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Backstories About the Images - The Little White Church

This week we travel to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire - more or less in the middle of the state. Eaton, a small town with a population of just under 400, is home to lovely Crystal Lake, with this landmark house of worship situated on its shores. It is, aptly, known simply as "The Little White Church."

In autumn, when overnight temperatures dip below freezing, area lakes will most likely be covered with fog in the early morning. This can make for excellent photographic conditions. That said, fog can be tricky. It behaves capriciously. One can never be sure how thick it will be, how long it will take to burn off, or how it will disappear.

Consequently, while I might have an idea what I'd like to photograph on a foggy morning, it is always the fog which dictates the results. On this morning, I left my house in the pre-dawn darkness to make my way to Crystal Lake. I knew I was going to have foggy conditions, having encountered it many times along the drive.

Once I arrived in Eaton, I was surprised just how thick the fog was. Pulling in to a spot along the opposite shoreline from the church, you could see nothing but white. Had you not known there was a lake there, you'd never have guessed one was just a few feet away.

I pulled out a yogurt for breakfast and settled in for what was obviously going to be a long wait. A fisherman arrived and parked next to me. He climbed into his rowboat, shoved off, and almost immediately disappeared into the thick whiteness. An hour went by. Still no change. Now I began anxiously watching the clock; it was nearing sunrise. If the fog persisted for too long, the sun might be too high in the sky to make a good image by the time it finally appeared. There was nothing I could do about that, of course.

After another half hour, some light from the sun started to become visible. Still, though, the fog was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I decided to set up anyway. I know from experience that fog can burn off lazily - or extremely quickly. Better to be cool my heels standing on the shore - literally! it was cold! - than to miss my opportunity. I'd scouted the location a few days prior to see how the color was on the hillside behind the church.

My plan was to make a photo featuring that color, using the church simply as an anchor in the bottom of one side of the composition. Since I couldn't see anything but fog, I made an educated guess, and metered the scene. More waiting. By now it was nearly 8:30am. I'd been at the lake for a little more than 2 hours. The sun was beginning to make inroads, with the fog starting to drift in and out just a bit.

Suddenly, I could begin to make out the shoreline across the lake. Just as quickly - it disappeared again. I realized in that split second that the photographs I would make were going be quite different than what I'd anticipated; I wouldn't be featuring the color on the hillside at all. The manner in which the fog was burning off was the photographic opportunity that day.

Ephemeral glimpses of the autumn color on the shoreline were spectacular. Tight shots would better capture what I was seeing. Then - finally - there was the church, just barely visible.

As if it were a curtain rising on a stage, the fog split the scene, drifting from the lake upward with more fog still hanging over the water. In the middle was the church, with a single dramatic pop of autumn foliage next to it. It is one of my favorite New England autumnal images. The image was used in one of our service recognition plaques:  

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