September 9, 2008 Crazy Fog Bows and Above the Fog near Pisgah Iowa

Forecasted lows in the upper 30s, .25 - .50 inch of rain the day before, clear skies, crops still in the ground, early September, light winds......spelled great low fog outing to me! So I decided to make a huge outing of this. I went to bed around 10pm, which is tough for me, though getting easier after these last several 4 a.m. average wake ups. I set my alarm for 1:30 a.m. That's right, 1:30, lol. I thought fog would form fast and early. I wanted to get into Omaha and get some shots there, then head back north to Pisgah Iowa or Murray Hill again. I thought I could hit up the Harras' Casino parking garage and get shots of Omaha in the fog with stars from there.

This was the plan anyway. I get up at 1:30, actually 1:26 thanks to cops screaming by my apartment. I'm shocked at how I get up before very early alarms all the time! I don't get how it works. If I don't set it, I'll sleep till 9:30 to 11:30. I go to sleep late late normally. If I set it for really early, something always wakes me up right before my alarm.

I get up, look at obs and am a little discouraged at where temps are at this point. Humidity seemed near 100% in enough locations though. So I head out at 3:00 a.m. and am shocked at what hits me as I step outside. Wind. Wind???? Why is there wind. A good 10 mph wind. Not good. Obs didn't show that everywhere though, or hardly anywhere. I go and get gas, noting the big flag there. It was windy enough the flag was being held out from time to time. Wind, like clouds, kills falling temps. In town it did not feel that cold.

I get into Iowa, it felt colder, but not much fog yet. Then I get further in and hit thick fog near Missouri Valley. I then exit it a little. What to do. I didn't want to waste nightlight...or would that be called nightdark(opposite of daylight)....hmmmmm. I questioned the amount of fog near downtown if there was none in Blair and hardly any in the flats. I was very torn on to head south or north now. I went by the south ramp and opted north, but then drive by the north one, I was that unsure of where I was going by then. I don't spend much time on making decisions in "chasing". I don't want to waste time, so I just decide. It often bites me later(especially on storms). I flip around and do take the north ramp onto I29.

I wasn't in much fog the whole way up there, which continued to worry me. This night seemed like such a "lock" too, but damn it, those always seem to fail, lol. The one thing I knew for sure, the area near Pisgah will get low fog when the flats along the Missouri fail too. So, I opted for back there. The one thought was, well if it is less than the other morning, perhaps that hill north of Pisgah will be above their fog this time.

I messed around in Pisgah at that one park again, then went north of town. As I drove by some street lights by a construction area, I noticed what I thought could have been a weak fog bow from the light. I go slow through there, head out the window looking around and see it. I messed around with that some, then headed to check out the hill real quick, since it was only a mile from there. When I did that, a car drove towards me. I turn on the gravel and watch south as the car drives by, heading south. Before it gets to me, I see a really bright halo for a moment. This is looking away from that car, not at it. I was like, crap, that was big and bright!

So, I pull onto that gravel road, park, get out, and walk ahead of my car to see if I could see anything in my own headlights. About 50 yards ahead of my car I see this! If you were sitting in my car, you would see NO sign of anything like this out ahead of you. If you were where I am now and looked towards my car, you'd see NO sign of a fog bow either, even if you walk further down there and look back. You have to be a certain distance away from the light source and looking away from it. It's literally as bright to your eyes as this is above. It's really damn cool. You can see the stars above. What was extra strange was the bright light down the road in the middle of it. It looked like a car was coming down the road in the fog. It was bright to look at. Problem is, there was nothing down there! Somehow my head lights are reflecting backwards out there. You can see my tripod's shadow in the middle of the road, two of them actually. My left headlight is pointed up and right of where it should be. Hell, it being pointed too high might have helped in the brightness of this fog bow/fog halo. I'm not certain, but I don't think I had my high beams on yet.

I had to go back to the highway and play with the street light ones. The street light is behind the camera about 50 yards and on the right side. Why I never drove through some of these shots is beyond me now! Damn it! I have no clue if this happens with general fog as well or not. I know the fog droplet size matters.

Parking lights are on. There wasn't a great deal of lead time to oncoming cars here, thanks to some noisy machine idling at the construction behind me. That and you wouldn't see head lights through this fog till they were close. The fog might not seem really thick because of the stars, but keep in mind, seeing the stars is only looking up through 100 feet or less of fog. 100 feet of fog horizontal on the ground isn't that far away. You obviously look through a lot more of it on the horizontal.

Had to go back to the road, this time with the high beams. It wasn't just a bow, but a full halo.

The crappy part about this is that you have to stand in your headlights about 50 yards from your car to see it. If you look towards your car you can't see much for surroundings thanks to the bright light in fog. Well, at one point I'm standing here, taking these longer exposures, when something big rustles the corn stalks RIGHT next to me. See ya! That sucked.

This would be fun with another person to help out. Give them a mondo flood light and see what one could do. That and have them drive through the fog bow/halo with another car.

