a word on fog

One question I've been getting a lot this spring is, "Jeff, when will we have good fog?" 

The answer is, well, almost every day! It just depends what you're looking for. 

Fog chasing, even more than sunrise/sunset, is going to require you to spend some time researching and scouting, and driving around. There is no way around this. It's part of the journey! 

I will explain some details of fog formation and flow in a separate post this week. This one is designed to motivate you to get out there, explore, and see one of the most magnificent phenomena the bay area has to offer. 

The Escaype app and bot posts are for sunrise and sunset clouds, and do not yet reflect good fog conditions. (We're hoping to add fog maps in the next few weeks.) For most of the best fog conditions, the bot will post 0/0 or 70/70, and the heat map will show nothing. This is not what it is designed to do. 

Many of the best foggy scenes will come with fewer clouds, not more clouds. A 100/0 above fog can actually be less spectacular because there is much less of a window for light on the fog. For fog waves, a couple wispy clouds might be all you need. For intimate scenes, light beams, etc, blue skies will yield the strong light you need. 

image.jpg
disappear.jpg

Very few of the above images were planned -- in fact, only two of them were. The rest came from driving or walking around near the fog line when it was at heights anywhere from 400' to 2000', stopping where things were happening. Some are from the Santa Cruz mountains, some from the Marin mountains, some from east bay hills and San Francisco. 

OK, So, the other most common thing I hear is, "But Jeff, I don't know any good spots for fog." 

All you need is some basic knowledge of the topography of the bay area. Head to an area around the fog line, cruise around, and you will very likely find something. Most of the above images were not made at popular viewpoints, or well-known photography locations. Knowing their exact location would be meaningless, because the best scenes will be in a different place on any given day. 

Refer to our Fog Chaser's Guide for some approximate areas to check out, but your best resource will be to pull out some maps, look for elevations, and when fog starts to hit that area, get cruising. If places mentioned in the guide are far away from you, check the hills near you -- you'll probably find some great spots practically in your backyard! If you live in the south bay, for example, cruise around the hills there for foggy sunrises. If you live in the north bay or SF, you have foggy heaven in your backyard -- and it's not just Tam. If you live in the east bay, high fog will frequently reach your area in the mornings. If you live on the peninsula, there are amazing mountains behind your house. Why drive two hours to collect a stamp over and over, when there are great conditions waiting for you in your backyard?

Remember, we are a weather service, but not a bay area tour service. We are here to help you nail the weather conditions you need for your shots. Please don't DM us for location suggestions. You are welcome to exchange information in your group, though, of course. Fog is one of the gifts of summer in the bay area, and we hope to see you out there taking advantage of it! 

<3, jl

What causes our summer fog?

One question I've been getting a lot this spring is, "when will we have good fog?" 

The answer is, well, almost every day! It just depends what you're looking for. 

Fog chasing, even more than sunrise/sunset, is going to require you to spend some time researching and scouting. There is no way around this. It's part of the journey! 

WHAT CAUSES OUR SUMMER FOG?

Normally, our part of the atmosphere gets colder as you gain elevation. (When you drive up into the mountains, it gets cold, right?) But anyone who has ever stood above bay area fog will tell you just the opposite -- it was nice and warm above the fog, and cold and miserable below. 

That weird foggy scenario is called a temperature inversion, when we have warmer air above cooler air. It's an inversion because it's the opposite of what we'd normally expect to see in the atmosphere, cooler air on top of warmer air. The cooler air is also very moist, because it's coming off the ocean. 

But there's a little more to it. As you probably know (break out the 5th grade science textbooks), warm air rises and cold air sinks. This is because cold air is more dense, so it "wants" to sink down. In a normal situation, the air near the surface warms during the day, and rises, leading to nice mixing. But in our foggy situation, the cool air near the surface wants to stay where it is, beneath the less dense warmer air. Very little mixing happens with the warmer air, since everyone is where they want to be. You might say it's trapped. This is our bay area marine layer: cool, moist ocean air trapped beneath warm, drier summer air. 

So, let's review. We have cool, moist air (the fog layer) trapped underneath warmer, drier air. The depth of this cool, moist layer is what determines the fog height. It varies with the weather patterns. Some of you may already know that warm weather is generally associated with a shallower marine layer and lower fog, for example. Likewise, cooler weather is associated with a deeper marine layer and higher fog. 

Fog will push inland when pressure conditions favor it to do so. Conditions are most favorable when the land cools off, which is generally at night. Sunrise is usually the coldest part of the night, since nothing has been heating the surface all night, but it continues to cool -- this is why fog is usually most extensive at sunrise. It then retreats as the land heats up during the day. 

Summer fog almost always comes in from the ocean. As you (hopefully) know, we have several mountain ranges in the bay area. The fog will generally try to push as far inland as it can overnight, but because it's trapped in its layer, it can't get above big mountain barricades.

That's why low fog is usually confined to the immediate coast -- it can't get past the coastal mountains, or even the 900-foot hills of SF. As the fog gets higher, it's now able to pour into parts of the bay through lower areas of the coastal mountains. So long as the fog isn't too high, though, the east bay hills and Santa Cruz mountains will still block further progress. Once the fog gets closer to 1800-2000 feet, it begins to spill over more areas of the Santa Cruz mountains, and is able to fill the south bay. 

Let's review the approximate topography of the bay area. 

We note from the map:

Red arrows denote the onshore component of the fog flow. (The fog can actually be coming from the north or south, but it will still be pushing in from the ocean.)

(1) North bay coastal mountains. With the exception of a few high peaks like Tam, elevations max out around 1000-1200'. (Tam is 2460'.) Any fog higher than ~1000' will be able to push all the way through these mountains. 

2) Hills of San Francisco, around 900'. Fog can pour in through the Golden Gate to the north (as you know), but won't make it over the SF hills unless it's >900'. 

3) San Bruno/Pacifica mountains, around 1300'. Fog higher than this will pour right over the mountains, but lower fog will only come in through small gaps to the north and south. 

4) Mid-Santa Cruz mountains, around 1600-2000'. Fog higher than this  will pour over, lower fog only through small gaps to north and south. 

5) Southern Santa Cruz mountains, 2200-3000+. This poses a major barricade for fog entering the south bay. It should now be easy to see why the south bay/San Jose area fogs up last -- most fog can't make it over these mountains, so it has to through the gaps way to the north, and fill in the entire valley -- all before sunrise, or the heating begins and it retreats. 

6) East bay hills (Grizzly Peak region), up to 1600'. Fog can spread around the bays to the north and south, but won't make it past these hills unless it's high. 

7) East bay hills (Union City/Fremont), around 1600-1800'. These mountains are the reason why fog usually won't make it into the Diablo or Tri-Valley area unless it's rather high. 

8) East San Jose hills (1800-4000+). It takes quite a lot to make it past this! 

9) This low-elevation plain allows fog above ~1000' to spill into the Highway 25 valley, labeled (10) on the map, and Gilroy/Hollister area.

 

NOTE

The above applies to marine-based fog, which is by far our most common setup, especially in the summer months. In the winter, Tule fog (valley fog) forms inland, which turns the tables upside down. If you see low fog in San Jose, or Diablo, or Tri-Valley, Petaluma, etc, you can be pretty sure it is valley fog -- because there's no other way low fog could have gotten there! 

 

By now, most of you are probably familiar with our Fog Chaser's Guide. Use it, but also combine in your knowledge of bay area geography and places in your area of sufficient elevation! 

controlling your slack notifications

Hey all! I've been getting a lot of questions about how to control your notifications on Slack, so here's a quick guide to our recommended settings (and some other options you have). 

We do NOT recommend globally turning off all notifications for Slack. If you do this, you will not receive very important alert notifications. 

We also don't suggest muting channels. If you mute, it won't even show you if there are updates in the channel, until you literally scroll through it. We instead suggest controlling your notifications. 

Slack has you do this individually, by channel. 

ON DESKTOP (slack.com or mac/pc app)

Look for this menu in each channel. Select "Notification preferences ..."

A window should pop up, which will allow you to set your notification preferences for that individual channel. 

Repeat this process for each channel you're in, choosing your desired settings. 

ON MOBILE (iOS/Android)

Look for a semi-hidden menu at the top of the channel window. You'll see a little down arrow marking the menu. On Android, it looks like the picture below. On iOS, it's next to the channel name at the top. 

OK, now find the "Notifications" setting. That's how you'll control your notifications for this channel. 

Careful! Don't press mute. You want "Send push notifications". That lets you choose your option.

Note that on desktop, you can control notifications separately for desktop and mobile. If you choose a setting on mobile, it will use the same setting for desktop, unless you change it manually on desktop. 

 

WE RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING SETTINGS: 

Your group (cotton candy flavor name): mentions of my name or highlight words

#random, #for-sale, #social-media: mentions of my name or highlight words

#forecasts: your choice of mentions of my name or highlight words (you'll only get notified for alerts), or activity of any kind (you'll get notified for all of our local forecast updates)

preparing for print

Hi all! Printing is one of the most exciting parts of the imaging process. We have a few tips for you to make sure you get the best results possible. In this post, we are barely scratching the surface of a very complex process that takes years to learn and perfect, so those who are more familiar with the process may disagree with a couple things we say or think "but I prefer to do it this way" -- that's fine. 

Let's start with the raw. You'll want to make sure you're sharpening in Lightroom/ACR. This is usually not our final print or web sharpening, but is just to correct any slight blur in the details raw. Zoom into 100%. Play with the amount -- it will vary depending on your camera, but for our files it's usually around 50-70. Radius usually less than 1.5 but varies on the image, detail your choice (I usually keep it at default 25). Masking, slide the slider to the right with Alt/Option key pressed down until you see the edges start to appear. You don't want to be sharpening places that don't have detail to sharpen, or you'll just add unnecessary noise. Note that this is NOT web sharpening, so you shouldn't see much difference at small size. Just for pixel peeping. 

OK, so you've sharpened your raw. If you were exporting for web, you would want to apply web sharpening upon export. This optimizes the file at the size you choose for web export. But this isn't what we want for print, as we aren't going to print a 1080px file.

