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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Atmospherics


The very air through which we shoot has a profound impact on the look and mood of an image. Position the camera in the same spot at the same time of day with identical focal-length settings, and you can get two entirely different photographs.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Just as fog and mist create depth in a scene, the absence of it will reduce the depth in the scene. Here, on a crystal-clear day, the whole photograph has a flattened, foreshortened look.
Working Distance
The loss of contrast in a foggy scene creates a sense of depth. Our eyes are accustomed to objects becoming less and less contrasty the farther away they are. When you introduce fog to a scene, the apparent distances between your camera and elements in the scene are magnified. Trees that are a few yards from one another appear to be much more separated, and the whole scene rapidly fades out to nothing, with distant objects rendered only as shapes without detail.

Try setting up with a main subject fairly close to your camera. This subject will show the most detail and contrast and the richest saturation. It will have the most punch. As the rest of the scene fades into the fog, the viewer will be left with an impression of the scene stretching out to infinity.

Watch your depth of field. The more distant objects have a natural softness to them because of the atmospheric effect, but you don't want to compound that with softness from your optics in most cases. The fog is doing all of the work for you to make a soft, low-contrast scene. You want to use your camera and lenses to preserve what's there.

Sunbeams
Dramatic rays of light can enhance your scene. As the fog begins to break up, you stand the best chances of getting some of this effect. At this point, the conditions are changing very quickly, so attention to the exposure and shooting in RAW is important. You can get the best effect from the sunbeams when you can't quite make out the sun from your vantage point.

Gear Concerns
In heavy fog and mist, you want to make sure to protect your equipment. A full-fledged rain cover is seldom necessary, but neoprene sleeves for the lens and camera body are definitely nice to have.

Keep your gear at ambient temperature as much as possible. If you're going from an air-conditioned building out into warm, humid air, condensation will form almost immediately. Think of taking a cold can of soda out of a refrigerator on a hot and humid day. Try placing all of your gear in a large garbage bag before you head out into the warmer air, and keep the bag sealed until everything comes up to ambient temperature.

Keep a small towel or, better yet, a microfiber cloth in your camera bag so you can wipe off any droplets or condensation that form. Watch your lens. Dew and condensation can form fast. Swimmers often use small battery-powered ear dryers, and these little devices are also excellent for preventing dew from ruining your shot. They put out just enough warm air to keep the lens clear when aimed at the front element. If you're starting to get condensation on the lens element, you also can try wiping it with a proper lens cloth. Any of these measures will only slow the process, so once it starts, be vigilant about watching for more to form.

Perspective

Using atmosphere to create perspective is a relatively new invention in art. Ancient representations show the use of size to create a sense of relative distance, but it wasn't until much more recently that painters began using reduced contrast and color, essentially incorporating the effects of atmosphere in paintings.

In the 15th century, artists began experimenting with atmospheric perspective. One of the most famous works where you can see atmospheric perspective is in da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Compare that painting to this fresco from ancient Egypt, and you can see how perspective evolved from very flat scenes to a representation of depth.

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