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Capturing Photos in Fog or Mist

Capturing Photos in Fog or Mist

Foggy Street at Night
This photo was taken in May 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, TAMRON SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
Camera Settings: f/8.0, 10 seconds and ISO 100

Overview

Fog is beautiful, potentially dangerous and eery. It changes the mood of a setting completely. Fog usually appears in the mid to late evening and often lasts until the next morning. Foggy days can ruin a photo or it can create a stunning scene. Rather than be put off by fog and not take photos, follow this guide to use the fog to your advantage.

Foggy Street at Night
This photo was taken in May 2013 with a Canon 50D and a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Camera Settings: f/8.0, 10 seconds and ISO 100

Lighting

Fog reduces the contrast of a scene dramatically. It is ideal for landscape photos. For best results I would recommend shooting in RAW. There is a much more leniency in changing the exposure in post-production and most importantly the white balance when shooting RAW. The auto white balance (AWB) can easily be fooled by fog. Adding a slightly blue cast to the images can enhance the mood of the photos. It is usually required to use a tripod when photographing in foggy conditions. Without adding noise to the photo you wil usually get an exposure that is too long for hand held photography. In my case it was at night and only a little bit of lights from the street lights. As always when using a tripod, remember to turn off optical stabilisation. I explain more about that in my post about shooting long exposure. How to Take a Long Exposure Photo 

Foggy Street at Night
This photo was taken in May 2013 with a Canon 50D and a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Camera Settings: f/5.0, 30 seconds and ISO 100

Light rays

Everyone loves photos with light rays in them. Foggy conditions can create light rays through the trees and enlighten the photo. Light rays can come from natural light or man made lights. In my photo with light rays the light rays came from a street light. In general, the closer you are to the light source the more pronounced the light rays will be, as long as the source of light stays at the same angle as the camera.

Foggy Street at Night
This photo was taken in May 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, TAMRON SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
Camera Settings: f/8.0, 8 seconds and ISO 100

Autofocus and Composition

Another thing that can be fooled by the fog is the autofocus. Manual focus is the best solution. Fog can create a very flat and dimensionless scene. As autofocus systems usually look for contrast when focusing the lower contrast reduces the auto focus ability of even the best cameras. To add dimension in the photo it is important to add another element in the photo such as a tree. In my photos taken in the road at night I added different elements in the foreground to enhance the composition and add a bit of depth in the photos.

Foggy Street at Night
This photo was taken in May 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, TAMRON SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
Camera Settings: f/2.8, 5 seconds and ISO 100

Conclusion

An important warning when taking photos outside in foggy weather is to beware of condensation. Water condensation will form on the surface of your lens or even inside your camera. If your camera is at a similar temperature as the air and the fog it not too dense, then condensation might not be a problem at all. I used a cloth to regularly wipe off the front of my lens. I used a Canon 5D MkIII and Canon 24-105 L lens that is weather sealed so I was not too worried about condensation. 

Do not be afraid to take risks with your camera to capture amazing photos but be careful not to endanger yourself. Fog heavily reduces visibility and if next to a road like me it can be dangerous. Be safe and create stunning images!

For further reading on this topic:

Foggy Street at Night
This photo was taken in May 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, TAMRON SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
Camera Settings: f/8.0, 10 seconds and ISO 100
Foggy Street at Night
This photo was taken in May 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, TAMRON SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
Camera Settings: f/8.0, 8 seconds and ISO 100
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