Winter has passed without even noticing. Spring is here – a good season to photograph fog and clouds. Fog photography is a challenging topic that requires skillful techniques. The use of lighting, the different shades of colors in the foreground and background area as well as the diffusion of colors are all common techniques to outstand the beauty of fog and clouds.
Backlighting to Show the Shafts of Light
Morning fog is a common subject in fog photography. As the overnight heavy fog disperses gradually when the morning sun comes out, the land will look like being covered in a translucent mist. If we shoot into the sun through a tree, we can capture radiating shafts of light going through the mist. As the camera will use the sunlight for metering in general, a shot using auto exposure may appear under-exposed. Therefore, we should increase the exposure by 1 stop or more to make the light of fog stand out for more dreamy result.
Silhouette Composition and Use of Foreground and Background
Silhouette is another commonly used technique in fog photography, and it works well in heavy fog environment too. Simply look out for a subject ahead of the fog, use the normal exposure or decrease it by 0.5 stops to achieve a silhouette effect. The subject can be stood out easily on a white foggy background. To enrich the composition, we can make use of the foreground and background objects. Under the fog, the visibility in the foreground and background area is different, resulting in different shades in the photo. If possible, we can include more far away landscape in the composition such as mountain or shore to create a background with depth and gradation.
This photo looks very much like a Chinese landscape painting. With water in the foreground and trees in the background, the canoe in the middle is very eye-catching in the mist.
Title: 《輕舟騰雲》 Club Canon Member: C.A.
EOS 40D • EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
• 1/1600s • f/6.3 • ISO 400
Taken with a wide-angle lens in a foggy environment, the shades of colors in the foreground, middle and background go from dense to light gradually. The outline of the Buddha tower is well delineated against a light background, creating a vague vision that echoes with the title of the photo.
Title: 《迷離佛境 - 緬甸蒲甘的佛塔群》 Club Canon Member: TT
EOS-1D Mark IV • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
• 1/200s • f/9.0 • ISO 200
Capturing Sea of Fog from a High Vantage Point
Fog and clouds are similar in nature, but fog forms at a lower altitude than clouds. Those who like capturing landscape and buildings amidst the sea of clouds can also try photographing “sea of fog”. Basically you just need to go to a high vantage point above the major buildings. As long as the fog is not too thick, you may see the top of the buildings penetrating the layer of fog and capture photos of the sea of fog.
A more advanced approach is to shoot with a slow speed shutter. As fog flows faster than clouds, we can capture a spectacular view of the sea of fog with a not-too-long exposure. A lower ISO setting such as ISO 100 is recommended to prolong the possible exposure time. Also use a small aperture to keep both the foreground and background in clarity. For exposure time, it depends on the intensity of the ambient light. Besides, we can decrease the exposure level a bit to retain richer gradation of the clouds and fog and prevent blown-out highlights.
Nighttime Fog Photography with Dreamy Colors
What are the other varieties of ways to photograph fog? Nighttime shooting would be a nice option. As fog can blur and diffuse lights and colors, photos taken at night would look more dreamy. Most of the nighttime shooting techniques still apply here, like shooting on a tripod with slow shutter for long exposure. But we have to make sure that the subject is not covered by the fog, or else the long-exposed photo will only show some shades of blurry colors without a sharp subject. After acquiring the basic technique for nighttime fog photography, you can try adjusting the white balance to control the hue. Give the photo a warmer or cooler color tone and you can achieve totally surprising effects.
Without the fog, this photo would only show a few ships with lights up. The fog in this photo diffused the lights, making the ships look like some kind of actors on the stage.
Title: 《霧裡船影》 Club Canon Member: WILLIAM-WL
Canon EOS 70D • EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
• 15s • f/8.0 • ISO 100