think of it as my Moby Dick, but without the attitude. It materialized out of nowhere a few weeks ago, late at night. I picked up my gear and walked to my 1AM rendezvous. The park looked as peaceful and strikingly creepy as I remembered it. The Playhouse, below, was befitting an atmospheric John Carpenter movie.
I decided to leave my tripod at home, in a hurry to cover the most ground before the fog disappears. This was a good old mistake and my hand-held photos didn’t end up as sharp as the ones I took two years ago. I don’t have any excuse since I bought a great Gitzo Carbon Fiber tripod last year for that very purpose. Facepalm.
Above, ducks frolicking. They frolic a lot after midnight, they just know how to bring the house down.
Above, Quintessence on New Scotland Ave, across the pond. The particles in the air allow the light sources to expand into halos. I wanted to incorporate some fellow humans in my pictures, to no avail. I stood squarely in the middle of Madison Ave for a while, trying to experiment with the light beams of the cars waiting at the light. No dice. It’s official, week nights are deserted.
The Moses statue to the left, parting seas in the shadow.
Above, on the left, the middle of Washington Avenue vs. Lark St. (do not attempt during the day). On the right, The Civil War Monument at the corner of Henry Johnson and State St., a photo you can certainly take with a cheap point&shoot too.
The photos don’t really do justice to this peculiar weather pattern. Would I recommend you venture to the pond that late on your own? Probably not, but it turns out you didn’t have to. I hope you enjoyed it.
My photo tips. I used my trusty Canon 5D Mark II and my fastest lens—a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens—in this series. My two cents: grab a fast wide-angle lens and go for a long exposure, say 1/10th of a second on a tripod or more if there is no wind to shake the trees. You can also set your camera to AE (Aperture Priority), ramp up from, say, f/2.8 and let your camera decide the best shutter speed and ISO for the light conditions. The compromise between long shutter speed and high ISO in this case is yours to make, try fixing your ISO at 400 to reduce noise if you can afford a longer exposure. It won’t hurt to use a remote or set your camera on a 2 s. timer to reduce vibrations from your finger on the shutter button. If your camera supports Mirror Lock-up, try that too. With a subject that still there is ample room to experiment. Consider bringing a solid friend and use your buddy as a bodyguard and a human tripod. Two birds, one stone. You are welcome.
My previous encounter with the fog, in 2009: