“Early Morning on the Saluda” is along the Saluda River near Columbia. South Carolina Electric and Gas assigned me to photograph a feature article on our local river environment. My task was simple; obtain a dynamic photograph to show the beauty of the Saluda.
The Saluda and Broad Rivers converge within the city limits of Columbia. Over the years, I photographed kayakers, trout fishermen, spider lilies, and early mornings along these rivers. The Saluda is a cold-water river whose headquarters start in North Carolina. This cold water river often is a developing area for fog in warmer weather. I planned to take advantage of this on my assignment.
“Early Morning on the Saluda was taken in late May. Columbia was under a high pressure weather system with calm winds. This was a perfect time of year for warm air wafting over a cold-water river. There would be a good opportunity for this temperature contrast to produce early morning fog. Arriving at the river before dawn, I gave myself an opportunity to scout the river for suitable photographic spots. Being careful not to fall in, I often left the trail beside the river in search of photos. Over the years I’ve dunked almost every camera I owned in either a lake, pond, or river. My digital camera is too expensive for such adventures. I was in search of an area where I would stay dry and set up my tripod and camera.
When I found a dry spot for photos I then checked the river’s makeup to see if all the elements blend together for a photo. I was in search of rocks in the river, sunrise coming through fog, and a near-far aspect compositionally. Some locations offered me two out of three elements I desired. There were plenty of spots where the rocks and fog came together, but the near-far aspect was missing. What do I mean by near-far? It is when the photographer can frame the photo with an element near to the camera contrasted with an elements further away from the camera. This near-far effect gives a photo tremendous depth and dimension. I kept walking on.
I found a spot where the rocks formed a small cascade close to the camera. It was just off the ledge of a dry rock shelf. Enough rocks were present in the river and there was a growing cloud of fog over the river; this might be the spot. Setting up my camera and composition, I waited on the sun to rise higher in the sky to give the beam of light a stronger downward angle. I needed to wait ten more minutes.
I don’t know which instincts of man are the strongest. As I was waiting for the sun to burst through the fog and trees, a feeling come over me that someone is watching what I am doing. I knew it wasn’t my friend Jay Browne who was along with me on this photo shoot because Jay was photographing further upriver. Something told me to turn around. When I turned around I sort of snickered. Staring at me were three solid black pigs standing in a small clearing. I never thought in a million years I would see wild pigs within the city limits of Columbia. These three pigs needed to be photographed! I slowly turned my camera mounted on a tripod toward the pigs. In unison they bolted quickly and I laughed at their speedy retreat. I guess they never expected to see a human along the river at such a crazy hour.
Time to get back to the assignment. In five more minutes, the sun broke through the trees in a perfect sun-beam. All the elements I needed came together for the photo. Using a slow shutter speed, the water’s surface took on a smooth blur and the fog through the trees highlighted the river. Looking at this photo brings a certain peace of mind to me, but then again I can’t help but think about those three wild pigs. The perfect “beauty and the beasts” in reality.