Surreal Sundog on the Great Salt Lake

January 19, 2015

Click here to see this view

Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren
These odd looking linear features may appear to be manmade, but they're in fact winter-limp reeds in a lagoon of Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. One friend who subsequently saw this photograph, taken on December 17, 2014, compared the abstract effect to a Surrealist painting a la Barcelona-born artist Joan Miro: a vibrant background spattered with streaks and filaments. Another thought the tattered plants and their reflections made them look like notes on a music sheet.

While anticipating a sunset over the reflective lagoons of this bird refuge, the rainbow-like colors of a sundog, or parhelion, appeared on a feathery cirrus cloud above Utah’s Promontory Mountains. Click the photo above to see this view. I then noticed that the bright sundog was itself reflected among the reeds beside the levee I was standing on.

Above and to the southwest the sundog migrated along the thin cloud, orange-red on its right side, a yellow-to-white tail to the left. The low, westering Sun, not pictured but to the right of this sundog, would disappear within minutes — producing a gratifying sunset. Sundogs, caused by the refraction of sunlight through hexagonal ice crystals composing cirrus clouds, are associated with the 22 degree halo optical phenomenon.

Photo details: Camera Model: NIKON D3200; Lens: Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS APO HSM; Focal Length: 500mm (35mm equivalent: 750mm); Aperture: ƒ/11.0; Exposure Time: 0.0020 s (1/500); ISO equiv: 400; Software: iPhoto 9.5.1.