Be Ready to Take Advantage of the Weather

 
 EXIF: Nikkor 18-140mm (18mm) ISO 100 1/6 sec @ f 8

EXIF: Nikkor 18-140mm (18mm) ISO 100 1/6 sec @ f 8

As a part-time landscape photographer I have to work my photography in when I can between family and work obligations.  One way I to achieve this is to to have my camera bag ready to go when an opportunity presents itself (more on that another time).  One such opportunity came along recently.  An abrupt change in weather caused widespread dense fog across central North Carolina.  It was a school morning and I needed to drive my son to school.  I grabbed my gear and out the door we went.  After dropping my son, I stopped by a local park on my way home and found what felt like a never ending series of subjects and compositions.  Fog is an amazing aid to a photographer.  It removes potentially busy and cluttered backgrounds and enables you to isolate your subject easily.  Fog brings a wonderful mood to images and it extends the potential shooting time well past the golden hour with it soft defuse light, allowing you to shoot as long as the fog lasts.  On this day, I had to wrap long before I had exhausted all potential subjects. Work appointments and projects demanded my attention.  Never the less, I got a solid hour of shooting in and came away with more than a couple keeper.

 EXIF: Nikkor 18-140mm (26mm) ISO 100 1/13 sec @ f 8

EXIF: Nikkor 18-140mm (26mm) ISO 100 1/13 sec @ f 8

When shooting in fog there are a few things to keep in mind to help maximize your chance of a successful image.  First, Use The Fog to isolate your subject and remove distractions. On the practical side, be sure to bring your tripod.  As you can see from the EXIF data on the images above, given the low light level you will be shooting at slow shutter speeds and a stable platform is crucial.  Next make sure you have a few microfiber lens clothes with you and perhaps a small towel.  Your lens and camera will will get some water droplets on it, no matter how careful you are.  Setting your camera up properly is the next important step.  Keep your ISO as low as possible to minimize noise.  In terms of focus and exposure, stick with manual.  You can use AF to get initial focus, assuming your subject is relatively close, but the fog can raise havoc with your camera's AF system, causing it to search endlessly for focus.  So, switch off AF and as always, switch off VR when using a tripod. 

 Histogram exposed to the right to achieve my desired affect

Histogram exposed to the right to achieve my desired affect

 Histogram of image at the exposure the camera chose on aperture priority

Histogram of image at the exposure the camera chose on aperture priority

To get the exposure right, use the histogram on your camera.  Don't be afraid to "expose to the right" and capture an image that looks overexposed on the camera back preview.  If your histogram does not clip the highlights, you can brings them down in post (I use Lightroom) and by shifting your exposure to the right, you pick up the ability to really bring out shadow detail that might otherwise be lost.  Shooting in aperture priority without exposure compensation will result in images that are under exposed.  The histograms above illustrate this for the boardwalk image at the top of this post.  

Lastly, enjoy the peace and solitude that comes from being in a natural area in the fog.  Get out an shoot the next time the fog rolls in, even if it is just in your backyard or local park.