So, for print...

With the file open in Photoshop, your goal is to sharpen the details big time in specific detail-rich areas but not in areas that don't need it (as you'll just be adding noise). Those of you who know Photoshop are probably thinking, "layer mask! layer mask!" -- and you're right. 

First, you'll want to stamp a new layer (Cmd-Option-Shift-E or Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E) and choose a sharpening method. Both Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen can work well. (Filters --> Sharpen --> Smart Sharpen or Unsharp Mask). You'll want to apply a healthy amount -- for many files, 150 in Smart Sharpen would not be excessive -- and play with the radius depending on how fine the detail in the image is, reduce noise just a little bit (we'll mask it out of the noisy areas later, anyway). The amounts you use for each slider depend on exactly what effects you want; we recommend you play with them on your images to see what they do (set each one to max and see what changes). 

When you're done, you'll want to apply a layer mask, and paint black over areas that don't have much detail (skies, fog, etc). This allows you to sharpen the areas you want to sharpen, without affecting the rest of the image. 

Now, let's talk a little about colors. You'll want to select the right color space and soft proof using the color profile for the printer you'll be using.

Make sure your file is in sRGB color space. (You can use Adobe RGB if you really know what you're doing... but we strongly recommend sticking to sRGB for starters). 

We'll be using SmugMug for this, who prints with Bay Photo. Their profile is available here, along with instructions to install in Photoshop. Once that's installed, go to View --> Proof Colors and look for any shifts. If you see hardly any shifts, that's great -- you're good to go. (If you've converted to sRGB, you often won't see much, if anything. If you're in Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB, you might see more.) If you do see a shift, go to View --> Gamut Warning and see what areas are highlighted. 

These highlighted areas are the colors that the printer will not be able to replicate accurately. If you don't correct to stay within gamut, you will see color shifts in these areas when you print, unless you correct them yourself. You can find more info on correcting them yourself here

When you're done soft proofing, remember to go back to View --> Gamut Warning and View --> Proof Colors to turn them off and re-enter normal view. (The file name in Photoshop should change when you turn it off/on, indicating the view.)

Hope this helps a bit! There is a lot more to this topic than we have discussed here -- it's probably obvious that we glossed over several things -- but these are intended as basic tips to improve your printing results. 

To summarize: sharpen the raw in ACR/Lightroom, then sharpen separately for web or print. Use sRGB for print unless you are sure you know what you're doing. 

The Escaype Fog Chaser’s Guide

Our summer fog season is well underway here in the Bay Area! While we do get fog in the winter, it's most prominent in the summer months (May-Sept, sometimes Apr-Oct). 

First and foremost, this is NOT intended to be a bucket list of shots to collect. It is a list of relatively well-known locations and general areas around the Bay Area that we recommend you check out with the various fog levels around here.

I know some people are opposed to us making anything resembling a list of locations, and I have been reluctant because I would much prefer you do the exploring on your own. However, we have received so many requests that we have decided to compile a list specifically mentioning well-known areas and frequently traveled roads that we would recommend to any photographer. Our goal is not to spoon-feed anyone GPS coordinates to plant their tripod; most of these locations have many viewpoints and/or trails, and are always a blast to explore, and to discover vistas and angles that have the best fog patterns on any given day. Some places have been identified by their stretch of road; when the fog height is right, we'd recommend driving that road and seeing what's on it, or simply checking a map for any parks or vista points in the area, as those are likely very scenic. 

This list is by no means exhaustive or definitive. If you drive through the Santa Cruz Mountains, East Bay Hills, etc, you will probably pass several Open Space Preserves, scenic pullouts, and trailheads that are not mentioned here. We highly recommend exploring them, as you are likely to find solitude and beautiful sights to photograph.

You need to know that most of the State Parks close at sunset, and most of the Open Space Preserves close a half hour after sunset, and are closed at night until around sunrise. Some of them have locked gates and No Parking signs outside. You’re welcome to discuss this info in your group, though for obvious reasons, we’re not going to provide official Escaype advice on how to break those rules -- but if you do break them, please be discreet or the parks will be forced to ramp up their enforcement. 

Note: all elevations are approximate, as most of these locations are on hills/mountains and allow you to travel up or down a couple hundred feet. You should always double-check elevations on a topo map (Google Maps has a terrain overlay).

 

Generally speaking, you want to be just a couple hundred feet above the fog, so you are close enough that it is prominent in the vistas and images, but not in danger of being covered. There are exceptions, and many of those are long-lens scenes where the fog is much further away from you, but it is known to interact with the landscape, such as flowing through San Francisco or the Golden Gate. 

 

Quick Reference Guide:

Fog height Recommended locations/areas
700 ft or lower Golden Gate Bridge/SF (Marin Headlands, various city viewpoints, anywhere you can see the bridge. Fog will usually make it into downtown SF only if it's >500 ft.
700-900ft Tam, Grizzly Peak/Oakland Hills, San Bruno mtns, Tam facing south, San Bruno mtns
1000-1200ft Tam or Grizzly Peak/Oakland Hills (though you probably won't be able to see the buildings of SF)
1200-1500ft This height can be the trickiest. Santa Cruz Mountains Open Space Preserves and vistas around 1500-1800ft elevation, top of Grizzly Peak, east San Jose hills (Sierra Vista, etc) if fog is in the bay as well
1600-1800ft Tam (West Ridgecrest), Santa Cruz mountains open space preserves and vistas, Page Mill Rd overlooking Silicon Valley (sunrise only, sunset usually fogless), East San Jose/Fremont hills and open space preserves (sunrise only, sunset usually fogless)
1800-2000ft Upper Tam, Santa Cruz mountains in Russian Ridge area
2000-2200ft Santa Cruz mountains in Russian Ridge general area
2300+ Mt. Hamilton, Mt. Diablo

 

Frequently visited spots:

Mt. Tamalpais State Park (Marin County):

West Ridgecrest:

Elevation: 1900-2000ft

Best fog height: 1600-1800ft

Higher locations facing Ridgecrest:

Elevation: 2300ft

Best fog height: 1900-2100ft

Facing southeast towards SF:

Elevation: 2000-2300ft (depending on location)

Best fog height: <900ft to see city, but can be nice flowing fog up to 2000ft

 

Golden Gate Bridge/SF:

Elevation: 750ft (tops of towers), 250-300ft (bridge deck). Slacker Hill ~900', Hawk Hill ~900', but usually fogs up before Slacker due to location. Twin Peaks is also ~900'. 

Best fog height: <700ft

 

Russian Ridge area: 

Elevation: 2400ft

Best fog height: 1800-2200ft

 

Grizzly Peak/Oakland Hills:

Elevation: 1300-1750ft

Best fog height: Anything lower than 1400ft, but city only visible if ~800ft or lower

 

East San Jose/Fremont hills:

Elevation: 1600-2200ft

Best fog height: 1500-1800ft for most places. Usually if the fog is lower than 1400ft, it won't make into the south bay, so you won't see much. It usually won't come in till late night/early morning, so if you want fog here, your best chance is sunrise. 

 

Color Spaces, or: I Just Want My Toast Done Right

You like toast. You like your toast golden brown and crispy on the outside. To do that, you set your toaster to 4. You do this every day. The results come out perfect and the same day after day. One day, you go to your friend’s house and you have a craving for toast. As usual, you set your toaster to 4. Ding! Oh no! Your toast got burnt to a crisp. Disappointed, you throw away your burnt toast and wonder why the toast didn’t come out the same way. You try again with a different number, hoping to get your perfect toast.

The CIE 1931 color space represents a slice of all the colors the eye can see. (Image: Wikipedia)

The CIE 1931 color space represents a slice of all the colors the eye can see. (Image: Wikipedia)

This problem sounds very familiar to some photographers. You send to your friend your image. Your friend says, it’s too purple, too dark, too whatever. But to you, the image looks perfect on your monitor. What can be done about this problem? The good news it is possible to ensure that the images appear the same with color management. It is important because when you share your work with others, you want them to be looking at the same thing you are. Otherwise, post processing is a waste.

In a properly managed workflow, an image will look the same from one device to the next. It will also be displayed using the correct colors. Once you do this, you can then deal with making the images look good. To have a color managed workflow, you will need to understand the basics of color spaces, tag your images, and make sure your monitors are calibrated and profiled. If the workflow is not color managed, there is no way of guaranteeing that the colors you’re seeing on your monitor are the colors you’re working with and sharing with others. You might as well be sharing junk images.

To begin to understand color management, you need to understand color spaces. A color space is an organized set of colors. For example, you may have seen this horseshoe shaped color space. The International Commission on Illumination (CIE) got together in 1931, did some science, produced that graph, and named it the CIE 1931 color space. It basically represents all the colors the human eye can see.

These are examples of device independent color spaces (and a device dependent color space for a printer). Note the relative sizes of the color spaces. A value of 255 green in ProPhoto RGB (the upper corner of the ProPhoto triangle) is a much more intense color than 255 green in Adobe RGB and sRGB. This means images that use the ProPhoto color space can represent more intense colors. Whether or not a monitor can display those colors is a different story. (Image: Wikipedia) 

These are examples of device independent color spaces (and a device dependent color space for a printer). Note the relative sizes of the color spaces. A value of 255 green in ProPhoto RGB (the upper corner of the ProPhoto triangle) is a much more intense color than 255 green in Adobe RGB and sRGB. This means images that use the ProPhoto color space can represent more intense colors. Whether or not a monitor can display those colors is a different story. (Image: Wikipedia) 

From this large color space, smaller color spaces are cut out for use in digital photography. You may have heard of some of them: sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB. Before we get into what the differences between those are, we need to understand that colors are represented by color coordinates, or RGB values. Usually, they are three numbers that represent the strength of the red, green, and blue colors. They range from 0 to 255, with 255 being the maximum value for that channel. One example might be (137, 207, 240). In sRGB, this color is baby blue. The color coordinates represent a particular color if it is associated with a color space. The same coordinates in Adobe RGB will not represent the same color. This is because Adobe RGB is a larger color space than sRGB. Likewise, the same coordinate in ProPhoto RGB will be a completely different color, also because it is a larger color space than sRGB. A color value with no color space is meaningless.

