Rare Fogbow Forms Next to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge

And it was photographed by the same San Francisco-based photographer who captured one last year. And it’s just as awe-inspiring as the first.

It’s summertime in San Francisco — which means we will continue to rotate between sunny days dripping with blue skies and evenings cloaked by dense fog. That aforenoted atmospheric haze tends to linger well into the morning, sometimes inching into the early afternoon hours. (As of late, Karl The Fog has been hanging and vibing and living his best life quite low to the ground.)


On rare occasions when sunlight *perfectly* refracts off the water droplets trapped in our personified atmospheric anomaly, a “fogbow,” also known as a “ghost rainbow,” will appear. Stuart Berman managed to capture one with his smartphone in October of last year; we wrote about it in glowingly Pantones.

Well, as universal alignment would happen, Berman found himself in the right place and the right time over the weekend again — managing to trap lightning in a bottle twice… or in this case rather, evidence of another ghost rainbow in San Francisco.

“I was up hiking in the Headlands Saturday and just watching the fog dance around the bridge and taking photos as usual,” Berman tells Underscore before describing the serendipitous nature of how he snapped yet another fogbow. “At some point, I shot a panorama and looked at how it came out and noticed the fogbow. I was so excited to see it, I hopped up on the cement barrier in front of me to get a better picture of it, and that’s when I realized that the silhouette in the center was me.”

Akin to how a rainbow is created, a fogbow is a collection of small water droplets that bounce incoming light off at specific angles, capable of separating certain wavelengths and creating a mind-bending visual. 

Fogbows lack the deep colors of rainbows; this is why they’re sometimes called “white rainbows,” “cloudbows,” or “ghost rainbows.” Just like how rainbows appear when the air is filled with raindrops, fogbows occur in much the same way; they, too, are always opposite the sun. A specific difference between rainbows and fogbows, however, is that larger raindrops inside fogs (or clouds, for that matter) are needed to birth fogbows, while rainbows require smaller rain droplets and clearer skies.

The angle to perfectly photograph the fogbow proved tricky; Berman noted that if he got back down from the cement wall, it disappeared… but if he got back up on it, it reappeared. 

Moreover: This fogbow appears in front of the Golden Gate Bridge — something truly, unmistakably magical. “I was blown away,” he waxes.

We, too, are blown away. Here’s to warmer weather and more IRL optical phenomenon to come this summer.

You can find Berman’s photos on Instagram at [at]stuinsf; he also sells prints of his work at stubermanphotography.com.

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