When moisture is suspended in the air near the earth’s surface, fog is the result. Fog is essentially a low-lying cloud. The way a cloud and fog differ is based on elevation. Clouds are found at higher elevations and are broad based, while fog is locally created by moisture from lakes, rivers, streams or coastal ocean waters. It can be thick and soupy or thin and airy. Both forms produce dramatic results. Here are some ways to best capture the drama.
Exploit the Mood: Fog photography is all about capturing a mood. Since its density often varies by the minute, no two moments will be the same. As it rolls in and recedes, be cognizant of important compositional elements and wait until they’re prominent. As the fog rolls in, be aware of what’s hidden and what’s exposed. Keep your eye up to the viewfinder because the moment at which everything comes together may be short lived. This is especially true if the sun peaks through. It will highlight varying parts of the composition. Press the shutter when it illuminates key elements.
Protect Your Gear: Fog can be thick or thin. The thicker it is, the greater the potential to build up condensation on your camera, lens, tripod and front element. Carry a chamois to wipe off any moisture. If condensation accumulates on the front element, the image will lack contrast and the focus will appear soft. Periodically wipe down the camera to prevent water issues. This is especially true if it’s salt-water fog. If it is, be sure to wipe down all your gear with fresh water on a damp rag to prevent corrosion. I carry a shower cap and place it over my camera and lens to add a layer of protection.
Nail It: Fog has many moods. They can be enhanced via the exposure at which the image is made. The darker the exposure, the more ominous the mood. With this in mind, I strongly encourage you to bracket your exposures as you’ll also be bracketing the mood of the photo. Post processing can further enhance the effect, but it’s essential that your exposures are nailed to pull the most from your files. If the sun filters through the fog, be careful of blown-out highlights—watch for blinkies and check your histogram often. If the contrast range gets excessive, bracket your exposures and postprocess using HDR software. Finally, since fog tends to produce flat conditions that lack contrast, be sure you place your focus sensor on a spot that can acquire focus. If the conditions are very flat, you may need to switch to manual focus.
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.