Enshrouded In Fog; Tips On Capturing That Soft And Subtle Light Page 2

Photographers have used the first two options for decades. This last method has become available to us within the last couple of years. You can shoot the foggy scene in raw without any exposure compensation. As I explained earlier, the very light fog will cause your shots to be underexposed. When you shoot digital, this isn't necessarily a bad thing because the images can be lightened to your taste in the raw converter. This takes more time to process your shots, but it does one very important thing: the underexposure protects the highlights. The worst thing you can do to a digital capture is blow the highlight detail so there is no discernable texture in the very light areas of the image.

I left a hotel in Italy at dawn one morning at 6am and was amazed to see dense fog engulfing everything. This stand of trees was right in front of the hotel, and I used a daylight white balance which resulted in the deep blue bias. When the sun hasn't risen above the horizon, the Kelvin temperature is very high, resulting in deep blue images when a white balance of 5500Þ Kelvin is used.

When the pictures are underexposed by, say, one f/stop, the exposure slider in the raw converter can bring back the brightness of the fog. You can choose exactly how much exposure increase to use. As soon as you see the highlights start to become solid white (with no noise or texture of any kind), you can pull back to save those vulnerable areas of the picture.

For 25 years I used a handheld meter to determine my exposures when shooting subjects like fog. Now I use the raw converter that enables me to visually see the changes as I make them.

Another important consideration when shooting in fog is whether or not you should use manual or automatic focus. Autofocus uses contrast in your scene to snap the lens into critical focus, but if there isn't enough contrast it can't function. Contrast can be in the form of varying colors and/or differences in light and dark. Fog reduces contrast, and if it gets too thick the autofocus feature becomes pretty much useless. It will be more frustrating than it's worth, and under those circumstances I suggest you focus the lens the old-fashioned way--manually.

I photographed this tree enshrouded in fog in the Western Sierras in California on Fujichrome Velvia with a Mamiya 7 and a 43mm wide angle lens. The blue color comes from the deep overcast and how film responds to a high Kelvin temperature. No filter or tweaking in Photoshop was done to this shot.

Moody Blues
As I was writing this article, I was traveling in Italy. One morning I left my hotel in a small town about 6am, and a thick fog had descended on the entire area. Rows of bare trees made beautiful silhouettes in the mist, and when I checked the LCD monitor I noticed how bluish the shots looked. I habitually choose a daylight white balance setting to shoot almost all my pictures because I shot daylight-balanced film for so many years that I know exactly what it will do in pretty much every situation. In very deep overcast, scenes go blue. At dawn, the color of light, as daylight film sees it, is extremely blue. Instead of correcting this to a more neutral tone, I used the high Kelvin temperature of the dawn light (probably 8000Þ or so) combined with fog to produce a saturated, moody blue environment.

Fog that is shot any time during daylight hours may have a blue tinge to it, but it's normally without strong color bias. If you want to create the kind of mood that I was able to capture in Italy, instead of using blue filters as we used to do, it's an easy matter to alter the color temperature slider in the raw converter software. If you shoot in JPEG mode, the blue color can be introduced in Adobe's Photoshop or Elements.

Jim Zuckerman is one of the world's best-known nature, wildlife, and travel photographers. His work has been sold in dozens of countries around the world in commercial, editorial, and fine art venues. Zuckerman is also a respected photo educator, and he is the author of 12 books on a wide range of photographic subjects. He leads international photo tours to exotic destinations such as Burma, Morocco, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Indonesia, and Africa. You can sign up for his mailing list at: www.jimzuckerman.com. He also teaches online photography courses at BetterPhoto.com.