As a whole, these color spaces are known as device independent color spaces. These are color spaces that everyone agrees to use and computers also use them internally to store color data. Photoshop can be set to work with many different kinds of color spaces. A separate tutorial could be written on this subject.  Lightroom, by default, uses ProPhoto RGB as it is one of the largest color spaces available. (And no, you can't change it.) A good practice if your workflow uses both Lightroom and Photoshop is to set Photoshop to use ProPhoto as well for editing purposes. Once your editing software agrees to recognize and use color spaces, we need to ensure that we’re displaying them correctly.

This is where things get a little bit complicated. There are lots of different kinds of monitors. Some are built better than others and display more colors. This poses a problem for us photographers. Each monitor has its own set of colors that it can display. It would be naïve to assume that if we tell the monitor to display RGB coordinates in the image we’re working on, then we will get that color. If we display the values (137, 207, 240) on a few different monitors straight up, we would expect to get different colors. It’s very similar to the situation above with the device independent color spaces. To display the correct color, the RGB value in the image file needs to be converted from the internal working color space into the monitor color space, a device dependent color space. This color space is unique to each monitor.

The conversion between color spaces is handled by the Color Management Module (CMM). It handles the conversion of colors from one color space to another. If it knows what color a monitor produces given an input value, it can accurately map any color to that monitor. This monitor is said to be calibrated and profiled. On a day to day basis, the CMM does a wonderful job and you don’t need to worry about it. If all your monitors are calibrated and profiled, the same image looks the same on all the monitors. There are some important assumptions in this statement that we’ll get to in another article, but for now we’ll assume that you have good monitors that can display a good amount of colors. In a future article, we'll cover the steps required to calibrate and profile a monitor.

Check this box in Photoshop when exporting to embed a color profile to an image.

One common concern is why should we bother with calibrating our setup if other people are going to be viewing it on uncalibrated monitors? As the leaders of our craft, it is our responsibility to set the standards high. This minimizes the variation from artist to artist. That way we do not make the problem worse.

What this all means is that you need to tag your photos with the correct color profile. In order for the computer to know how to display an image, the image needs to have a color profile associated with it. When exporting, you need to check the option that embeds one of the common color profiles. If an image is untagged, the image may be displayed with the wrong colors. It’s like giving someone a cooking recipe without any units. 5 lemon juice, 4 water, and 2 sugar means nothing. If a photograph has data in the large ProPhoto RGB space, but is untagged, a browser may assume it is sRGB and the resulting image will appear very unsaturated.  

Lightroom has a color space option, as well. Look for this option regardless of what method you use to export.

Just think of a color space like units on numbers. Some units are bigger than others, others are smaller. The units can be converted from one unit to another. Numbers without units are meaningless and computers will have to guess what the units are (likely to be incorrect). With a good understanding of color spaces, you can start to understand what’s going on behind the scenes when you tag your photos. If in doubt, tag sRGB because the internet defaults to sRGB. In the next article, we’ll talk about calibration and profiling. This step ensures that what you are looking at is indeed what the data actually represents. 

TL:DR: TAG sRGB FOR WEB.

Tools

How to check if your browser is color managed:

Interactive webpage on the differences between tagged and untagged images

(Note that some of the pages lists Chrome as not color managed. As of the time of writing, Chrome is now color managed.)

introducing Escaype's Expert Stations

Hi all! Some of you have noticed that certain stations in the Escaype app now have an asterisk by the location name. (Yosemite, Portland, Tahoe, etc.) 

The asterisk indicates this is an expert station. These are locations that we do not regularly monitor because they are outside our official forecast area, which is the greater Bay Area. Many of them are in mountainous areas, where weather patterns can be very localized, sometimes having different phenomena than we see here in the bay area. 

We call them “expert stations” because they may require some knowledge and experience on your part. Often times, things will work out fine and the model forecast will be spot on. Other times, though (especially with storms), you may have to chase the clouds based on satellites and webcams. If the model forecasts a stormy blowup in Yosemite, you might not be able to drive straight to Tunnel View and plant your tripod. All of the information you need is on our members-only blog, and we highly recommend reviewing those articles before taking a trip outside our forecast area. In particular, you’ll want to look for telltale signs like open sky on the horizon, clouds being higher than the tallest mountains, blocking clouds on the satellites, and using satellites and webcams to head for the best clouds. 

We run our model outside our official area as a courtesy only. We can’t fully vouch for those forecasts, because we don’t regularly monitor the conditions, which often change quickly. If you’d like to check in with us before making a long drive, we welcome and encourage it. That said, we don’t have the same depth of information readily available for those places that we do for our official area, and if there is a weather event coming up in our official area, please understand that this event will remain our priority. 

Many of us follow a soft “two skies rule” when venturing out on long drives. Sometimes, especially when you’re in the mountains, things happen. If your location isn’t flexible and you can’t really chase the light, getting stuck in a little blue hole can ruin a 5-hour drive. For this reason, if you’re making a long drive, we recommend you wait until the app is forecasting two good skies in the next couple days. The two skies rule has saved me several times. Last year, several of us drove up to Shasta and got “blue holed” during a 100/0 sunrise, but scored big with a 100/0 sunset the same day, then drove home happy. If you make the trip just for one sky, especially if your destination is not flexible, we’re rooting for you, but please understand that you’re taking a risk

Thanks, and may the light be with you!

When Two Worlds Collide: Art vs. Social Media

Debates continue to rage within the social media photography community, over issues like “comp stomping” and what amounts of post-processing are acceptable. Occasionally the pot boils over, then briefly returns to simmering, only to boil over again in the coming weeks. 

If I released a cover of your song, of course I’d credit you. Why don’t photographers do the same? Shouldn’t they?

Similarly, how is it fair to a photographer who runs their business by creating honest photographs, or does some blending to compensate for camera limitations, but doesn’t drop in skies from other days – when someone else can just drop their sky in and get more attention? It’s not fair, right?

But this is social media. This is business. This is a society that worships likes, comments, and dollars.

Photography isn’t any of those. Photography is art. What are the rules in art, anyway? There aren’t any. Who are we to impose our personal beliefs and limitations on others? If I say one thing is OK, but something else isn’t, who am I to make the rules for someone else?

Both sides are right, really. But it’s the approach that determines the opinion.

The real, underlying problem is when one tries to put all photographers on a level playing field on social media, while everyone is taking different kinds and amounts of steroids. This is a world (a bubble, if you will) where all work is the same -- “photography” -- and competes for likes, favorites, comments, and other forms of attention. Money may be involved, too. Success is typically defined by the amount of attention an image gets. In a social media world, it absolutely isn’t fair if your honest image, which you worked hard for, gets 100 likes, while someone drops a sky over the same scene in 10 minutes and gets 1000 likes. And it isn’t fair if your fresh image, which you worked hard to scout for, gets 100 likes, while someone else copies your composition, doesn’t credit you, and gets 1000 likes.

But wait a second – are we talking about photography, the art, or are we talking about social media? Those are different!

If you insert a sky from halfway around the world, you have obviously taken steroids. If you move the contrast slider or add a tone curve, you have also taken steroids. And if you use a single long exposure to blur moving water, you, too, have taken steroids.

“But what I do is different,” you say. “I stretch reality, but it’s believable. It’s natural. It’s not fake.”

What the hell are you talking about? Get off your high horse. Of course your work is fake. You altered the raw file that came out of your camera, which didn’t represent reality in the first place. Who cares?

Social media cares, and rightfully so. Because it isn’t fair to have everyone play the game using different kinds of steroids on a level playing field.

But we have to understand something here. Social media does not promote art. The web promotes competing for attention and business, and by rewarding replication of trending topics, it ends up suppressing creativity as much as it fosters it. That’s one of the reasons why I recently stopped posting most of my images on social media, and just direct them to my website.

Interestingly, since I’ve stopped posting online, I’ve noticed myself doing new kinds of blends and other Photoshop experimentation that I wouldn’t have done before. I’ve blended blue hour city lights with a sunrise burn and a post-sunrise sunstar. I’ve dropped in a similar Milky Way from a day later to fix a couple issues with the original one. I’ve stretched the hell out of whatever I want. And I’ll copy any damn comp I feel like.

Why? Because I don’t have to prove to anyone that it’s real, original, or worthy of their like or comment. I don’t have to brace myself for comments from trolls and self-proclaimed experts. I don’t have to weather the storm of photographers defending “their” comps. I simply don’t have to give two shits what they think. It’s not like I’m trying to use the comp to get 1000 likes, to draw attention to my work, to drive traffic to my workshops page. I’m back to making art. And I enjoy that. I still have personal guidelines that I generally adhere to, but… really, once you remove the competition and comparison, who cares?

Seriously, who cares?

Ah, right – social media cares. Artists couldn’t care less.

-jl

how to read a satellite image

As the Escaype founders, our goal isn’t just to get you the most accurate weather forecasts possible for photographers – it’s to show you how all of this stuff works, how we do what we do.

The ability to read satellite images is one of the essential skills in sunset forecasting, and a couple of tips can help give you an edge in seeking out the best light for your shots. No big science words without explanation, I promise.

There are two main types of satellite images we use in the office: visible and infrared.

 

VISIBLE SATELLITE IMAGES

Let’s start with the simplest one: a visible satellite image is just a picture taken by a satellite flying over us. Thin high clouds will appear dim, because they’re translucent. Very thin, high wispies may hardly be visible at all on this satellite. Denser low clouds, however, will appear bright white.

Not too bad, right? Think about it like this: if the clouds are thin enough that you can see the sun through them (i.e. they’re translucent), a satellite looking down from above should be able to see the Earth through those same clouds. But with thick clouds, or fog, you can’t see the sun through them – so we shouldn’t expect a satellite camera to be able to see the Earth’s surface through them.

Visible satellite images, thus, are best used to identify low and mid-level clouds, as they tend to be denser.

One caveat about visible satellite images: for obvious reasons, they’re useless at night. 

This image shows a small fog bank on the San Mateo Coast, lots of clouds in the Sierra, and a fog bank in Monterey/Carmel, and lots more fog out to sea. 

