One January day not long ago I topped the pass above and just to the north of Mono Lake at sunrise and my heart sank. More than 2,000 miles into a scenic road trip up the California Coast, to Mount Shasta, then Portland, and then back down the Eastern Sierra, the photographic jewel of my journey was completely socked in with fog. I almost kept driving south toward Mammoth, but I had driven this far… When I got to the small road that takes one to the south tufas I turned off anyway, just to see what I could get.
At the parking lot I saw two shadows coming out of the fog with large sticks in their hands. As they got within about 10 yards, I saw they were photographers, a man and a woman, and the sticks were their tripods. They looked stunned, and not by me. I mean awestruck. With hope, I asked, “Do you think this fog will lift sometime today?” Both of them glanced at each other then looked at me and smiled. The man answered: “Yeah, probably, but believe me, you don’t want it to. You’ll see what I mean.” The woman just nodded over and over.
When I got to the shore I saw scenes that literally made me want to get down on my knees.
California is full of visual illusions, from cloud formations that appear ready to land and whisk you off into space, to a cool, sparkling lake in the middle of a flat, dry desert. Here, the fog, the lake, and what light was available were working together to create what can only be called “fogbows.” They cast an ethereal light around the scenes. I know they were not created by the lens, because when I looked with only my eyes, they were still there.
The photography lesson: Don’t give up. If you have taken the time to drive somewhere, go take a look, even if the conditions are not ideal.