07.31.22: Fog on SF Bay

There are a lot of things I like about this photograph. The large amount of negative space (the area surrounding the main subject in a photo that is left unoccupied) creates a minimalistic feel that appeals to me. There's a sense of loneliness or isolation that's created by the fog.

Can’t stop fog so I found a way to use it

Fog can seriously limit opportunities for a photographer. You have to get close to the subject to capture detail and color in a photo on a foggy day. Otherwise the fog mutes color and obscures detail.

But the effect of fog can also improve a scene. That's what I was looking for in San Francisco when I saw the fog and cloud cover over San Francisco Bay one morning when I was in the city on business.

I had some free time that day so I walked along the Embarcadero, the eastern waterfront along the bay. I was hoping to find a scene that would work well with the fog, something that didn’t require bright color to make it interesting. I found several spots with pilings in the water, but pilings against fog and white sky reflected by the water made a boring photo.

Then I found this scene. The pilings in the foreground provided a focal point for the image and their reflection in the water enhanced the foreground. The ship anchored on the horizon, somewhat obscured by the fog, provided depth, as did the reflections off the ripples in the foreground. Seagulls would occasionally fly past. I knew I could use that to help break up the monotone sky a bit. So I framed the image the way I wanted and waited for a seagull to come into the right side of viewfinder before I shot (I wanted the bird on the right to help provide balance).

There are a lot of things I like about this photograph. The large amount of negative space (the area surrounding the main subject in a photo that is left unoccupied) creates a minimalistic feel that appeals to me. There's a sense of loneliness or isolation that's created by the fog.

And this is still a color image. I tried converting it to black-and-white, since there are no color elements in the scene. But I couldn’t replicate the subtle gray tones and contrast in black-and-white that I see in this version so I left it alone.

I shot both horizontal and vertical versions of the scene and I’ve used both. At times I prefer the horizontal. At other times I prefer the vertical used here.

A lot of people really like the photos. Others find them boring. But I shoot for me and I like them. Guess that's all that matters.

Pilings in foggy San Francisco Bay, a ship anchored on the horizon and a lone seagull, near Pier 30, San Francisco.

Pilings in foggy San Francisco Bay, a ship anchored on the horizon and a lone seagull, near Pier 30, San Francisco.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Apr 2, 2008 12:52 PM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 40D
  • Lens: EF28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM 
  • Focal length: 95mm
  • Aperture: f/16
  • Shutter: 1/125 second
  • ISO: 100

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