(© Ian Plant) “Atmospherics” are what I like to call all the good stuff that occurs when moisture and light collide. Backlit mist, sunbeams filtering through clouds or fog, and other photogenic phenomena can add mood and a hint of mystery to your images.
Atmospherics typically occur when warm moist air meets relatively cool temperatures. Early mornings after a cool night are often best for misty or foggy conditions. For the image below, taken in Yellowstone National Park, I had a combination of steam rising from a geothermal-fed creek and frost melting in the morning sun.
Lighting is important when working with atmospherics, as flat overcast light typically does not work very well. Look for backlighting to really bring your moody atmospheric images to life, especially at sunrise and sunset when the light is warm and colorful. When the sun filters through clouds, or light mist, eye-catching sunbeams are often the result. Make sure to make the sunbeams an important part of your composition, either as the main subject or as a counterpoint element.
Atmospherics tend not to last long, so when conditions are right, don’t delay: start shooting and don’t stop until the smoke (almost quite literally) clears. These are the magical moments we all wait for as nature photographers, and since they don’t happen often, seize the opportunity when they do.
To see more of my Yellowstone images, visit the new Recent Work gallery on my website!
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