Sure enough, Carmel is fogged in. 

 

INFRARED SATELLITE IMAGES

An infrared (IR) satellite image measures temperature. How is this useful to us, and why do clouds show up at all, then?

Well, first, let’s ask ourselves a question. When you go to a very high elevation (like in the mountains), what happens to the temperature? Is it warmer or colder than at sea level?

If you said colder -- you’re correct. In most cases, in the layer of the atmosphere where weather happens, the temperature drops as you go higher.

This goes for clouds, too: higher clouds are colder than lower clouds. (In fact, most mid and high clouds are made of tiny ice crystals, while low clouds may be water droplets)

So, a question for you: why is fog barely visible on infrared satellite images, if at all? Why is it so hard to tell apart from the Earth’s surface?

(Hint: what kind of temperature difference do you expect between very low clouds and the ground?)

Thus, high clouds on infrared satellites will appear as bright white, mid-level clouds will be medium grey (a medium-grey solid mass is often “popcorn clouds”), and low clouds are dim grey, and fog might barely be visible at all.

Based off this IR satellite, from approximately the same time as the visible satellite shown above, we expect to see lots of mid/low clouds over the Sierra (our model calls them mids, but remember, the mountains are already high elevation, so the clouds look lower), lots of low clouds in Oregon, and some low clouds and fog out to sea but very difficult to make out detail. A large mass of high clouds is approaching the Oregon Coast. In Utah and Colorado, you can see clouds of varying heights... we'll get to that soon. 

This brings us to the biggest weakness of satellite imagery: it only shows you what's on top. If there are multiple cloud decks, and the top cloud deck is not translucent, you won't be able to tell what's below the upper deck. This is why we often need reports for fog and low clouds -- when there is full mid-level cloud cover, it may be impossible to see what's underneath without having reports from the ground. In some cases, there is no magic way to know from above, and there is simply no substitute to real-time reports. That's why we work together as a team around here. Of course, the same goes for mid and high clouds: you might see bright colors on the satellite in Utah, but there could be a bunch of mid-level clouds below them. 

We also note that fog is bright white on visible satellites (because it's dense), and is barely visible on IR satellites (you figured out why, right?), while for high clouds the opposite is true.

Lastly, as a guideline, clouds are usually moving, and usually from west to east (we have another post below on why that is). You can track cloud movement for the last several hours on a satellite animation, and use those trends to base your expectations for the next hour or two. (You just made a forecast!) If you look closely, you'll often see clouds forming and dissipating, not just moving. This can make prediction difficult, but fortunately our models tell us when the conditions are ripe for clouds to form, which allows us to forecast it. As for simple cloud movement (meteorologists call it advection), there's really no magic and it's nothing you couldn't do on your own. It's just time-consuming and can be an act of precision; making an estimation just one frame off on the satellites could be the difference between getting skunked and catching an epic burn. While there are some cases with very complex cloud setups that are best left for the big boys to analyze, there are a lot of times that you'll be able to see our forecast for a 100/0 sunrise, check the satellite at 5am, and you'll be able to tell yourself, yup, this is happening. And there will be times when you'll check the satellite at 5am during a sunrise watch, see the big blue hole heading for SF, and you'll go south instead and score. 

Of course, we're happy to do all the hard work for you. It's part of our service. But when you take that trip outside our official forecast area, and we can't wake up at 5am to check in with you on that 100/0, if you can take a quick look at a satellite image and say yep, it's about to blow up, you're in great shape to maximizing your success with Escaype. 

(Note: Some IR satellites use bright colors in addition to white. Don’t let this variance trip you up, bright colors and white are high cloud tops. It’s the same data, just presented with colors.)

 

So, now we know if there are clouds, and what kind, which is super important. How do you know the orientation is favorable for a burn? More on that later, but if you want a hint...

 

Satellites discussed above: 

Infrared (IR)

Visible

Animated IR

P.S. I often get asked about radar. Photogs all over the country have messaged me, saying they checked the radar and see some cloud cover. This is a misconception: radar detects precipitation, not clouds. Of course, if wet stuff is falling from the sky, it’s probably cloudy, but if wet stuff isn’t falling from the sky, we can’t say it’s clear. We use radar most commonly for detecting precipitation, which may indicate that a location is socked in, as well as tracking localized storms for lightning, though that is rare in the bay area.

sticking to our roots

Before we say anything else: from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU. Our Escaype family is now 65 photographers strong. So many of the best photographers in California are right here in our groups. Your groups.

We don't treat that lightly. We are here, day and night, to do everything in our power to make your dream shots happen. 

Allow me to remind you of a couple very important things about #escaype, which take us back to our roots: 

1) The Escaype app is a free, optional companion to our service. It is in beta. 

2) The heart of our service takes place in the Slack groups. 

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With that in mind, here's a quick, easy Escaype checklist to go through when you shoot: 

1) Plan your schedule. Check the forecaster's note in the Escaype app to get an idea of what kind of photography weather we're expecting in the next few days. This should help you plan your shooting days around optimal conditions.  

2) Decide where to shoot. While following the forecasts further in advance always helps, formulating your game plan is best done on the day of the shoot. Remember to "shoot smart". If you wake up and the group says your first choice location is fogged in, it's time for Plan B. If you get out of a meeting and the group says there's a big blue hole headed for Santa Cruz, it's time for Plan B. We try to avoid these situations as much as possible, but they can and do happen -- it is a limitation of the world's weather models. 

3) Get the green light from us. Don't be shy! If we haven't specifically addressed your area, give us a heads up when you're planning on heading out, and the general area. Best to do this in your group, as opposed to private message, as other people may have the same question. Don't be afraid to ask us stuff like, "hey, is Twin Peaks likely to be above that fog?" or "Heading to Davenport area." or "is that 90/0 at Golden Gate tomorrow night likely to stick?" We will do our best to follow up with you -- and if we know people are planning on shooting in a certain area, we will make sure to follow the conditions there closely. You aren't bothering us or wasting our time by asking these questions -- this is what our service is all about. 

4) Share real-time reports. If you get to Davenport and the clouds are looking good, send a photo to the group ASAP to let us know that everything is going as planned down there. If you hit fog, let the group know where it is, so we can reroute you. This is SO IMPORTANT. In order for us to get a full picture of what is happening out there, we need reports.

(BTW, quick tip: Slack gives you full control of what notifications you'd like to opt out of. We recommend keeping notifications on for the #important-alerts channel, and if someone says your name). 

_______________

In our experience, the Escaype members who score the most are the ones who are the most active in the groups, ask questions, and share reports.  

In our experience, the Escaype folks who release the most stunning images are the ones who post in their groups for critique, and participate when others do the same. 

In our experience, the Escaype groups that score the most are the ones that work together. 

In our experience, as with any group, the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. 

Escaype is a weather service, not an app. It is our belief that any weather app or algorithm is of limited use to a photographer who wants to know if the time and place for their specific shot has come. Here's why. And that's why we're here.

We're here for you. Always remember that. 

The magic of the winter sunrise (...so, we have to start waking up early?)

A word on seasonal variation of colorful sunrises/sunsets in California

"Red sky in morning, sailor take warning..."

Some of our most observant Escaypers have realized that a lot of the good winter skies seem to be sunrises.

This winter, our sunsets seem to be filled with disappointment. Lots of 70% skunk, if not 100% skunk. "Very few clouds are expected to light up," the Escaype app says, day after day, all across the forecast region. Sure enough, the clouds are there, looking beautiful, but sunset comes and nothing happens. 

We've had better luck with sunrises. Sure, there are plenty of skunk days, but there have been several 100/0 days. With less fog than the summer months, and the sun rising in the east-southeast, it's a perfect time to shoot sunrises in many of our favorite places along the coast. 

But, of course, a lot of us aren't morning people. Work starts early enough, traffic sucks, and setting an alarm for sunrise only adds insult to injury. 

Those of you who have been with us for a while may recall that in the summer, when there were good clouds in the afternoon, they burned much more frequently at sunset. Some might even say we had better luck with sunsets in the summer than we've had lately.

What's going on? Does Mother Nature hate us? Or is Jeff just trying to make troll you and make you wake up early?

Turns out it's a real phenomenon, and there's a scientific explanation for it. 

First, we have to understand a couple of the general patterns in the atmosphere in our area. In general, our weather features move from west to east. Sometimes it's from the northwest, sometimes southwest, but it almost always has a westerly (from-the-west) component. These winds are known as the prevailing westerlies, and dictate the flow of weather systems between ~30 and ~60 degrees latitude. 

_________

A little science background for the prevailing westerlies (optional):

In the atmosphere, temperature differences create pressure differences, which create winds. The reason for this circulation is the found in our earth's Hadley Cells, which guide much of the general circulation in the atmosphere. It starts with temperature. The equator receives the most solar warming, so air rises from the surface, leaving low pressure in its wake. There's less air at the surface than there was before, so the pressure falls. The poles are just the opposite: less sunlight, less heating, so the air sinks and creates high pressure. In between, areas around 30 degrees latitude typically have high pressure at the surface, and at 60 degrees we find low pressure. (This is why most of Earth's deserts are found around 30 degrees, and many of the wettest areas are around 60 degrees and the equator. The Bay Area is 37-38 degrees latitude; Los Angeles is 34. Note that LA is drier, and NorCal is wetter, and gets wetter still as you go north towards the Pacific Northwest.)

Air naturally flows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. It will act to even things out. (Think of a a balloon; you know how badly that air wants to leave the high pressure inside and get out). So, at the surface, we'd expect the winds to flow away from the high pressure at the poles, or from north to south; and also to the south towards the low pressure near the equator, and to the north from the 30-degree highs to the 60-degree lows. We call this driving force the pressure gradient. But things get a little more complicated because Earth rotates, so the Coriolis effect must be considered. 

The Coriolis "force" directly opposes the high-to-low pressure gradient, and, using a geostrophic wind approximation, points 90-degrees to the right of the direction of motion. Between 30 and 60 degrees latitude in the northern hemisphere, this leaves us with a northerly Coriolis "force" and a westerly wind. In the troposphere, except near the ground, the flow is typically very close to geostrophic, and the winds are indeed westerly. 

