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Lost in the time of mists

Tony Gill captures that most fleeting of weathers, the shrouding mist

The tower of St Mary's church in Cerne Abbas is just visible in the  half-light just after dawn

The tower of St Mary’s church in Cerne Abbas is just visible in the
half-light just after dawn

Depending on what one is looking for, the definition of mist (and how it differs from fog) is easy. Mist is, meteorologically, where warm moist air has met cool air and droplets of water become suspended in the air. Fog, meteorologically, is a low-flying cloud.

Gerrard's Hill

As sunlight strengthens and the mist burns off near Gerrards Hill, one sees the prism effect of white light separating into its constituent colours

There are legal definitions of fog and mist in terms of visibility whether one is driving or flying, for which the figures are, somewhat unhelpfully, different. This is an area of safety where one would like as much clarity as possible, but, perhaps appropriately, there is none.

One of the properties of mist is its ability to catch shadows cast by solid objects in the image, especially when, as in this shot west of Bridport, the crisp and colourful morning light does a sculptor's job on the landscape

One of the properties of mist is its ability to catch shadows cast by solid objects in the image, especially when, as in this shot west of Bridport, the crisp and colourful morning light does a sculptor’s job on the landscape

From a photographic perspective, things are much clearer: with mist you can create elaborate, evocative and moody images at various densities and altitudes, at different times of day or year, with different colours of light and shade.

This shot at Toller Down, emphasises a characteristic of mist: to soften winter trees' stark silhouettes. It also shows how the mist collects in the well of the valley and dissipates as the landscape opens up.

This shot at Toller Down, emphasises a characteristic of mist: to soften winter trees’ stark silhouettes. It also shows how the mist collects in the well of the valley and dissipates as the landscape opens up.

When shooting pictures in mist, one challenges the viewer to strain a little, to try to see beyond what is immediately evident, and see which wonders lie behind wrapped in the gossamer wings of the early morning’s water droplets.

St Bartholemew's spire, with its characteristic mini-flying-buttresses, peeps out of the Sutton Waldron mist in this shot taken from Hambledon Hill looking towards Melbury Beacon

St Bartholemew’s spire, with its characteristic mini-flying-buttresses, peeps out of the Sutton Waldron mist in this shot taken from Hambledon Hill looking towards Melbury Beacon

Conversely, if you shoot an image in fog, you’ll get a picture of fog.

It's almost as if the silver birch trees have captured the mist to create a monochrome backdrop to the bracken in this shot taken near Hardy's cottage at Lower Bockhampton

It’s almost as if the silver birch trees have captured the mist to create a monochrome backdrop to the bracken in this shot taken near Hardy’s cottage at Lower Bockhampton

Mist arrives in September as a harbinger of a warm day to come, but cruelly changes its character as the year gets older, settling on the landscape like a blanket and refusing to burn away during the day.

Another equally useful property of mist is the way that hills at different distances take on the appearance of softly tinted paper cutouts, gradually losing contrast as the scene heads towards the horizon as with this scene near Symondsbury

Another equally useful property of mist is the way that hills at different distances take on the appearance of softly tinted paper cutouts, gradually losing contrast as the scene heads towards the horizon as with this scene near Symondsbury

Instead it chooses to cool and cool until it sheathes the world in a frozen, fixed and semi-permanent version of itself overnight… and so begins the winter’s chill embrace.

As with the silver birch shot, the colours that there are in this image of Hartland Moor in Purbeck are accentuated by the monochromaticity of the misty skyline

As with the silver birch shot, the colours that there are in this image of Hartland Moor in Purbeck are accentuated by the monochromaticity of the misty skyline

 

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