I planned to make photographs of sea smoke on New Years Day. January 1, 2014, dawned clear and a biting -5 degrees Fahrenheit, but the ocean at Portland Head Light was visually ordinary. A large bank of sea smoke well more than 500 feet high stood at least a mile off shore, but the foreground ocean was windswept and open. That’s the nature of a dawn shoot – always unpredictable. Going out is an act of faith.
The extraordinarily cold weather had a multi-day grip on Maine, so I set my sights on Saturday, January 4th; even colder weather was coming. It was minus 11 degrees F in the predawn, and I wasted a few precious extra minutes just getting out the door. I made it to Portland Head Light before the sun rose over a spectacular bank of sea smoke offshore. And my reward was a perfect confluence of ocean swell, swirling sea smoke and brilliant backlit sunshine on the waves as they crashed on the shore. It was dramatically beautiful and it put me in a fevered state of visual excitement. Almost anywhere I looked it was breathtaking, visually and literally.
It’s rare to have a landscape with such a wide field of visual magic everywhere one looks. It can overwhelm the senses, and one can find oneself flailing about, ignominiously failing to capture anything amidst such plenty. It’s situations like this when your creative vision must be tempered by technique honed to the level of instinct. So happily I went into a kind of creative fugue, a pure connection with the medium beyond the rational, not so much shooting as harvesting. The magic flowed.