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Dependable Fog

Feb 18

In In The Field at 4:57pm

There are certainties in the life of a photog, to be sure. Shoot, suffer, die. In my experience though, the arrival of fog has never been one of them. Except here, in San Francisco, which is why this city has become one of my favorite places to work or visit. Joe love fog. Fog make everything look nice.

You get fog here as certainly as you get water when you turn the tap. Early in the week, I was giddy with it, out on a beach, running around shooting stuff, and a bud who lives locally nodded approval. He said, “Yeah, Joe, it’s a rare condition you’re seeing here. Only happens 320 days a year.”

Not that chasing fog with a camera is super easy. It slips and slides, gets thick, prompting you to pull the car over and grab the gear, and by the time you do that, it vanishes. You stand there with your camera and realize those mysterious shapes that looked so compelling in the mist are actually a bunch of porta-potties at a construction site.

I chased fog the other day and failed, making do with half a picture literally at the edge of a mud filled construction area, angling the camera this way and that, trying to avoid the sea of crap both me and my subject were standing in. You know how we do when it’s not going well–angle the camera, tilt it back and forth, and try to find a comfortable, or even plausible crop that makes some picture sense. It worked out okay, but…..this morning, I went back to find the fog. At sunrise. (It’s easy to find here. There are signs everywhere–FOG THIS WAY.)


Ariel Ford, a lovely ballerina, dance teacher, and student, braved the early morning damp to clamber into the forest on pointe shoes. Light was simple. Elinchrom Quadra, strip light, c-stand, Drew. D3X, with 14-24. Made some frames I liked, which made me less grumpy about the other day. Thanked Ariel and she went off to class. Drew and I went off to Lisa’s Diner. You know how hungry you get after a sunrise shoot? Man, it wasn’t pretty.


More tk….

Mike says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Joe!!! Are you in SF for the Photoshop 20th?????

Mark says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm

You have a knack for finding ballerinas everywhere! Now let’s see some reportage from the Tenderloin, eh?

Give Nick’s Crispy Tacos my regards.

Otto Rascon says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm

What a beautiful portrait. I love the softness of the light and the playfulness of Ariel’s pose. Rock on!

Christine Krieg says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Dependable fog, that’s what we San Franciscans get even when we don’t want it. Lovely spot you found Joe. Looks familiar. Presidio? Lands End? Drew looks extremely enthusiastic. Is that in his job description? Excited about tonight’s Photoshop 20. Am one of the lucky ticket holders.

Scott Clark says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:09 pm

mmmm I love the fog. Love love the ballerina in the woods. Great Juxtaposition. Are these (the ballerinas) a personal project?

Stephen says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I had someone telling me you have all the time in the world when it comes to landscapes.
I just laughed and said “is that right?”

Ranger 9 says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Well, that’s ninety bucks’ worth of Gaynor Mindens in the bin…

…meanwhile, with all the other stuff you make Drew schlep around, you haven’t added a fog machine to the road kit?

Naqib/Qippy says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Very cool compositoon there and I can see a very familiar assistant too :) , hopefully can see you guys again in the next workshop in KL God Willingly

Lewis Coward says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm

what can I say man .. magnificent once again and really a motivator (for me of course!). Cheers Joe.

Matt Campbell says:

on February 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Hey Joe,

Come to Seattle we get Fog 367 days a year. :) Well maybe not 367, but 70-80% chance. There is certain areas that get it so bad you can’t see 10ft ahead. Lower Snoqualmie Valley.


Jacqueline McAbery says:

on February 18, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Having lived in SF I also appreciate the fog. This is a really beautiful shot! Where are these woods?

Natalie Armstrong says:

on February 18, 2010 at 6:23 pm

“Shoot what you love” – I take it you love ballerinas. So do I. Fab photo Joe. Love your work.

Max says:

on February 18, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Beautiful Joe. It looks like it’s out of Neverland.

michalfanta says:

on February 18, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Great inspiring blog post. Thank you for sharing.

Chris says:

on February 18, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Great shot, the light, the rich green and a ballerina, what could go wrong? Ah, is that poison ivy you are standing in?

Drew Gurian says:

on February 18, 2010 at 7:19 pm

We actually do have a fogger- but it ain’t the easiest thing to travel with.

Kris says:

on February 18, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Yes, Joe, I know how grumpy one is after a sunrise shoot. I was all packed up and leaving for a shoot at 5 a.m. this to shoot some Bank Execs at 7:30 this morning. Everything was made better by a stop at O’Rourke’s Diner (Middletown, CT) for a Polish Omelet.

james says:

on February 18, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Is that an Elinchrom strip?


Michael Wiesman says:

on February 18, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Likewise on the morning shoot hunger!

Beautiful soft light that matches the softness of the fog in the background. Nicely done.

Steve Perks says:

on February 18, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Fog is easy.
I usually just reverse my old diesel engined car into the woods and rev like hell for 15 minutes.
Got some great images of angry farmers with shotguns using this method.
Never seen a ballerina yet though.

WJvdR says:

on February 19, 2010 at 2:02 am

Poor Drew, being listed with the rest of the equipment.
Beautiful shots though…

Ban_D says:

on February 19, 2010 at 2:59 am

Great shots (nice and interesting concept with a ballerina in the forest!) – lucky to have fog almost on demand 😀

Radu says:

on February 19, 2010 at 3:20 am

Hi Drew,

At first I was wondering how could the Quadra adapter support the weight of such a large modifier. Then I realized it’s actually the EL-Strip (13×69″) indirect light that has it’s own support and the Quadra head is just mounted inside it.

Is my guess correct?

This probably makes the modifier bag heavier than the Quadra kit bag 😉

Looking forward to meeting you and Joe in Dubai next week!

