• Photographing Fog

    Capturing the Ever Changing Face of Fog
    Written by Kevin McElheran

    For me, no other weather condition has the ability of drawing out mystic feelings than that of fog. Always on the move, fog quietly envelopes the landscape creating a sense of mystery and loneliness. Deciding where to be and having the necessary knowledge and tools when the forecast calls for fog is key to capturing amazing photos.

    Photographing Fog
    ©Kevin McElheran

    Wet humid weather followed by clear, cold temperatures is key for fog to produce most anywhere especially low lying areas and that is usually the time I grab my gear, listen to the radio forecast stating where the fog is and drive in that direction. If I were asked, where the best place is to photograph fog I would have to say that great photos can be captured whether your in the thick of it or looking at it from a far.

    My two personal favourite composites come to mind, the first was capturing the rising sun through the fog with a lone horse in it’s stable in the foreground.

    Photographing Foggy Sunrise
    ©Kevin McElheran

    The second being in position about a mile from the edge of the fog and waiting for the right composed moment as it moved across a field just behind a clump of trees.

    Photographing Fog Across a Field
    ©Kevin McElheran

    There are so many great photographic opportunities during this time as the face of fog is always changing. Fog can create scenes ranging from dramatic to eerie and everything in between and the only way to guarantee capturing all of these is in taking the time to plan ahead, watch your local weather forecast and set the alarm to get up early to get to your ideal predetermined locations.

    Photographing Fog Weather Forecast
    ©Kevin McElheran

    I’ve read a lot about metering your camera to make sure your shot is not too dark or highlights blown out but I’ve actually never used this technique for this type of shot and will rely on what my histogram is reading and will adjust my exposure accordingly. You want to see a nice even bell arch when looking at the histogram. I also have my clipped highlight warning set to “on” as a double guard to make sure those highlights are protected. Don’t blow the highlights as you can’t get the highlight details back in your post editing. Leaning slightly on the dark side will make sure those details are there. Also, most of my fog shots are taken with a 4 stop Neutral Density Hoya filter giving nice tones to shadows.

    Having your ISO’s set to correct levels will also add depth to fog showing highlight details. Starting from your lowest setting, as you increase the ISO’s, the brightest highlights will enhance first, followed by mid-range tones. But be careful, as ISO’s too high will blow out the brightest whites.

    ISO’s is to Highlights what Gas is to Fire!

    Conditions during extreme fog are also very humid…much like rain and if your going out in it, it only takes but a few minutes and your expensive camera gear can be soaked. I have several “rain sleeves” that I keep in my pack for moments such as this. They’re cheap at around $7 to 15 dollars and do the job with no worries of getting your camera wet (www.thecamerastore.com/rain_sleeve).

    One problem mentioned to me that some people have is their difficulty in focusing during a thick heavy fog. There just isn’t enough light on the subject for the camera to lock on to. As your camera needs to see contrasting lines in order to auto focus, if the fog is too thick, all the lines blend in as one tone and can prove to be frustrating at getting a focus lock especially if your shooting in the middle of the night or well before sunrise. Some tips that are very helpful to achieve focus lock is to use a powerful flash light or spot lamp to light up your subject. Get your focus locked then set your lens to manual focus so it doesn’t move. If your subject is too far for your flashlight to be any good, you can run your light to your subject, set it on the ground facing the light back toward your camera, run back to your camera to get a focus lock, then run back to retrieve your light. Yes, lots of running and a good way to get in your exercise before heading back home but not before stopping for that coffee and donut!!

    If your not into all that running, (but that coffee and donut sounds real nice), you may be looking at your subject and it’s just physically impossible to use the tips above, the only tool that I know that cuts through that fog and makes short work of it is a powerful green laser pointer. You can pick them up on eBay for cheap BUT I’ll take the time to tell you that if your wanting a serious beam, don’t waist your time there, go here to check out the green lasers sold ==> www.wickedlasers.com. They are high quality and I paid just over $200 for mine. MONEY WELL SPENT! The performance and quality far exceeds that of the one I bought on eBay for $45 and is an invaluable tool in my camera bag to have for focusing on any subject where there is little to no natural light around.

    I hope this little tutorial helps and look forward to seeing the results!

    Kevin McElheran
    Poetry of Motion Photography

    Below are a few more of Kevin's inspirational fog scenes.

    Photographing Fog 1
    ©Kevin McElheran

    Photographing Fog 2
    ©Kevin McElheran

    Photographing Fog 3
    ©Kevin McElheran

    Photographing Fog 4
    ©Kevin McElheran

    Photographing Fog 5
    ©Kevin McElheran

    We want to thank Kevin for contributing the 2nd article to Bytephoto's "Inspirational Photography Instruction"

    If you have an article you would like to contribute to the Bytephoto community, please email us at BytePhoto Article
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