If I had to pick my favorite weather conditions in which to shoot photos it would definitely be FOG. There are several reasons I like the moody goodness of a hazy atmosphere. Fog focuses greater attention on a particular subject in photos. A murky background can be very forgiving, especially when shooting with your mobile phone. There is also a natural moodiness with fog shots that can produce a range of emotions from peace to dark loneliness. Perhaps the reason I like shooting in fog the most is because there is a sense of mystery in the final result. What is beyond those trees? I can’t quite make out who the person is or what they are doing there? Where are those ducks flying to on that hazy lake? Does anyone live in that ghostly house? All of these questions and more are the effect I strive for when I shoot in the fog. I want to dream what is beyond and have the comfort of what is clear and close at hand, at the same time.
If you haven’t taken the advantage of fog for shooting photos, I encourage you to spend a few moments to go over some tools with me that will get you on your way to taking foggy good photos. In this post we will discuss taking photos of fog. In the next post we'll cover some techniques for editing the shots we take.
Find the Fog
You need to know where and when you can find fog. Check here for a wonderful link to the chapter of a pilot’s manual about weather. The types of fog that exist are found on page 15 of that chapter. To locate fog you have to usually be out and about early before sunrise or somewhere slightly after sunset. These are ideal times for shooting anyway and are known as the golden hours. Look for rivers, creeks, or lakes to be great places for fog, as well as low lying areas or valleys in mountainous terrain. When driving during times of fog, notice when and where you see fog occur and what the weather conditions are like. If you have time stop and take a few shots on your way to work or your destination. When you have time later you might want to come back and spend more time in the area on a foggy day. Driving to work in the early morning is when I get most of my foggy shots. I know various routes by now that will give me great opportunities on foggy mornings. I can often drive directly to a location, stop and snap a few photos, and still spend only 10-20 minutes actually capturing a foggy scene with my phone.
Phone Camera Settings and Other Details
I usually set my exposure a little low. Up to -1 at times, especially if you are shooting into the sun as it begins its burn through the fog. You will also want to hold your camera phone as still as possible. Some photographers have no shake whatsoever while holding their phones. I find that often I need the stability of a tripod. You can pick up a nice, reasonably priced, tripod at a local department store. I also recommend an adaptor for your phone to fit the tripod (find one here) as well as a Gorillapod (found here and here). These tools can keep your phone steady when shooting in the fog giving you a sharper and more defined photo for processing. Another note here: Always shoot at the highest resolution possible! You’ll be glad you did in the long run.
Creating Depth with Fog
Not only in fog but for all my photos, I’m trying to find a way to create depth. Think of your photo containing several layers. When you look at a scene you have things that are close, far, and in between. Try to take time to compose your shots. Look for things that are in the foreground to include. A tree, grasses and flowers, a log in the water, or a person can all be subjects that give you a sense of something near. In fog shots these things may be darker and somewhat silhouetted but they will probably also be well defined. In your middle ground a little farther out will be water, trees, or a structure. These may be somewhat wrapped in fog but still not as hazy as objects on the horizon. Then your farthest layer will be your background containing the horizon and sky. In fog shots look for all of these items and more to give a sense of depth to your photo. Again for foggy shots your closer items will usually be darker and well defined while those that are the farthest will be lighter and the edges somewhat blurred as in this photo below.
Of course learning how your phone's camera or camera app operates is something that you need to experiment and practice with. Try different settings for every kind of light and weather condition to become familiar with what your phone can do. You can find many online tutorials when you search for a particular camera app. You will also have to practice using that camera to see what it will do. So pull that phone out whenever you can (about anytime right?) and snap, adjust, snap, and on and on.
In the next post I will discuss processing fog shots. For processing photos with your smart phone I recommend a couple of popular editing apps available for iOS and Android. The ever popular Snapseed is available for both iOS and Android and can be downloaded by clicking on those links. Handyphoto is another that I use. It's been invaluable to me and I highly recommend the paid version which is also available on iOS and Android. You have the ability to save a higher resolution photo on Handyphoto as well as zoom in on your photo during the editing process, a feature that you will not find for Snapseed. Get out and try some of the techniques and let me know how they work for you. I'm always happy to answer questions you may have.