Friday, 8 January 2016

(Sea) Smoke on the Water

While I dread the cold temperatures every winter, I do look forward to the opportunity to photograph Halifax Harbour covered in sea smoke - all the better if ships are present. I got that opportunity this week, and lucked out in that it wasn't actually all that cold - we got sea smoke at a relatively balmy -12 degrees C when I expect to see it at -17 or below. On a side note, this probably means that the water in the harbour was warmer than normal for this time of year.

A photo that I have always been fond of is one of the old Foundation Maritime steam tug Banscot. Probably taken in the 1940s, Banscot is just appearing out of a fog of sea smoke on a cold day in Halifax. 

Banscot. Wetmore Photo, BFC Civil collection.
The sea smoke nicely isolates the tug from the Dartmouth shore in the background, and gives a ghostly feel to the image. I always want to capture some of this image's magic when I see appropriate conditions on the harbour.

As luck would have it, CCGS Cape Roger was on her way in during my trip to work this week, and I was able to get photos from the Halifax waterfront. It is one of my more successful series of sea smoke images.

CCGS Cape Roger passing the George's Island lighthouse in sea smoke.
CCGS Cape Roger.
CCGS Cape Roger.
The first two images were fairly monochromatic out of the camera, being shot into the sun, so I converted them to black & white. The last image showed enough red of the hull that I left it in colour.

HMCS FREDERICTON was departing that same day for deployment on Op Reassurance, but unfortunately not until 1300, so I wasn't able to combine a frigate and sea smoke - not this week, at least. I have managed it in years past, however, like with this shot last year of HMCS HALIFAX:

Ten years previous, I caught HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN as she returned to Halifax, caked in frozen sea spray.

A month later in February 2005, I was similarly lucky to catch Eide Transporter as she delivered the fire-damaged HMCS CHICOUTIMI to Halifax. At the time, I lived in an apartment building and had a balcony that overlooked the harbour narrows. The sea smoke was particularly heavy (and high off the water) that morning, and Eide Transporter and her cargo appeared out of the mist north of the Macdonald Bridge and disappeared once again into a thick bank of sea smoke as she passed under the McKay Bridge on her way into Bedford Basin. I was lucky to have seen her at all.

Eide Transporter and HMCS CHICOUTIMI.
Many years previous to this, somewhere in the 1970s, my grandfather captured this image of a ST. LAURENT class destroyer heading out of the harbour.

ST. LAURENT class destroyer in sea smoke. Sandy Mowat photo.
The powerplant in the background is now, after many renovations, the new Nova Scotia Power headquarters on the Halifax waterfront.

Over the years, I have managed to catch a variety of ships in a variety of sea smoke conditions:

IT Intrepid in January 2008.

Georgia S.


Chebucto Pilot.
Sea smoke also enlivens conventional landscape (or seascape) photography as well.

George's Island.
Macdonald Bridge, January 2007.
A couple of ships did manage to sneak their way into the final above image. The former HMC Ships TERRA NOVA and GATINEAU appear at left at the old gun wharf. They, along with the hammerhead crane beside them, have since been cut up and dismantled. While again shot into the sun, this image was converted to black & white for a different reason than the images commented on above - in this case, shooting into the sun resulted in some lens flare in the top left of the image that I found distracting. It was going to be too difficult to edit out the flare, so I converted to black & white in order to be able to hide the colours of the flare. Overall, I think I like the image better in black & white anyway, so it all worked out in the end.

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