Thursday, January 24, 2013

Photographing Arctic Sea Smoke

      Temperatures have been -10 to +10 degrees F here on the coast of Maine the last two days.  Though these low temps are bitterly cold, I always look forward to this type of cold snap because it usually means I can photograph Arctic sea smoke. Sea smoke is caused by moisture in the air which is colder than the water temperature below it and it is suspended over the surface of the water like fog. The wind whips the wispy mist across the water and it's absolutely mystical and beautiful. Though I shoot it on the ocean, it can also be seen on ponds, lakes or rivers as long as the air temperature is colder than the water. Current water temps are around 42 degrees here. 

Low, early morning light really shows sea smoke in all it's beauty, so as soon as I heard the forecast I knew I'd be up before sunrise. When it's that cold, skin coverage and lots of layers are a must, I was bundled up from head to toe. My hands always get cold first, so I wore thin wool gloves and added a  second heavy wool fingerless glove/mitten over those to cover my fingers between shots. I always keep some Hot Hands packs in my pocket too. Really cold weather can drain your camera battery pretty quickly too, so I am always sure to bring an extra.

Brett Weston said, "Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn't photogenic." Though I normally don't believe that's necessarily true, when it's this cold I agree wholeheartedly! This morning I started out shooting from our pier, we still have some of our fishing boats in the water and they made great subjects. As beautiful as the sea smoke is, I think a focal point in the mist makes compositions stronger. I shot some wide angle photos, as well as images with longer focal lengths. I also tried a few with my Infrared converted camera just to see what the infrared effect would look like on the sea smoke.

After a quick warmup, I took a drive to the end of our peninsula and did more shooting. As I was getting back in the car, I spotted a fishing boat emerging from the sea smoke so I grabbed my camera and ran back to the beach. As cold as I was, I was happy I wasn't working on a boat!

 I drove to several other locations around town over the next hour until the sea smoke had dissipated as the sun warmed the air slightly. I was lucky enough to find two scallop boats dragging for scallops and took lots and lots of photos of them too.

The forecast for sunrise tomorrow is -5 degrees, so you know where I'll be!

Happy shooting!