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Monday, April 4, 2011

Photographing Fog: Some Quick Tips

Spring is a great time to look for fog photos, especially in areas that were cold this winter, because as the warm air tumbles down onto the cool earth or onto the cold water in harbors or the ocean, fog is much more prevalent. In some areas that are close to the sea (San Francisco and Cape Cod come to mind), fog is pretty common all year round, but even in these areas, spring (and fall) are much more prone to producing that nice thick photogenic fog. Here are a few quick tips for finding and shooting foggy pictures:

  • Get up early in the morning: Fog is very common where warm air mixes with cool water (or a cool meadow) or vice versa. But the heat of the sun burns off most fog in the first half an hour or so after sunrise. I shot the photo here at dawn and in fifteen minutes, the fog was gone.
  • Use a longer lens to magnify the effects on fog--singling out one boat using a moderate telephoto, for example. I used the equivalent of a 93mm lens for this shot, but also shot some pictures of an oyster boat with a 300mm lens and the fog is much denser looking--though they were shot only minutes apart.
  • Be sure to add an extra stop to a stop-and-a-half of exposure using your exposure compensation feature, otherwise the fog will fool the meter into underexposing the scene. Fog reflects a lot of light and meters are easily fooled. 
  • Try to find a fairly bold subject to stand out against the fog. Delicate shapes and details and soft colors get lost in fog, so strong lines and dark shapes work best.
  • Shoot in the RAW mode if you are able and have the software to edit RAW files because then you can adjust both the exposure and the white balance after the fact. For the past year or so I've shot 100-percent of all my photos in RAW and I'd never go back to jpegs. 
My last tip is to be sure that when you see fog you make an effort to find at least a few quick photos. When I'm illustrating photo books, almost regardless of the specific topic, I almost always need more photos of weather events (rain, fog, snow, ice) which means I don't shoot them enough and it's been a frequent source of frustration. So now when I see weather events, I try to force myself to get photos, just so that I don't get angry at myself for being lazy when I had the opportunities. If you do the same, you'll find a lot more variety in your landscape photos and you'll find a whole new realm of subjects to photograph.


Wyatt said...

Wish I would have read this just a week ago! Great tips, cannot wait for more fog to give it a shot.

Jeff Wignall said...

I'm with you--I love fog. Hope we gets lots of it! jeff