Jose María Flores Zazo says:

on February 19, 2010 at 3:49 am


Thanks, I’m learning a lot with each entry on your blog.

Trevor says:

on February 19, 2010 at 4:40 am

Okay, I like this shot. Dependable fog,hmm…I like that shot. The fill light on the right makes it look more natural actually. :)

Fernando says:

on February 19, 2010 at 8:05 am

Fog. . . the beautiful, elusive fog. . .

As a photographer you are always capturing light, but when you are able to also capture atmosphere you have real magic.

Brian says:

on February 19, 2010 at 8:15 am

@Radu – I believe you are correct – it appears to be the EL Strip.

@Joe – Curious as to why you chose that specific modifier… any thoughts? I assume the vertical strip to provide the even light over her body vs a large square or 53″ octa. Would more spill have made that much difference? Or what would your second choice have been for those that drool over and are without the ELs.

… and can you bring some ballerinas to Santa Fe DLWS? :)

Mistie Mcdonld says:

on February 19, 2010 at 9:24 am

Wow Joe!!! That location is breathtaking! I’m such a sucker for ivy covered anything lol.I like the fact your lighting is rather simple & not a big ol production…
Great job as always!! That’s one I would definatly hang on my wall.

Andrew Livelsberger says:

on February 19, 2010 at 9:52 am

We don’t get fog in my neck of the woods often, so if I need it I have to break out the fog machine! Glad you were able to redeem the day ” the image got away”!

Ken Toney says:

on February 19, 2010 at 10:14 am

I could go out there for 45 days and that would be the clear 45.

Girish says:

on February 19, 2010 at 10:47 am

Ah fog, recently during winter in Pune, early morning I have seen some real nice fog. Enjoyed it totally. I wish I had traveled to a nearby hill station :)

Love to see more shots of the shoot, if possible for you to post it.

Great read and thanks for sharing the setup.

Brian Carey says:

on February 19, 2010 at 11:31 am

Lovely how fog can be used to create mood and atmosphere.

Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld says:

on February 19, 2010 at 11:34 am

Where DO all these lovely ballerinas come from, Joe? I love this shot–if she were wearing a red hooded cape, this image couldn’t look more fairytale-esque or haunting. Very, very nice! Was this one just for you, or on assignment? Nice!

Billy Mitchell says:

on February 19, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Joe, you are a smooth talker. Getting Ariel to show up dressed like that in chilly weather. You could have bought her breakfast.

Tim says:

on February 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm

k, now I want to see a Ballerina/fog shot of her discreetly exiting Porta-potty at aforementioned construction site. (Same pose and expression would be perfect.)

Chuck Mason says:

on February 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Great shot!
The fog makes for a great pic. I never got the chance to thank you for the (deserved ass chewing) advise you gave me from your vast knowledge at the portfolio review in Vegas. When you said senior pictures I though wtf do I want old people shots for; DUH! Now working on Seniors and yes weddings. Portraits stupid!!!
Thanks again, Chuck

Matt Campbell says:

on February 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Joe- great work.. I am always so so impressed. The link is the fog we get in our area.. 20 miles east of Seattle.

Not sure if this will come through.

Mark Holloway says:

on February 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Very very nice. A picture IS worth a thousand words.

Drew Gurian says:

on February 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Radu and Brian-

Yup, it’s the Elinchrom’s strip light…indirect light source, meaning that like the large Octa, the flash head mounts inside the softbox, and therefore doesn’t need to bear the weight of it.

We still travel with a bunch of light shapers, but the lights themselves are SO much lighter than Ranger packs, and pretty damn versatile!

See you in Dubai!

Susan says:

on February 19, 2010 at 11:37 pm

Damn that fog, but it makes for great atmosphere…nice!

Monty says:

on February 20, 2010 at 9:15 am

Love the soft feel of the light bank. Amazing how the ground doesn’t catch any hotspot. Thanks for sharing how you lit this scene. Your blog is my daily education and inspiration!

JayM says:

on February 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Joe, that image is so beautiful it almost brings a tear to my eye.

Anthony Risi says:

on February 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Every picture I see on your blog is an inspiration to me. If I was even just half as good as you are awesome, I would be much better. I learn from every post you have and I just wanted to say thank you for blogging.

JBoal says:

on February 21, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Lovely photo. Muir Woods might be another great location…

Hans van de Vorst says:

on February 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Your love for shooting (ballet) dancers shines here Joe. Great one, shot the Carnavale in Venice last week but no fog there unfortunately. Fog is great, as is that Elinchrom wonder of light !

Jessica S. says:

on February 21, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I live in SF, and I love the fog. So glad you’re a fellow fog lover. Far too many people here say negative and dismissive things about it, but to my mind, there’s not much else that’s prettier.

Gavin says:

on February 22, 2010 at 2:38 am

Joe you’re such an inspiration. Any way of setting up a meet with you next time you’re in the SF area?

ben says:

on February 22, 2010 at 7:35 am

lisa’s diner? what, no cracker barrel?

Sergei says:

on February 22, 2010 at 11:50 pm

well done Drew & Joe. Did you guys tried to use Deep Octa with Quadra’s yet? 😉 Any insights?

karl bratby says:

on February 25, 2010 at 4:41 pm

you gotta love those Quadra’s, great shot Joe..

Barbara Thorbjörnsson says:

on February 26, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Fog AKA mist is one of my favorite things in which to photograph. Ariel, in the fog, is beautiful!!!! I am learning so much reading your blog. Thank you!

Malinda Hartong says:

on March 2, 2010 at 10:27 am

Nice! Bet the bkfast was awesome too. I’m hungry now! Bkfast would definitely ease the grumps.

christopher says:

on April 24, 2010 at 11:06 pm

i love these, they’re so beautiful and memorable. totally just gave me inspiration.

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