Above the Flow
Updated: May 16, 2019
There's something magical that happens during the summer months in the Bay. As the temperature rises, fog begins to build over the ocean and move ashore, pushing through the coastal mountains. Getting above the fog is where its real beauty lies, but finding the right place at the right time has its challenges.
Sometimes photography is just dumb luck, but sometimes to get that dumb luck a bit of planning can go a long way. Without question, if you're off to shoot fog, do your best to find a good resource for fog heights. Not being able to get up high enough or to not have the fog come inland enough can really put a damper on your trip.
Shutter speed is absolutely key when shooting fog. Like flowing water, increasing your exposure time will create silky waves of fog. This has its challenges though, as most compositions require long lenses. When the fog is really flowing, strong winds can blast your lens as your shutter stays open, making it critical to weigh your tripod down and do all you can to reduce camera shake. Too long of an exposure causes the definition of your waves to fade. Too short, and your waves will look like a skipping record.
If you want to see the fog roll and create those stunning waves, it's critical to find a location where the fog can roll over a couple of ridge lines. This is where that fog height comes into play. Not only do you need to find out the fog height, but you'll need to make sure the ridges it needs to get over aren't too high. Otherwise the ridge will block the fog and not allow it to roll.
While the fog comes in during the summer, the clouds disappear. So, if you're lucky enough to have both collide together, it can create dreamlike landscapes. One thing I often forget to do when out is to step aside and just appreciate the scene in front of me. I think sometimes we are more concerned about getting the shot than enjoying the moment. If you get flowing fog and clouds, do yourself a favor and take a moment to take it in.
A couple times throughout fog season, the fog deck drops really low and flows into the bay via the Golden Gate bridge. When it happens, it's pretty freakin' cool. The steel towers of the bridge stand tall above the fog creating such a cool intersection of humanity and nature.
When you make plans to head out, be prepared to chase the fog, and be prepared to get swallowed up by it as it can change at a moment's notice. But that's what makes it fun, right?
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