These “ghost rainbows” are hella uncommon, but, if you can see one, you’ll never forget it.
Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure to collaborate with Bay Area-based shutterbug Stuart Berman on many pieces of content. It’s rare that your digital paths cross with someone who so innately has their finger on the pulse of the Bay Area — and can capture those throbs with immaculate execution.
This past weekend, Karl The Fog was in full force and embraced his winter thickness. The Bay Area’s famous atmospheric haze sucks around well into the afternoon and early evening, causing delays in Fleet Week’s bemoaned air shows — and outright canceling the event’s final series of jet acrobatics. But what also transpired as a result of this unusually dense fog coverage was a “fogbow” captured by Berman while he was out on a hike in the Marin Headlands.
And it was all a v, v (v) happy mistake.
Yesterday morning, I went for a walk in the Marin Headlands and saw a sight unlike any I'd seen before… A "Fogbow" or "white rainbow". See https://t.co/Khu8Bu97po for more info. @zimpix @hknightsf @peterhartlaub @RobMayeda @SFGate #totalsf #CAwx pic.twitter.com/jJv95op709
— Stuart Berman (@QuakesFanStu) October 9, 2022
“I have said many times that some of my best photos are accidents,” Berman tells Undersocre_SF. “This shot of the fogbow was no different.”
With a friend in town visiting, the pair wanted to go for a hike Saturday. It was his sister’s birthday — “Happy Birthday, Karen!” — and Berman had plans with her that afternoon. Berman and his friend hoped to be able to summit the top of the Golden Gate Bridge towers above the fog, but, in Berman’s words, “it wasn’t meant to be.”
“We parked at Hawk Hill and decided to walk the final little bit to the observation area,” he continues, before going into his happenstance encounter with the fogbow. “When we got up there, I was blown away by the sight of the fogbow, the first I’d ever seen. Given that fogbows, like rainbows, appear directly opposite the sun, we never would have seen it had we not climbed to the spot where we had that 360-degree view.”
Like a rainbow, a fogbow is made up of small droplets of water that refract incoming light, capable of separating certain wavelengths and creating a mind-bending visual. However, fogbows lack the vibrant colors of rainbows; this is why they’re sometimes called “white rainbows,” “cloudbows,” or ghost rainbows. They’re made much as rainbows are, from the same configuration of sunlight and moisture. Much like how rainbows happen when the air is filled with raindrops, fogbows are much the same, always opposite the sun. However, fogbows are caused by the small droplets inside a fog or cloud rather than larger raindrops.
Berman didn’t shoot this magnetic still with any special equipment, either — “I shot it on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra), the same as pretty much every shot I share on social media.”
For us, this snapshot exists as an example that Mother Nature contains multitudes; she’s gorgeous at every corner of this planet. And, per Berman, even on a “cold, windy, foggy day in the Bay Area, she showed me something I’d never seen before.”
Big same, big same.
You can find Berman’s photos on Instagram at [at]stuinsf; he also sells prints of his work at stubermanphotography.com.
How very, very awesome! Never saw a fogbow before! 👍