photo by mixetto via iStock
One of my best photography memories happened when I was photographing fog in the wilderness in Washington state.
Fog adds such an air of mystery to your photographs and landscapes. As someone from a traditionally dry state, the first time I saw real fog in the middle of nowhere I was incredibly fascinated.
But, when I started photographing fog, I quickly learned it is not an easy feat. The first problem I encountered was water droplets on my camera, and I didn’t understand how to prevent it from happening. I also found problems with lighting and depth.
I want to go over all of the problems I’ve encountered with photographing fog so that you can learn from my mistakes.
photo by Pyrosky via iStock
You can’t learn fog photography techniques if you run into the same problem while photographing fog as I did: your camera gets covered with condensation.
The biggest way to prevent condensation forming on your camera or lens is to ensure that your camera and lens are the exact same temperature as the outside air. So, if you store your camera and lens in your warm hotel or house before taking it out photographing fog, you’ll need to follow a few tricks.
photo by AlenaPaulus via iStock
Firstly, you need to stick your equipment into an airtight bag, like a Ziploc bag, in your home. When you go out to start photographing, do not take your equipment out of that bag until it has reached the same temperature as the air outside.
A good rule of thumb is to wait 30 minutes in your new environment before taking your equipment out of the bag. This should be enough time for even a large camera to cool down.
But, you should also start looking into photography gear for photographing fog and mist, because a little condensation is bound to form on your camera if you’re in an extremely wet environment.
My camera bag always has two helpful tools in it: a lens cloth and a Camera Canopy.
A Camera Canopy, for those who don’t know, is a shield for your camera that attaches to your camera via the hot shoe. I primarily use my Camera Canopy for photographing in either rain or snow, but it can also be incredibly helpful when photographing fog.
There are two versions of the Camera Canopy. One is for DSLRs and one is for your mirrorless setup. Both are pretty cheap at $90, and $60, respectively.
Watch Your Timing
Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash
When photographing fog, it moves incredibly quickly, but more often than not you aren’t going to notice how quickly it is moving. One of the best tips for photographing fog I ever received was to shoot more photos than I thought I needed.
Now, I know this sounds a lot like spray and pray, but it’s a much more intentional technique. If you go out and take too few pictures the first few times you’re photographing fog then you won’t understand what perfect photos you missed because you didn’t take enough.
This way, you can compare photographs you took just minutes apart to learn how quickly fog moves so you will be better able to capture it next time you go out.
And, much like the sun, you only have a limited amount of time when you are photographing fog. You need to learn how long fog tends to linger in the area you’re photographing so that you understand just how quickly you need to move.
Highlight Your Lighting
Photo by Артём Мякинник on Unsplash
When photographing mist one of your most important tools will be lighting.
When there is a lot of water in the air, your light is going to scatter a lot further than it otherwise would, which enables you to capture beautiful and moody photos. Your light will naturally be softened by the condensation and light streaks will be easier to capture.
If you’re looking to capture light rays specifically then you will need to start understanding your vantage point. You won’t want to stand too close to where the light is coming from, but rather you will want to stand close to where you can see the direct source of light.
This change can be as little as a few feet, so play around with it the next time you are photographing fog.
Photo by Johny Goerend on Unsplash
One of the other best tips for photographing mist I’ve come across is to ignore everything else in favor of shapes.
Fog does two things simultaneously: it lessens the contrast of different objects while still highlighting its outline. There are two different ways to highlight shapes while photographing fog. The first is to expose based on the fog so that any objects in the fog turn into simply silhouettes. This technique works best at night or at least when your object is backlit.
The other technique is to focus on the shape itself, like in the photograph above, so that the fog enhances its ethereal beauty.
Fog will enable your shapes to stand out more than they ever otherwise would.
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
Another important technique for you to learn while photographing fog is how to properly use distance.
The first way you can do this is by photographing fog from a ways away. Oftentimes, it is going to be more difficult for you to photograph fog if you’re physically in the fog. So starting by photographing fog from the air or simply from a great distance can be really useful for you.
Another way to photograph fog is to do so up close, but to focus on different objects around you. For example, in the photograph above, you can see that the trees closest to the photographer are very clear, but the trees farther away from the photographer are nothing but silhouettes.
You can also emphasize depth by taking images in fog of similar objects, at different lengths from you. This technique works well with light poles, trees, or people.
This technique works best when you position at least one subject in the foreground, one subject in the midground, and one subject in the background.