Fog Bow

September, 2002  |  Bean Hollow State Beach, California

On Wednesday, September 18, 2002, I was taking pictures with a Toyo 45AX large format view camera, north of Santa Cruz, California, along State Route 1. The morning had been overcast with a blanket of fog covering the coast. I had a few free hours before a scheduled work meeting that day. I stopped and hiked out to Franklin Point.

The Toyo 45AX view camera is setup at Franklin Point, California.

My film of choice was Velvia, ISO 50, 4x5 inch sheet film in Fujifilm Quickload holders. The Quickload holders were a beautiful design which eliminated the challenges of loading your own film holders and trying keep light and dust from reaching the film.

In 1998 I purchased the view camera. It was a significant step up in equipment and cost (each shot was about $5.00 for the film and processing). The camera was larger, heavier, cost more, took longer to set up, and was more difficult to use, BUT, when everything came together the image quality was awesome.

After leaving Franklin Point, I continued driving north. Suddenly there was a fog bow to my left. I don’t remember ever seeing one before, but there it was, a rainbow without any color. I discovered later, that a white rainbow is caused because the fog’s very small water droplet size does not refract the sunlight into strong color separation.

Well, it looked great but nothing else right there looked very special, so I kept driving looking for a better composition. A fog bow is just like a rainbow in that it is seen opposite from the sun and it moves when you move, so you can “take it” with you to a better, more photogenic location.

A few minutes later I saw Bean Hollow State Beach. The curved beach was interesting and waves were breaking near the shore. It would work great if I could get the camera set up before it disappeared.

I knew I needed the very wide angle 75mm lens to capture the entire bow, and I used the preset infinite focus stop to eliminate the need to manually adjust the focus on the ground glass. Setting up a 4x5 camera is not a speedy procedure, but the Toyo AX45 design helped make it as fast as possible. The Fujifilm QuickLoad system also helped me take multiple shots faster.

Once I had captured a few images, I rechecked the composition and focus. I had already bracketed the exposures at 1/30th and 1/60th of a second, so I tried to capture some good looking waves in the foreground and background at the same time.

fog bow, bean beach, ocean, beach


This image is clearly the best composition of the five exposures. The fog bow, the curved beach, and any wave makes a good composition, but this wave in this last image gives energy to the entire scene.

The lesson is, take many variations of a scene whenever water is moving (even if it costs $5.00 a shot), because “small differences” in the water’s shape can really improve the overall composition.

Landscape photography often involves a search for interesting subjects. When you find something interesting, continue looking for ways to compose the foreground or background. Moving around will help you see other possibilities and will often result in a stronger image.

In this situation, the fogbow alone would not have been enough to create a powerful image. The beach with its interesting rocks and curved shape complemented the fogbow. The wave was the final unifying object, giving the image dynamic movement.

Only be careful, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes saw, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your children and your children’s children. Lest you lift up your eyes to the sky, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of the sky, you are drawn away and worship them, and serve them, which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole sky. Deuteronomy 4:9, 19