In a sense these are highly elusive and very interesting. Simply consider how amazingly obvious they are and how they stand out in the night sky. Yet think of just how rare it will be to naturally happen onto one. And for all I know, they could be more common with certain types of fog water droplet size...so more rare in that sense. But to see one, you aren't going to driving down a highway looking at oncoming cars. You'd need a car behind you just the right distance. And even then I'm not sure what your own headlights would do to the scene. They could dampen it some I imagine, by adding more light right there from a different closer angle. Maybe the time I was sure I was seeing one on the interstate, I was going by a lit up area. I am just not certain why I thought I was seeing that one. If you are near traffic in fog, you could see one as a car goes by, but for one it would be very brief, and you'd need to not be watching the car coming at you. I don't know, I just find them cool this way, so amazing to look at and so overly obvious, yet the spot to see them isn't one you are going to be in much or often.

Next time you get fog, test it out. I know I am! Park the car and start walking out in front of it a ways. I'm not great on guessing distances, but it seemed like it had to be around 50 yards out from the headlights. And then once you see it, there's only so much distance it is really bright in. Walk another 20 yards and you probably won't see it anymore. The fog matters too obviously. I could see the thing changing on the highway as the fog amount changed.

This was the scene I was looking for from that hill. I was getting side tracked by the darn fog bow/halo discovery down below though! I took this one picture after a very under exposed one of it. This one was under exposed too. I never gave it enough "ooomph"(shutter or ISO). Those aren't cities down there, just lights at either a house or on the highway. What was strange was how much that light was beaming outward, up and to the right into the night sky. If I only had a moon to help light this up!

I almost forgot. Read this on spaceweather.com earlier and it reminded me. I drove up there at 3 a.m., which is 8 UTC. I thought I saw a bright light in my window, but blew it off. I then saw another, but figured it was just street lights glancing off something on my window. I then saw it again. It was driving me nuts. Then I saw another, and this time knew it was a shooting star. I then saw many many more. I was thinking, what the hell is going on. They were a bit strange. They all seemed to be at very low angles in the sky, very short, yet very bright. Turns out there was some fireball outburst which started at 6:20 UTC, or 1:20 a.m. and lasted 4 hours. So I was seeing that from 3 onward.

Another thing of interest, other than the cool fog, were the colors of the Kasatochi volcanic ash still in the sky. There have been many reports of these showing up at sunset and sunrise, and is expected to continue. I'm normally a skeptic first, and figured most of what I'd seen was normal sunset colors. I'm less skeptic in this case and another. The problem is, there were no cirrus clouds. But during those reds and yellows, you could see what looked like cirrus in there. They very obviously looked like clouds. Sun comes up and voila, you see no cirrus. It was/is ash. Kind of cool. It was very obvious this morning. Exposing mostly for the still dimly lit fog, sort of kills the more yellow region of the ash.

There is my creature/monster of Pisgah that I mentioned in the account from the 6th up here, 3 mornings ago. That is what I was seeing from my car, that branch thing in the center of the image. Right next to that to the right it drops straight down about 15 feet, to the gravel road where I had my car parked. That is what was standing there looking at me in the dark that morning, lol. It was driving me nuts.

It's 38 degrees out and I'm soaked. Some of this grass is as tall as I am. It was completely wet with dew. From my waist down, my pants were wet like I'd jumped into a lake. I'm not stretching that at all either. That is exactly how wet they were. Each time I'd step, water would squoosh out of my shoes and socks. I got just a smidge cold because of all this. The scene ruled though.

Fog bow craziness, a lake of fog below from this hill, Kasatochi volcanic ash making the sunrise red and yellow, and a meteor outburst on the way up...well I guess it was quite worth waking up at 1:30 a.m. to experience and photograph....and even being completely soaked over in upper 30F air.

Some more info about the ash colored sunsets on spaceweather.com here...(or any number of the archive days after that one).

I should have taken some close ups of the grass. You can see how wet it was in some of these. What you can't see are the huge numbers of spider webs and spiders. I walked up here before it was light enough to see them. I had to end up with a hundred spiders on me, lol.

I believe I tested out the highlight tone priority function on the new Canon XSi on this one. I wasn't too thrilled with what I was seeing, but didn't expect to be. It does seem like maybe it does something. Interestingly enough it changes the ISO to 200 or higher. So it sort of sucks, if you turn it off, don't forget to change the ISO back to 100 if you were using that.

Sunrise over fog is usually exceptionally annoying to photograph. To much dynamic range, it just doesn't photograph terribly well. I had to open up the shadows in this one a loooong way.

One of the most exciting moments out of this whole little trip was finding I DID have a pair of extra jeans in my back seat still. That and an extra pair of shoes and socks in the trunk. They were both in there because I normally wear shorts and sandals, and figure I need more than that on some early outings. It's no fun being that wet. It amazes me how water on grass can quickly 100% soak jeans. At first I thought, oh I'm going to get a little wet marching up this hill. Then I quickly realized, no, I'm looking like I've just gone for a swim in these clothes. "Oh well!" and march onward. There was no shorter grass route up there either. Oh yeah, forgot this too. When I first decided to walk up that hill, I only wanted over the fence to get shots without the road. Not long after I do so, the fog level climbs and climbs. I was like, crap, gotta move higher.