If a little bit of that went over your head, don't worry -- it's a couple hours of lectures to explain fully. Let's go back to the photography part. 

_________ 

Another thing we note about most low-pressure weather systems, which typically bring clouds, is that they tilt westward with height, meaning the low pressure at the surface (think: low clouds and rain) is further west than the low pressure in the mid-troposphere (think: mid-level clouds), which is further west still than the low pressure in the upper troposphere (think: high clouds). Also recall the prevailing westerlies: the weather system as a whole moves from west to east. This is why, during most winter weather systems, we will see leading high clouds before the storm, then the high clouds will gradually lower into mid-level clouds, then the low clouds and rain finally arrive. For some storms, the rain can be at least 12 hours behind the leading high clouds. For other storms, the low pressure trough is sloped more steeply, and there may be just a thin band of leading high clouds. Occasionally, there's none at all. 

So, what does this mean for our skies? Remember, the sun sets in the west... 

If we have a sky filled with high or mid-level clouds ahead of an approaching weather system, more often than not, the clouds will be lower to the west and high/thin to the east, because the bulk of the storm is still out to sea. This setup causes a skunk at sunset and a burn at sunrise, and it is why there are more dramatic sunrises than sunsets in winter. 

As the figure shows, if the timing of the system is right, a massive sunrise burn can happen. If the timing is off, and the rain is overhead at sunrise, then we probably won't get anything. But, regardless of the timing of the system, this setup will almost never yield a good sunset, because it will be usually blocked by thick clouds out to sea no matter what's over your head. 

As the storm passes, there may be more mid and high clouds than just the leading bands. But they often pass over while it's raining, so we're socked in and get nothing. By the time the low clouds clear, the juicy stuff is often long gone. Sometimes, storms will weaken just before they reach us in California, so the low clouds and rain band may be thinner than the clouds above, or never come at all, so we can get some mid and high clouds without being socked in. In this case, and usually only in this case, do we get a good winter stormy sunset with a major weather system. They're often localized, as the burn is only visible from places that aren't socked in by low clouds. 

Some winter sunsets can happen with upper-level weather features; for example, an area of low pressure in the upper troposphere that causes high clouds but never extends below 20,000 feet, so we get the high clouds and nothing else. These often occur when major weather outlets forecast "mostly sunny" skies -- it's because there is no threat of rain. But it may give you exactly what you're looking for as a photographer.

With the major systems, though, sunrises are much more likely to work out than sunsets. 

How do you know when it's going to be one of those exception cases, where the rain band breaks up before the storm makes landfall, or there's no low clouds at all out there? Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to do -- unless you have the help of a model that analyzes what's happening at all the different heights in the troposphere, to see just what kind of setup we're dealing with, and if it's expected to work out. 

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But what about summer? 

In the summer, the weather features in the Northern Hemisphere in general are weaker, and the atmospheric flow is weaker. This is largely because much more heating is occurring at the poles in the summer than the winter, so the polar high pressure weakens, and the overall circulation is not driven as strongly. 

This allows a certain weather pattern to set up, with high pressure nearly stationary over the eastern Four Corners region, which drives a clockwise circulation that pulls moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California up towards our area. It's known as the North American Monsoon, and it causes thunderstorms over the Sierra and much of the Southwest and Mexico, occasionally making it into California. When this happens, the clouds are coming from the southeast, so when they make it as far west as the bay area, they're likely to burn at sunset, because there's probably nothing but clear skies (except for possible fog, which as we explained in a previous article, does not block a burn) to the west, so the light isn't blocked. You won't see this setup in winter, with the stronger temperature gradient from the equator to the north pole. 

Also, because of the weaker circulation in summer, we don't really get many strong Pacific weather systems, so the kinds of epic sunrises that we see in winter become increasingly rare. 

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Remember, these are general guidelines for a "textbook case". Many real-life weather systems follow textbook cases fairly well, but others are curveballs. The models from which we pull raw data for our Escaype models usually do a pretty good job at handling these systems -- a far better job than any of us could do on our own with satellite imagery and trends. But it's a handy trick to making educated guesses, and now you can tell yourself, no, you're not crazy -- more often than not, sunrises really are where the party's at in winter. 

And remember, the sunrises will never be later than they are right now (I mean, 7:20am really isn't that bad). And nothing wakes you up better than an incredible sunrise, and capturing a portfolio shot. 

last thursday, in the life of an Escaype forecaster

*LOUD ANNOYING MUSIC PLAYING*

After coding on the iOS app until 3AM Thursday night, I woke up to the sound of my alarm at 4:40AM. "Wait," I thought. "Why the heck did I set that stupid alarm?" 

Oh, right. Sunrise.

I checked the satellite, saw nice high clouds but didn't look like 100/0, so I sent out a few forecast confirmations and went back to sleep for a couple hours. In my situation, I can only afford to mess up my sleep schedule if it's 90-100/0. That's my personal limit. 

After less than four more hours of broken sleep, I woke up, quickly caught up on the groups after a sunrise that was a bit underwhelming in some places (though nice in SF). Seeing some pink skies in your photos put a smile on my face. It really did. I was sad to read that it didn't meet some people's hopes, but all I can do is apologize, and collect the data for our system, to look into what might have happened later. Turns out that we had worked with two models for this sunrise, one of which was updating the app, and another that was just on our back end. The one on our app called for a strong high cloud burn across most of northern California, and the other one called for mostly blue skies. What to trust? I'd been tracking the high clouds all night, and comparing their progress to what was expected in the models, and they looked on track to reach our areas of interest by the morning. In the last couple hours, the clouds reaching our latitude dissipated almost as quickly as they arrived. Seems like the actual answer was somewhere in between the two models.

It's not always that way, though.

Sunset started out looking like a pretty high-confidence blue sky forecast. This time, both models were forecasting 0% cloud cover over the whole greater Bay Area, and the forecasted atmospheric conditions looked highly unfavorable for cloud formation. NOAA's sky cover forecast was predicting at least 50% cloud cover at sunset in all of northern California, and around 30% cover all the way down to San Diego and inland in SoCal -- we aren't sure where those numbers came from, but we were very confident it would be cloudless from LA south at sunset. This forecast verified. (I was boarding a plane to LA, to visit home for my dad's birthday, so of course it would be blue bird skies!)

When my flight landed at 1pm, before even texting my mom to let her know I landed, I immediately re-loaded and scanned the satellite loops, and noticed that a massive patch of mid-level clouds, extending all the way from the bay area to the Oregon border, was present, and models had dissipated it all by noon. Even the models that initialized on that hour had failed to resolve it. But both models agreed that it would be clear by sunset.

"Weird," I thought. I've seen this happen before, though it hasn't been common that the models are THIS far off. Maybe they were just dissolving them a bit too early, I thought; let's give it a little time. The high clouds over the bay area, indeed, looked to be on track to move well out of the region by sunset.

But those mid-level clouds sure were strange. My mom took me to lunch in LA, but I was so distracted by the clouds 350 miles away that I could hardly listen or say anything. My phone stayed on the table and I was refreshing the satellites over and over. I felt really bad, but it's part of life. Reports and photos of beautiful clouds were streaming in through several groups, and you all were starting to ask about the sunset forecast. I've seen the models dissipate the clouds a bit too early before, so I didn't make any changes, as I did see signs that the big cloud mass was starting to break up. 

Mom and I had plans to go hiking around LA this afternoon, but work came first. I told her I needed to stay home for a couple hours and get some things done. I felt really guilty, as I don't see my family often, but I had no choice. I needed to make sure I had everyone's back. I planned on coding the iOS app while checking on the satellites in the background, but conversations on Slack and careful tracking of the clouds took over, and I didn't get to the app. That's ok -- I would be able to do that tonight, after the clouds are gone for sure. 

Well, 3PM came and went, and 3:45PM quickly approached. The clouds were beginning to break up, and fast. Huge blue holes were opening up on the satellite and webcams. It was impossible to predict where the next one would be, but it looked like only a couple patches would remain by sunset, if anything. I worried if I gave everyone the green light, most people would end up getting blue sky skunked, watching the clouds disappear before their eyes. But I knew I had to make my final call, or none of you would be able to make it anywhere for sunset.

Here's a summary of the information we had:

* all three weather models, all repeatedly forecasting unfavorable conditions for clouds at sunset (and favorable conditions earlier in the day, when there were indeed clouds)

* a NOAA forecast for ~50% sky cover in NorCal and ~30% in SoCal, though it was known to be blue bird in SoCal, and the clouds were quickly dissipating in NorCal and many areas were already down to 0% cover

* satellite imagery showing more clouds moving in, but huge blue holes opening up as they arrived and quickly broke up, seemingly at random

Given those points, what forecast would you have issued?

At that time, I issued an alert stating exactly what we knew: that the clouds would be patchy/localized, that they were in position to burn, and there was no threat of fog. I then updated the app data accordingly. I refuse to feed you all BS and fake things we don't know -- and that information is all we could reasonably say, given the conflicting data and high uncertainty in the outcome. This was no longer an organized cloud mass; it was quickly, randomly dissolving and leaving only small chunks behind. All the webcams now showed mostly clear skies, and although one last cloud mass was approaching SF from the north, it was already showing signs of breaking up. 

By now, you all know what the final outcome was. Almost all of the clouds in the bay area did indeed disappear, with maximum 10 potential observed -- except for SF, where the one remaining cloud, directly overhead only for a brief period at sunset, blew up big. We would call that an 80-90/0 directly under the cloud mass, and 10/0 for those who had a view of it from afar.

Now, a little reflection.

Should the models have picked up on this remaining cloud mass? Absolutely. Yes. They were wrong about it. And they usually aren't.

Was our forecast wrong?

Depends on where. In 95% of the forecast area, it verified with blue skies (or quite close), and saved south bay folks the drive to Santa Cruz. The clouds didn't dissipate when they were expected to, but most were indeed gone by the required time. 

However, the 5% of the area that the model didn't verify in, was in a very scenic, shootable area, and we know that was a possible opportunity for some of you. Tung and I don't just shake off, and we promise to use this information to make our service better. 

