Council Bluffs, Iowa. I’ve been planning this photograph for quite some time now, and all the necessary elements converged a few mornings ago. Thanks to the handful of drivers who unknowingly lent me their headlights/brakelights to create the rivers of light. I’m also excited to announce a new show that’s opening this Friday (September 2, 2016) from 4-8 pm at Everything Electric (5170 Leavenworth #200), a small gallery in Omaha, Nebraska. The show is called Vanishing, and it will feature a selection of my photographs that depict foggy sunrises around Council Bluffs and Omaha, most of which I’ve not yet shared on my website. A portion of any print sales will fund future print donations to Summer Bash for Childhood Cancer. I’ve donated prints for auction the past few years to help support this important fundraiser, whose goal is to support children with cancer and their families.
Bellevue, Nebraska. This cost me exactly two dollars more than other homegrown photos. A westbound dollar and then an eastbound dollar. But watching the sunlight explode through the fog yesterday morning under the Bellevue Toll Bridge was well worth the price.
My daughter and I went on a riverfront hiking adventure a few nights ago, and this is one of the photos she was patient enough to let me stop and take. She was much more impressed by the soft river sand high on the bank than the pedestrian bridge or Omaha skyline. We started around sunset and stayed until we needed our flashlights to navigate our way back through the budding shrubs. And few things impress a four-year-old more than a flashlight, so needless to say, we had a great time. We’re planning on many more local adventures as the weather gets warmer.
The original Queen Isabella causeway of Port Isabel, Texas, is an enigmatic relic of poor construction that I first noticed while photographing the bay from the south end of South Padre Island. In its current state, it begins from the southeast tip of Port Isabel and extends over the blue water of the bay before terminating abruptly about a half mile later in a precarious ramplike projection that looks like it might have been built for some foolhardy motorcycle stunt. I found almost no Internet resources that even mention the old causeway, let alone provide a thorough history. The most I could find is that it was poorly made in the 1950s, was replaced within twenty years by the new causeway, and is now used as a semi-prohibited pedestrian fishing bridge, although fishermen are strongly discouraged from stepping foot on it because of its disrepair.
I found its mystique hard to resist, and so I ended up spending an entire morning exploring the causeway against my better judgment. And I’d love to say that I came away with a clearer picture (either mental or digital) of its character, but I cannot. That’s the funny thing about exploring a place for the first time in dense fog. There is no big picture. Just a loose map assembled from fragments of limited view.
The entrance gate to the old causeway, a partially ajar chain-link fence decorated with various warning signs, is situated about a half mile from the causeway itself. It is literally at the end of the road, situated on one side by overgrown weeds and on the other by a gated community. There is nowhere to park legally nearby, which I’m sure is quite intentional. I left my vehicle about a half mile up the road in front of an abandoned-looking house, half expecting to find it gone when I returned.
The walkpath to the causeway is a disintegrating road surrounded by a wasteland of sand and cacti and a litany of discarded items. Picture a movie set from Mad Max in thick fog, so imagine that you can see only about fifty feet in any direction. There was no noise other than the distant calls of the shorebirds and the scraping of my shoes as I walked. The landscape is a stark contrast from the affluence of a Port Isabel condominium just outside the entrance. It felt menacing, apocalyptic.
The hike from the entrance gate to the causeway itself was much longer than I’d expected. Eventually I came to another tall chain-link fence with another opened gate, and I found the beginning of the old causeway a short distance thereafter, sitting quietly and neglected, its concrete crumbling and rebar rusting over clean blue seawater as far as I could see into the fog. I took a few pictures from alongside the causeway before building the courage to make my way onto the structure itself. I’ll share more about that experience later. Stay tuned.
I realize that fog might be an odd thing to love, since most people seem to think of it as a weather inconvenience, a hindrance to an otherwise lovely day. But not me. The first things I do every morning are come downstairs, feed Nika, and look out our west windows to see if the city lights in the distance are visible, and I always hope that they are not. I love photographing in the fog. I have mental bookmarks of places to visit with my camera in the fog. But fog in our locality of the Loess Hills is uncommon, so I rarely have the chance. There’s just something mystical about fog. It’s secretive, deceptive, mysterious. It mandates myopia, immediacy. It asks questions, yields few answers, and I love that dynamic in photographs. The narrative always starts clearly enough but fades with distance, dissolving into shapes, discolorations, suggestions of form, eventually becoming gray nothingness.
As I explained in my introductory post, South Padre Island was shrouded in fog for much of our visit, so many of the photographs I brought home are of the foggy sort. My first morning on the island, I drove north to see what I could find, but very little was visible beyond the road, so I eventually made my way back south toward the causeway between Port Isabel and South Padre and spent the rest of the morning there with the seagulls, photographing alongside the bridge and the fishermen’s boardwalk. I’ll share several images from that morning over the next few days, starting with this one.