Fog, Tree, And Pond. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 30, 2018. © Copyright 2018 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
A tree reflected in a wetland pond in dawn tule fog, San Joaquin Valley
I love fog, and I especially love the thick and mysterious tule fog of California’s Central Valley — comprised of the northern Sacramento Valley and the southern San Joaquin Valley, and draining to the Pacific Ocean via San Francisco Bay. This fog is mostly a winter thing, when the moisture rises from the ground, farmland, and ponds as the temperature drops at night. It often reaches its peak in the early morning, just after dawn. (It also creates some very challenging driving conditions — so bad that lots of people simply try to avoid them.)
If you stop and get out of your car, the world of tule fog is quiet and mysterious and still. Your universe closes down to a radius of perhaps a couple hundred feet or less, and you can sense as much about your surroundings by sound as you can by vision — you might hear but not see a flock of crane passing overhead. Surprising to some who are new to these conditions, while the tule fog is incredibly dense, it is often astonishingly shallow. On occasion I have seen conditions so bad that it was almost impossible to drive… but I could look up and see clouds in the sky overhead. The tops of trees and utility poles might poke out of the top of the fog layer. This, of course, can produce some very special light, since this thick fog may also be intensely illuminated by that overhead sky and sun, to the point that at times it can almost hurt to look into the brightness. Those were not the conditions when I made this photograph, but the astonishing blue color (which I actually had to tone down a bit in post) is the result of the glowing fog picking up the color of the blue morning sky.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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