Having said that, the NOAA sky cover forecast did not verify in 95% of the region, but it verified in the 5% around SF. (I'm not intending to bash anyone, BTW-- this is simply a comparison of different data feeds for the event, as this feed was mentioned in one of the groups today.)

After a night to think about things, and an hour-long-during-birthday-dinner phone conversation later, I still believe that, given the information I had, analyzing the most powerful weather models available to us, the info in my note was the best possible report I could have provided. But I realize it still may not have been enough to get anyone other than local SF folks out to shoot. And that leaves room for improvement. 

What we're working on now behind-the-scenes is something really cool and a bit secret -- we anticipate revealing it in the next few weeks, provided it passes our preliminary tests. After that, we're working towards a system that better helps us compare current states to the model forecasts, so we can better track their progress and help provide you with even stronger guidance. This is not an easy task at all, and it has never been successfully, fully done before. 

Anyway, this isn't meant to be a plea for forgiveness. And this kind of situation is not the norm. It's just a brief look into the kinds of decisions a weather forecaster is faced with on occasions when the models disagree or fail to verify. It's also a reminder that Mother Nature does throw curveballs. Lastly, it's a reminder that Tung and I are fully committed to helping you as much as we possibly can. And we always will be.

"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

(BTW, this is not a 'typical' day in the life of an Escaype forecaster. This is a more typical procedure.)

 

It's time for an upgrade!

iOS users: no immediate action required, but updating to the brand new version of the app is recommended (see below).

Android users: if your data haven't updated, just quit/stop your Escaype app, and launch it again. 

As we've been steadily growing over the last several months, one thing that's been difficult is that the data in the Escaype app has only represented what the models say, and has not included any changes our forecasters have made based on local intel and trained-eye observations. If unexpected fog appears in Santa Cruz, the app could still show 100/0, even though the fog has been announced in the Slack groups. Having these professional and community real-time updates to the model data is one of the signatures of our service, and we want to make it as easy as possible for you to see those updates. We know that our system of simply announcing in the groups, that the app numbers may be out-of-date for certain areas, has been a bit cumbersome for you, and we'd really like to thank you for bearing with us while we worked out the frameworks for a better system. 

Now, however, we have the ability to update the Escaype app in real time. So, if that surprise fog invades, or that blue hole opens up, or we need to raise the potentials, we can do that, and the app numbers will match everything in the groups, so if you've been away, you don't have to worry about scrolling through the group's messages just to make sure you didn't miss any updates. 

The heat map updates with our changes, too.

We will continue to announce all major forecast updates in the groups, as well. The most current, down-to-the-minute information will still be in the groups, but we hope the Escaype apps become much more useful now.

One step closer to a weatherman in your pocket! 

YAY!

Android users, and iOS users on the latest version of the app only, will notice a "Last Updated" field in the app, just above the Forecaster's Note. If the data for that station have been modified by an Escaype forecaster, it will show (forecaster modified) along with the time. If the data have not been modified, that means we consider the model forecast valid. iOS users: if you don't see "Last Updated", just update to the latest version of the Escaype app

Although we've been testing the new system for the last week, some brief hiccups may occur. iOS users, if your app crashes upon launch, the problem is probably on our end, so let Tung know. Android users, if you notice the data look funky (or can't load any data), let Tung know. Thanks for bearing with us through the construction dust -- we're here for you! 

Next steps: we're working towards a full, interactive heat map for iOS. And lots of other cool features and improvements to the models. :)

 

Instructions for updating iOS app: 

(1) log out of your Escaype app,

(2) download the file linked below onto your computer,

(3) drag it into the “apps” tab of your iTunes library to replace the old version,

(4) connect your iOS device, and sync.

Let us know if you run into any trouble.

-jl

[ACTION REQUIRED] We're migrating from GroupMe to Slack!

Hi, everyone! Big news today. We are migrating our groups, the heart of our service, from GroupMe to a group messaging service called Slack. THIS DIRECTLY AFFECTS YOU, AND ACTION IS REQUIRED. 

 

Why? Well, here are just a few of the cool things you can do on Slack:

* edit and delete your messages

* upload images without compression

* discuss both in your group, and with the entire Escaype crew, so we can combine forces for even better coverage

* insert any kind of reaction to a message, not just a "like"

* communicate from an iOS/Android app, website (slack.com), and mac/pc desktop app. 

* favorite messages, so you can save those important Photoshop tricks that get shared in your group

* search to quickly find that message you're looking for

* identify keywords (for example, your name), and when someone uses those keywords in a group, you'll get notified

* the ability to keep forecast discussions separate from other discussions, so information is much more organized

* We can restrict who can post in the Important Alerts group, to avoid confusion. 

 

Here are the things you'll be leaving behind:

* the ability to easily make a meme out of any photo (though we have implemented a bot that makes memes)

 

Sounds like a no-brainer to us. So we opened our team on Slack for testing in our groups today, and everyone we've surveyed has been unanimously in favor of Slack. So, bye bye, Groupme. 

Starting now, GroupMe will be phased out. All groups are now active on Slack. From now until the end of the month, Tung and I will still monitor GroupMe, and the bots will continue to post forecasts there. After September 30, the GroupMe bots will be disabled, and GroupMe will no longer be monitored. 


HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

1) Go to slack.com, or download the Slack app for iOS/Android. 

2) Check your email for an invite to join our Escaype team. Follow the instructions to join our team. 

 

When you join, you'll see several discussion channels, and a way to send a direct message to anyone, including us You will not yet see your group. We're monitoring the channels as people join, and we'll add you to your group soon. 

 

HERE'S HOW IT WORKS

The groups (private groups) work just like your group on GroupMe. No changes here. 

Remember, you won't see this group immediately upon joining. We'll add you to it.

 

The direct messages work just like those on GroupMe. No changes here. 

 

The channels (public groups) are where the new stuff is.

Channels are groups that are open to all Escaype members. We have created channels for:

* important alerts and info (#importantalerts), which will function the same way as the Alerts group in GroupMe. Only Tung and Jeff can post here.

* arranging carpools for photo outings (#carpools), where you can look for Escaype folks to join you on photo outings, plan and suggest trips, discuss locations, etc. 

* a random thread (#random), where anything goes. Nothing important happens here. 

There may be an all-Escaype #weather channel coming soon, but for simplicity, and to make as few changes as possible, we have omitted it for now. 


TIPS AND TRICKS

* If you long-tap (mobile) or mouse over (web/desktop) a message, you'll see options: You can "react" to it with any emoticon. If it's your message, you can also edit or delete it. You can also star/favorite it, which saves it on a special page for you to refer to later. 

* If someone has posted a "reaction" to a message, you can click on their reaction icon to "react" the same way. It's basically the "like" button, except with the freedom to more than just "like".

* You can pick and choose which channels you'd like to join and subscribe to. You can also mute any channel or group you're in. We highly recommend you mute certain conversations and do not simply turn off all app notifications, because we send important notifications through the #importantalerts channel.

* You can do lots of other tricks, like bolding some text by putting *asterisks* around it, and italicizing it by putting _underscores_ around it. You can find more of these tricks in the Slack guides, if you're interested (but none of them are essential for basic use of Slack). 

 


SIDE NOTE

After working 7-day weeks for the last 6 months, Tung and I will be taking our first vacation, in Banff, Canada, from September 22-30. We will not be available or easily reachable during this time

We have a few contacts in the Bay Area who will ensure that our systems are running, and we expect the apps, including heat maps (which should be released for iOS before we leave) to be fully functional. We may check in and drop a quick message if we notice a great show coming up, but because internet connections may spotty, we can't promise this. 

We take every possible chance to emphasize that Escaype is a service, and not just an app. You can still ask the same questions you would ask us, in your groups, and the odds are high that someone will be able to help. Work together as much as possible. If you know how to read a satellite image, we'd love it if you could answer a couple questions for us -- we just might even reward you for it when we get back. 

This is a bit of a test for us, and we don't plan to repeat it often. If you find that Escaype is not meeting your needs while we are unavailable, shoot us a private message containing "#escaype4lyfe", and we'll work with you to provide compensation when we return. (Don't worry, we're not here to take your subscription and run away.)

Happy shooting,

-jl

 

FACT OR FICTION: Haze/smoke makes vivid sunsets!

Hi everyone! Jeff here. 

With all the wildfires burning around drought-stricken California this summer, there's a lot to be said about awful air quality. But, for photographers like us, it's much more than that. 

Fact or fiction? Smoke makes the sunsets more vivid because of the haze in the air, which makes the sunset redder. (It often appears in news articles.) 

Our take... this is FICTION. It's one of the big myths in sunset science. Those of you who have photographed the last few sunrises can easily attest to that. 

The myth comes from a difference in perception between photographers and 'non-photographers': most people think a sun that looks like an orange circle setting through a layer of haze looks cool. And it does. But, as a photographer, it means weak light in your foreground (if any), and that the burn is likely to fail to ignite. 


So, why does haze kill a sunset/sunrise?


Remember, from our article "What makes a sunset burn?": 

* When you see a colorful sunset, what you are looking at is sunlight hitting the clouds from below.

* The two basic elements of having a colorful sunset are:

(1) having clouds where you are, and

(2) having an unobstructed path for the sun to light the clouds from the bottom.

Does haze/smoke cause a change in either (1) or (2)? We'll let you think about it for a minute. 


OK, spoiler alert! Here's the answer. 

(1) No change. Having haze in the area, whether from smoke or something else, doesn't do anything to change the fact that you either have clouds over your head, or you don't. The clouds don't go anywhere. 

(2) AHA! Something changed here. When light rays pass through haze, they weaken. (This is due to increased scattering.) By the time the light reaches the bottoms of the clouds (and, of course, your eye), it is much less intense. 

What does this mean for us? Well, if the light reaching the bottoms of the clouds is less intense, the light and colors we see on the clouds will be less intense. If the haze is dense or thick, we may see no light/color at all. 

15 minutes before sunset. Looks epic! (Note the haze in the air.)

