Fog is where you find it

It is a rainy day in East Tennessee today. I don’t remember the last time is rained here (I was probably out of town). The remnants of Hurricane Nate are slowing moving northeast up the Tennessee Valley. So far, it has been a slow, steady drizzle all day. The wind is supposed to pick up later this evening as the heart of the storm passes through. I’m not expecting anything major, but the rain is much needed. I can sense the trees around my house soaking up the moisture with a sigh of relief.

Yesterday morning I wrestled myself out of bed at 5:00 am to meet my friend Bill at the Foothills Parkway for some sunrise photography. The evening before was clear, the low temperature was predicted to fall below the dew point, and there was no wind expected at dawn. In other words, perfect conditions for fog! There is nothing better than the Foothills Parkway when the fog is just right. But when the alarm suddenly triggered my phone into a battle cry, my attention was drawn more to the fog in my head than to the fog in the Foothills. That second cocktail I had enjoyed the evening before did not seem like such a good idea as I strangled the life out of my phone. I considered bailing, but I had made a commitment to Bill, so unpeeled my tongue from the roof of my mouth, dressed, made a cup of the sacred sacrament I call cappuccino, and headed out.

I have driven to the Foothills Parkway in the predawn darkness so many times I cannot count them. I have several checkpoints along the way to verify the fact that fog is present in the general area: the Tennessee River near Topside Road, Alcoa Highway near the airport, Highway 321 outside Maryville. I have learned that fog at any of these locations usually bodes well for fog along Foothills Parkway. So I was a little concerned when all three locations came up blank on the fog meter. Crystal clear. Hmmm, maybe I was wrong. No, I had checked the weather a mere five hours ago. Dew point, temperature, calm winds: there just had to be fog at Foothills! The cappuccino long gone at this point, I had no choice but to push on.

I arrived at the first parking lot along Foothills Parkway about 30 minutes before sunrise to find Bill waiting for me. We exchanged greetings and I stared into the twilight abyss in the direction of the Foothills. I immediately saw that the fog did not get the invitation to our party. So much for dew points, and temperatures, and predictions. Fog has a mind of its own sometimes. Not to worry, I thought, I still had the lingering fog in my head to keep me company.

It was mostly clear overhead, and I could see a thick band of clouds hovering over the mountaintops to the south. Great, I thought, not only would we not have any fog, but the clouds were so thick that there could not possibly be any sunrise colors. Sure enough, as the time for sunrise came and went, only a hint of some color resembling sunrise revealed itself. Thoughts of my comfortable bed began to pierce the fog in my head. I didn’t know which is worse: a foggy brain or the longing for my pillows!

As fate would have it, and as Bill and I stood there wondering what to do, the clouds covering the sun began to thin. If only the clouds continued to thin as the sun gained elevation, we might just see some beautiful shafts of light shine through to illuminate the foothills. It was on both of our minds, but neither of us said anything for a while. We lingered. Meteorologists call these shafts of light crepuscular rays. Photographers call them God rays. Whatever you call them, they slowly began to fill the valley at our feet with some of the most amazing light I’ve seen in a while. The small talk immediately ended and the shutters began to click.

This image is one of many from yesterday morning. And remember, fog is where you find it!


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