How I Got the Shot: Foggy Middle Saranac Paddle


Photograph by Mark Bowie


Adirondack guide Griz Caudle canoeing in fog, Middle Saranac Lake

Exposure Data:
1/80 second, f/9, ISO 100
Nikon D7000, Nikkor 18-70mm lens set at 27mm.

As cool September air decends on summer-warmed Adirondack waters, it generates fog. The fog can take hours to burn off, and during that time offers some of the finest conditions to produce images with mood and atmosphere. My friend Griz Caudle and I launched our canoes in 5 a.m. darkness from South Creek and paddled for Middle Saranac Lake. As we reached the lake, the fog thickened, casting a veil over nearby islands and obliterating the majority of the lake from view. After exploring the islands we paddled towards the middle. The fog encapsulated us; we couldn’t see twenty feet past us in any direction. Nothing but fog and water. We felt literally like sitting ducks, hoping a motor boat wouldn’t come careening towards us.  

With the rising sun the fog slowly lifted. Shorelines and more islands materialized. We circumnavigated the east side of the lake, then headed back towards the islands near the mouth of South Creek. I made the above image as Griz glided into the oval formed by a rounded island and its reflection, and the wider oval of the lit fog and its reflection. This concentric framing is a subtle compositional element but an impactful one. The arching fog leads your eye to the distant island. Note too the strong diagonal from the dark shore at left, to Griz and the rounded island, and onwards to the distant island. His canoe parallels that diagonal. The lightening shapes, from left to right, imply distance. Shooting from my boat, I followed the general rule for achieving sharp images while shooting handheld: shoot at a shutter speed of at least 1/focal length of the lens. With my lens set at 27mm focal length, I needed to shoot at at least 1/27 second to maintain sharpness. I figured my boat wasn’t completely still, so I shot even faster: 1/80 second. As the far island came out of the mist it surprised Griz and he pointed towards it. I timed my shot perfectly; a poignant moment to cap a wonderful composition. 

Mark Bowie and fellow Adirondack Photography Institute instructors Joe LeFevre and Johnathan Esper join Adirondack Life staff for the Weekend with Adirondack Life photo workshop in Lake Placid September 19th-21st. Mark and Institute director John Radigan will lead their annual photographic retreat September 21st-26th, and Mark and Johnathan will take participants on a photographic tour of the Long and Schroon Lake areas with their Adirondack Peak Fall Foliage workshop September 28th-October 2nd. For more information on API events visit For more on Mark’s work, visit his website:


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