5 minutes after sunset. Hardly any burn. Just weak, muted colors. Disappointing! And there were no clouds blocking the light. It's a mystery skunk. 



Some of you may have noticed that under certain conditions, hazy sunsets can look promising just before sunset, but then the light mysteriously fizzles at sunset, and little to no color is produced. If you're watching the sunset, you will often notice that the sun looks like an 'orange circle' instead of a bright, blinding sunstar. You could probably even look at it without squinting (though if you try it and go blind, don't sue us).  

Let's have a look into why that happens. 

A diagram showing two sunset scenarios: (1) a situation with haze/smoke towards the horizon, and (2) a normal situation with no haze/smoke. 

Have a look at the diagrams above. In (2), we consider a regular sunset, with high clouds over your head and an open horizon for the light to come through. As we discussed in "What makes a sunset burn?", that sky will burn (you're looking at an 80/0, possibly even 100/0 with those high clouds). 

In (1), we consider a smoke or haze-influenced sunset. Those of you who know our "What makes a sunset burn?" article may quickly recognize this as being very similar to the diagram with fog, except the smoke is often higher and thicker. We see that in this situation, some light makes it through right after sunset (when the sun is just below the horizon), but then it disappears into the smoke plume and the light dies.

A few questions for you to think about:

(a) What would happen if those were low or mid-level clouds, and not high clouds, in the same position? Would any light make it through?

(b) What if the smoke/haze were over your head instead? How about if it were behind you?

Those of you who saw the sunrises today and yesterday will have a big hint. There was a big smoke plume on the horizon on both mornings (just like in the diagram (1)). Today, there were mid-level clouds and there was no burn. Yesterday, there were wispy high clouds, and they showed no early/blue hour pre-glow, and finally went pink about 10 minutes before sunrise, much later than normal. On both days, the cloud setup was excellent, with no clouds past the horizon to block the light. 

If there is haze out to sea, it'll be a similar setup to diagram (1), except instead of smoke, we just have haze. It blocks the light similar to thin clouds. That's why you can see the sun through haze/smoke, but it's very weak. 


Well, that's smoke and haze in a nutshell for you. 

One of our biggest areas of current research is a patent-pending method to make Escaype one of the world's first weather models to consider the true effects of smoke and haze on an observer, like you, the photographer. We're on it. But it won't happen overnight. 

Until then, here's what you need to know:

* There are lots of wildfires burning in California and the West Coast, and their smoke will continue to affect us until the wet season comes. It'll probably be at least a few weeks, perhaps a month. This effect will be much less frequent in the winter months. 

* The Escaype model raw data do not consider smoke and haze, as weather models do not forecast these. When we are able to properly analyze it, we will be among the first. Exciting news! Until then, however, we must manually update in the groups, and if we suspect that haze/smoke will be an issue (like for today's sunrise and sunset, and likely for tomorrow's sunrise), we will continue to let you know to ignore those 0% skunk scores in the app, because the skies will fail to burn with vivid, dramatic colors. 

 

EDIT: SMOKE MAP IS AVAILABLE HERE: http://www.ospo.noaa.gov/data/land/fire/currenthms.jpg

 

planit: the ultimate #escaype companion

Greetings, y'all! To those who are new: our warmest welcome. 

While we wait for the clouds to come, I'd like to give you all a heads up to a new, incredible iOS and Android app that is the perfect complement to #escaype. It's called PlanIt! for Photographers and has been featured in a recent Digital Photography School article.

(disclaimer: I know the creator personally; he's a long-time Flickr contact of mine. He didn't ask me to write this and doesn't know I'm posting it, though.) 

TPE and PhotoPills were groundbreaking apps, but this new kid on the block does everything that both of them do and more, and it's all in one place. You can literally plan every detail of your shot (except for the weather conditions, of course -- that's our big job!).

Here are some of the things it does. It's pretty incredible:

* All the features of TPE and PhotoPills: full ephemeris for sun, moon, and Milky Way

* Tide predictions, with search feature (pick a height, specify it's a sunset shot, and it'll tell you what dates work)

* Map modes: Google maps, satellite, terrain

* View modes: through your viewfinder (you can see the mountains in your frame with the sun rising behind them, etc!), street view

* Location scouting: place and save markers, gps, terrain integration

* Visualizing your shot: seeing a specific focal length on the map and in the virtual viewfinder

* See where light and shadows fall (will that peak light up at sunset?), position of where a rainbow would be, timelapse, and a whole bunch of stuff I haven't even gotten to explore yet. 

The app is so packed with features that there are several I still haven't even gotten around to playing with yet. I don't really have any complaints so far; it definitely takes time to learn how to use everything in the app, but there's a good user's guide online that's helped a lot. The design isn't quite as sleek as PhotoPills or TPE, but it gets the job done just fine.

The app is $5.99, a total steal for what it offers. There's also a free but heavily crippled version for Android; don't know about iOS.

also, iOS folks: your #escaype heat map is almost ready. alllllllmost. get psyched. 

Shooting Smart: How to score (almost) every time out there

Today, we're going to tell you one of the biggest secrets of a successful landscape photographer. It also happens to be the way to make the most of Escaype. We call it shooting smart

The keys to shooting smart are: flexibility and adaptability. 

We've all been in the situation. You've driven an hour. The clouds looked great all the way up. Suddenly, just twenty minutes before sunset, a thick grey wall of fog appears out of nowhere, socks you in, and the show is over before it starts. That's all, folks. Drive of skunky shame to home coming up. 

But, was it really over? Or were other options available?

Even with the most powerful weather forecasts available, the following points for shooting smart remain indispensable:

1) Avoid setting your plans in stone. Yes, even if we forecasted a 100/0 from Davenport to Santa Cruz with a slight chance of patchy fog, and you drive to Davenport and find it fogged in, you should be prepared to try a spot a couple miles away. Don't just sit there in the fog, and don't turn around and drive home! Be a smart shooter; report it immediately so we can let you know what your options are. 

Of course, there are occasional exceptions. If you came to shoot the full moon at a specific angle, then we'll do everything we can to make sure you know what you're in for. But if you're in search of a burn: flexibility is key.

2) Consider the big picture and not just very specific, localized forecasts. If the app says 100/0 all over the coast and has a mysterious 30/20 at the Golden Gate Bridge, this means the model is seeing an excellent sunset for the most part, and there may be small blue holes in the clouds, which may or may not be exactly at the Golden Gate. Once sunset nears, we will be tracking these blue holes and alerting each other to them -- if you notice that the blue hole is actually down in Pacifica, be a smart shooter and don't stand underneath it. (This is when it helps to have a backup...)

3) Know your location. In general, you want to face a burn for the best chance of color. For example, Kirby Cove faces southwest and is not a summer sunset spot. The coast from Davenport to Santa Cruz is much better in winter than summer, both at sunrise and sunset. Bowling Ball Beach is not prime at a 6' high tide. Mt. Tam is prime for fog around 1500-1700 feet and Russian Ridge is prime around 2000-2200 feet. All of these kinds of things can be discussed in your group, but it's your responsibility as a smart shooter to research them, or to be prepared to learn the hard way. Excellent resources include googling "tide table [your location]", TPE, PhotoPills, PlanIt!, and dozens of other apps and websites for evaluating conditions and locations. We'd rather not answer these questions for you when the info is already somewhere else, because that leaves us less time to answer the weather questions that no other weather service does. 

4) Always have an appropriate backup plan, and preferably more than one. Your backup spots should solve the problems you anticipate you might encounter at your first choice. For example, if your first choice is Marshall Beach, Baker Beach is not a backup for fog or a blue hole in the sky, as if the fog comes in or the blue hole forms, you're screwed at either spot. Treasure Island, however, is a suitable backup. In the event that your first choice doesn't work out, we will likely be able to verify that your backup has more favorable conditions.

5) Use common sense. If Escaype forecasted a 100/0 from Pescadero to Half Moon Bay, and you're in Pescadero and it's meager cloud cover an hour before sunset, but you see the clouds just to your north... get in the car and drive under them. If you drive to Russian Ridge and find it fogged in, don't just give up and drive home -- drive up a couple miles to a couple other spots and you'll find yourself above it. Remember: shoot smart. 

All this may mean you'll have to do some research to find more spots to shoot around the Bay Area. But ahhh, that's one of the most fun and exciting parts of photography: discovering your own favorite local spots by researching and exploring, then making the shots you visualize into reality. 

______________

Finally, we'd like to clarify an important Escaype policy that has been in effect since day one, but we've been a little lax on it, and in order to focus in on what we do best for you as our groups grow, we're going to have to crack down a little. Believe me -- it's all for you. 

Remember that Escaype is the world's first comprehensive weather service for photographers. This means we are here to answer all your questions about weather and light in the bay area. 

While we may pop in from time to time to provide critique on photos you share in the groups; while we may chip in for discussions about gear, processing, and workflow in the groups; and while we may offer a few location possibilities at times -- remember, however, that we are not a Bay Area photo tour service, and we are not advertising nor providing a full-service workshopand any non-weather advice we provide is a pure courtesy and is not included in the Escaype package. If you're interested in working directly and closely with us for in-field guidance, in-depth processing, and extensive image review, we are happy to provide that with private workshops

You are more than welcome to ask for location advice, arrange carpools, and the like, in your groups. But remember that you haven't hired us to answer those questions -- you've hired us to tell you when the weather is looking prime for photography. And we do that best when we can focus all our time and energy into it. 

 

-jl

What makes a sunset burn?

Let's talk about something close to our hearts: what makes a sky burn, anyway?

You might have heard that sunrises/sunsets are likely to burn when there is a "gap on the horizon", or when the sky is brighter toward the horizon. This is often correct, but why? And how come some skies blow up even though the horizon was solid grey just before sunset? And how come a big fog bank offshore doesn't block a burn?

When you see a colorful sunset, what you are looking at is sunlight hitting the clouds from below.

(Note that the sun has already set where you are -- that's why most good colors are afterburns, as the clouds are lit from the bottom.)

As you know, even on a clear sky day, during golden hour, the sunlight shifts toward yellow, then orange, then a deep red glow after sunset. We'll talk about why that happens another time, but for now, you can realize that clouds turn those same colors as they reflect yellow, then orange, then pink, then red sunlight to you as they are lit from below.

