Fog

I live in Point Reyes where coastal fog is a frequent companion. It arrives at any time of year, but appears especially during the first and last hours of daylight. At first, I tried to avoid it as I sought my photographic compositions. Gradually, though, as I continued to photograph the landscape, I became drawn to the fog. Now, I welcome it into my work.

When I began photographing the landscape I sought maximum clarity and sharpness for my compositions. Typically, I’d look for a clear atmosphere to portray long views with maximum detail. I was enamored of Ansel Adams’ incredible Yosemite masterpieces. Adams, a maestro of depth of field, had achieved meticulous details in his stunning photographs. Early on, I must have somehow missed or passed by the several excellent images he produced that featured mists and fogs. Because I was blind to the virtues of fog, I single-mindedly waited for very clear days to make many of my earliest landscapes.

After not too long a period of time,  I began to let fog enter my own compositions. At first, I found moments that incorporated fog and brilliant light in the same view. Examples are Lightpool, Morning Light, Mount Tamalpais, and Fog Blankets Bolinas. These first photographs are less about mystery and more about majesty. Dramatic in scope, they reveal fog and brilliant light at once.

Then, one early morning in February, 1997, as I drove past Nicasio Reservoir, a dissipating fog over the water was creating a mysteriously beautiful landscape. As I scanned the partially-hidden forms from roadside, I noticed that the fog, by obscuring familiar details, highlighted others, creating a  world I had never seen before! What previously seemed ordinary took on an aura of enchantment. The fog opened up new possibilities.  I was hooked! I came back the next morning and made the photograph Reappearance. Over several mornings, during the same window of fog, I also photographed Radiance and Soft Morning Fog

Flash forward to a more recent series of foggy mornings in late October and early November 2017. Early morning walks in the Giacomini Wetlands near Point Reyes Station inspired me to gather my camera as I explored the newly created views. October Morning Walk #55, shown below, is one of several images made during those mornings. They inspired and are featured in my book One Place Deeply. You’ll find more of my best fog photographs here: Fog Collection.

I love the mystery of the fog and how it creates layers in the landscape. In Point Reyes I feel fortunate to have these opportunities to photograph it.

Predicting and Planning Your Moon Photographs

My earliest moon photographs, shot on film, were planned using astronomical prediction tables, a large map, a protractor and a compass. And although I usually ended up in the right place at the right time, the preparation was arduous––even tedious. Then one day a photographer friend told me about Photoephemeris.Com/Web, an online application that I could use to plug in locations and dates to find everything I needed about the moon and sun’s appearances above the horizon—anytime and anywhere on earth. 

Since that time, over ten years ago, Stephen Trainor has greatly improved his already excellent application. I will demonstrate several methods to use the app to predict and plan for photographing the full moon during a Zoom class this March, 2021. (Date and time to be decided) The presentation will also include valuable tips on exposure and equipment, with time for group questions and discussion. The link for registrations will be announced shortly in an upcoming Marty Knapp News email. Compliments of Mr. Trainor, registrants will receive a 40% discount coupon code for subscription to the Pro Version of the application. As far as I’m concerned, the Pro version is indispensable!

To be alerted to the details of this event, please contact me at classes@martyknapp.com.  In the meantime check out the examples I made for a recent moonrise prediction and photograph using the Photo Ephemeris web app.

Five Steps to Successful Planning of a Full Moon Photograph

Click on images for larger renderings

1. Make a daytime study photograph of target location:


2. In Photo Ephemeris, satellite view, verify location:


3. In Photo Ephemeris, topo map, check bearings, elevation of moonrise:


4. Create prediction photo using data obtained from Photo Ephemeris:


5. Arrive at destination on date & time selected to photograph the moon!

Dune and Clouds, Kehoe Beach

It’s the calm before the storm in Point Reyes today,Tuesday,  January 26, early afternoon. We’re hunkered down and prepared for high winds and plenty of rain… perhaps even coastal flooding. I love tumultuous weather. It makes me feel closer, more connected to my family and neighbors during those forces we cannot control. And, I can’t help thinking about how magnificent the sky looks when the storm departs. Thinking about this, I remember an afternoon in February of 1998 that I ventured out to Kehoe Beach during the tail end of a storm.  I wrote about my experience and the photo I made that day in an essay titled “Dune and Clouds.” 

We landscape photographers want to be there, ready, when the light breaks. Often that means venturing out in stormy weather, getting cold and wet, maybe even slipping and falling on a wet trail. There’s something about coming up against an obstacle… a challenge and not turning back that can reap a reward. That’s exactly what happened for me one afternoon in February, over twenty years ago!

Dune and Clouds, Kehoe Beach

February 1998

There’s a tradition at our house. When I return from a photo expedition, Jean asks, “How’d it go?” If things went quite well, my answer is something like, “I got my feet wet,” or, “I slipped and fell.” This usually makes Jean smile. “Tell me about it, please,” she’ll say.

On a stormy day in 1998, I did slip and fall as I trekked out the trail to Kehoe Beach. It was raining, and an offshore gale was driving the last visitors from the beach. They passed me, bundled in their parkas, heads down against the wind. I made my way against the flow. I’m not fond of getting wet or muddy, so this was pushing my limit. I had my hood up, and my camera wore its own rain gear. I took my eyes off the slick trail for just a second, lost my footing, and landed hard on my knee and elbow, saving my camera from the mud. I gathered myself, checking to see if my body and my camera made it okay through this surprising event. All was well and I felt a glow of excited anticipation for what could come. 

I was pushing myself because I knew that right after tumultuous weather, the light, the sky, the beach-—everything—could be breathtaking. But I rarely ventured so dangerously far from the shelter of my car in weather this rough. I pushed on….

I trudged over the dunes and down onto the windswept beach. I stood still and scanned the horizon. Not a soul to be seen save a brave man and his joyful dog jogging well to the north. It looked as if the sun would soon make an appearance. If it did, I wanted to be in a good place to photograph. The wind still howled. I watched as the sun seemed to draw the waters in the ocean with it as it set—“Dune and Clouds, Kehoe Beach.”