It follows, then, that, the two basic elements of having a colorful sunset are:

(1) having clouds where you are, and

(2) having an unobstructed path for the sun to light the clouds from the bottom.

For example: 

This sunset will not burn, because the light is unable to reach the clouds over your head from beneath. You'll see 100% cloud cover, but it will fade to grey. 

This sunset will burn, because the light has a clear path to reach the clouds over your head from beneath. You'll see 100% cloud cover, but it will burn. Now, imagine you're the viewer, and you're looking at the sunset to the left in the diagram. In this case, you'll see a "gap" of open sky on the horizon. In reality, this "gap" might be hundreds of miles of open sky, but you'll see the same little gap. 

On a satellite image, the above scenario might look something like this when it's setting up:

Don't worry, we'll talk more later about how to read a satellite image. For now, note that there are plenty of clouds overhead, but a large area of clear sky out to sea. As the afternoon progressed, the clouds moved a bit further to the right, and the open sky to the left created a visible gap on the horizon in an otherwise grey sky. This is how that one ended (look closely at the horizon and you will indeed see the open sky beyond the clouds). 

As the sun gets lower below the horizon and continues to light up the clouds from beneath, the color of the light on the clouds changes, just as the color would change if the sky were blue bird. Remember, it's the same light, but now you're seeing it reflect off the bottoms of the clouds. 

Assuming the light encounters no other obstructions (like blocking clouds), the main show is over when the sun is far enough below the horizon such that the light can no longer reach the bottoms of the clouds, because it can't make it around the curvature of the Earth. Otherwise, the show is over as soon as the light encounters other obstructions, like blocking clouds, tall mountains, or thick haze. Also note that there's no such thing as too many clouds, or clouds too thick over your head -- it's the path of the light to those clouds that matters.

This explains why:

* some burns are shorter than others (the light is obstructed for part of the possible burn time)

* some burns end early after they go yellow or orange (the light is obstructed for the later part of the burn time)

* some burns won't start until late but will be a dazzling pink or red (the light is obstructed for the earlier part of the burn time)

* an offshore fog bank does not block a burn, as long as the fog is not covering you. A few things to note here. First, if you put yourself in the place of the stick figure below, looking at the sunset, you'll see the big fog bank blocks your horizon. That means no sunstar at sunset. But the high clouds are so much higher than the fog that the fog hardly affects the burn at all. (In fact, it affects the burn in the same way that a small mountain would: it'll just end the burn a little early, because we've now introduced a small obstruction on the Earth's surface, which the sun won't care about until it is way below the horizon, already into the red stage of the burn.)

It also helps us explain a lot of other things, like crepuscular rays, why high clouds often disappear just before sunset, and many more -- we'll discuss those in the coming posts. 

Some clever folks may also be supposing the cloud mass I drew in the above diagrams was higher or lower than it is, and noticing that there must be some kind of relationship between how far away the light will come to light up the clouds, and the height of the clouds. There absolutely is, and we'll give you a hint: low clouds tend to burn less, and for shorter periods of time, and wispy high clouds are often able to burn for 45 minutes or even longer. We'll be exploring this in more detail later. 

Feel free to ask us questions or discuss in the groups!

- Jeff

 

 

a little more on #escaype forecasts

Hi everyone! We're back with a couple words on how our forecasts and service works, what we are and are not, etc. Because we're growing rapidly, we need to make sure everyone's on the same page about what kinds of questions we can and cannot answer, and when. 

note that the examples given below are all hypothetical; they don't relate to anything that's happening right now.

HOW THE ESCAYPE FORECASTS WORK

This is how things usually go on the back end (which you don't see):

1) We look at the long-range models and identify the days that seem to have potential for anything photogenic (high potential sunrises and sunsets, low fog, storms, etc). At this point, we are not yet able to forecast the specifics of these events with high confidence. For example, we could tell you that if low fog is going to happen this week, it would likely be on Saturday.  We could tell you that we're seeing a bunch of mid-level clouds coming through on Sunday and Monday with a lot of potential. We can't tell you if they're going to burn with any kind of confidence, though. And we can't tell you that Santa Cruz is going to have an epic sunrise four days from now.

2) When events of interest appear on our official next-three-events radar, we begin to track them in much more detail. This is when we can start to tell you if that sunset is expected to burn, if there looks like a good chance for low fog, and things like that. However, at this point, we are not yet able to forecast exactly where, down to the mile, the best conditions will be. For example, we could tell you that we're seeing a big burn very likely in much of the bay area, with the best clouds south of SF, but we can't tell you with any kind of confidence that Davenport will be better than Santa Cruz. 

3) On the day of the event (or late night preceding a sunrise), that's when we can start to hammer out exactly where it looks like the best conditions will be. This will usually be a region of the forecast area; for example, inland areas and the east bay, the central valley, north of SF, santa cruz and south. Our confidence levels will vary depending on the cloud formation, dynamics, etc, and we try to be as transparent as possible about what we do and don't know. 

 

This is how things usually go on the front end (which you see):

1) A couple days ahead, we'll begin to share general ideas of what's coming our way in the next few days in the forecaster's note and the groups. We really can't tell you much detail or answer specific questions, so don't ask us if the sunset will be epic in Davenport four days out -- we really don't know, though we can tell you that there will be a lot of potential in the area.

2) When events start appearing on our official Escaype next-three-event radar, you'll hear us begin to say more specific things like "there will be fog hugging the coast north of pigeon point" and "a big burn is likely tomorrow, but it is going to be much better inland than at the coast". We still can't tell you if it'll be the perfect day for Marshall's Beach facing northeast towards the golden gate, or if you should go to Twin Peaks instead (so don't ask us). But we can tell you, for example, that north looks better than south, inland looks better than coast.

3) As the event nears (within 6-12 hours), that's when we can begin to give out more specific information. We can tell you that SF is fogged in but Pacifica is expected to stay clear, or that Santa Cruz is expected to skunk, Pescadero will probably be a partial burn, and you really want to be north of Half Moon Bay for the good stuff.

Remember, we spend a lot of time maintaining the forecaster's note and alerts group for you all, so if you have a question about what's coming, make sure it isn't already answered there. We love interacting with you all and answering your questions, but if we get asked the same things over and over again, it begins to take away time that we could be using to improve Escaype.  


WHAT ESCAYPE IS

we are a comprehensive weather service for photographers.

we give you the information you need to make your own decision (or decide as a group) if and/or where you should shoot.

WHAT ESCAYPE IS NOT

we are not a tour guide for the bay area. meaning, we're not here to tell you what there is to shoot in the east bay. (you can discuss that in your group, though.)

we try to refrain from giving you specific locations and comps to shoot a given event; instead, we'll tell you where the good light is, and you get to put that together with your own (and your group's!) knowledge to find a great composition.

station list

here is the list of escaype virtual weather stations, as of 6.25.2015.

 

we are working on an iOS version that is better aware of common search queries (rodeo, ggb, sc, hawk hill, etc.) to make your search easier. this has already been implemented on android.

 

as a review: if your search was unsuccessful, you may see la jolla (if the search result was further south than our forecast area), or stove pipe wells (if the search result was further east than our forecast area)

 

 

NORTHERN BAY AREA AND SF:

Mt. Tamalpais, CA

Russian Gulch, CA

Elk, CA

Ukiah, CA

Petaluma Hills, CA

Bowling Ball Beach (Pt. Arena), CA

Gualala, CA

Sonoma Coast State Park, CA

Bodega Head, CA

McClures Beach (Pt. Reyes), CA

Drakes Beach (Pt. Reyes), CA

Grizzly Peak (Berkeley), CA

Hawk Hill (GGNRA), CA

Golden Gate Bridge, CA

Treasure Island (SF), CA

Sutro Baths (SF), CA

Twin Peaks (SF), CA

 

SOUTHERN BAY AREA:

Burlingame, CA

Fremont, CA

Milpitas, CA

Alviso, CA

Discovery Bay, CA

Del Valle (Livermore), CA

Danville, CA

Palo Alto, CA

San Jose, CA

Martins Beach, Half Moon Bay, CA

Russian Ridge (Skyline Blvd), CA

Long Ridge Open Space Preserve (Skyline Blvd), CA

Pescadero, CA

Pigeon Point, CA

Calero County Park (South San Jose), CA

Pacifica, CA

Davenport, CA

 

SANTA CRUZ TO BIG SUR:

4-Mile Beach (Santa Cruz), CA

Santa Cruz, CA

Aptos, CA

Pacific Grove, CA

Monterey, CA

Point Lobos (Carmel), CA

Garrapata, CA

Big Sur, CA

Pfeiffer Beach, CA

McWay Falls, CA

Plaskett, CA

Gilroy, CA

Pinnacles National Park, CA

Hollister, CA

 

BEYOND THE BAY AREA (UNMAINTAINED COURTESY STATIONS)

TO THE EAST:

North Lake Tahoe, CA

Bonsai Rock (Tahoe), NV

Zephyr Cove, NV

South Lake Tahoe, CA

Sonora, CA

Mono Lake South Tufa, CA

Glacier Point (Yosemite), CA

Tunnel View (Yosemite), CA

Mammoth Lakes, CA

Convict Lake, CA

Bishop, CA

Merced, CA

Big Pine, CA

Eureka Dunes, CA

Kings Canyon High Country, CA

Stove Pipe Wells (Death Valley), CA

Lone Pine, CA

Fresno, CA

 

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA:

Gorman, CA

Westwood (Los Angeles), CA

La Canada Flintridge (East LA), CA

Dana Point, CA

La Jolla, CA

El Matador (Malibu), CA

San Luis Obispo, CA

Santa Barbara, CA

 

PACIFIC NORTHWEST:

Seattle, WA

Portland, OR

Mt. Shasta City, CA

Government Camp (Mt. Hood), OR

White River Sno-Park (Mt. Hood), OR

Cape Kiwanda, OR

Crater Lake, OR

Smith Rock, OR

Bandon, OR

Samuel H. Boardman State Park (Brookings), OR

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