Winter brings more than just snow to northern (U.S.) regions. Fog is also an incredible result of moisture in the air and cooler temperatures. I love summer! Warm, no… HOT weather, sunshine, swimming and leaves on the trees is the best. And when the temps start cooling enough to condense moisture into fog, I almost forget about summer. Almost.
Fog over Ferns and Forest
Cool coastal environments, or areas near large bodies of water might see fog year-round. All it takes is a warm day and sunshine warming the water’s surface, followed by a cool night, cold enough to condense the moist air. Bays, river-valleys and lake basins can be cloaked in fog anytime of the year.
Great Blue Heron in Marine Layer (Sea Fog)
Forests, desert, grasslands and mountains, however, might not experience fog during the hot and dry summers. The seasonal transition from summer to autumn, and into winter through spring is when these environments typically begin their light and condensed-water show.
You will see fog form when the previous day was warmer than the following morning. If there is a little moisture in the air measured as humidity, when the temps drop to the dew point fog may begin to gather. Winds must remain very light, or completely absent, or the wind could simply blow the fog away. Rain will also condense the fog so much that it falls to the Earth un-photographed.
Crab Dock in Morning Sea Fog
Fog, like snow, adds a lot to our images in two ways: It adds a dramatic atmospheric element to our photographs. Fog adds a mysterious feel, maybe a heaviness to images that can be very compelling. Fog can also simplify, or, clean up our compositions by limiting how much of the landscape we can actually see. Messy-looking backgrounds are eliminated by thick fog allowing us to focus on the near and middle (depends on how thick the fog is) distances. Perhaps just the outline, the impression of trees is all that can be observed in the distance.
As for the correct exposure when photographing fog, here are some considerations. If the fog you find yourself photographing is truly thick and limiting your view, then you likely do not need great depth-of-field, you can stick with lower apertures like f.11 and lower. The ISO and shutter speed will depend on whether or not you use of a tripod. If you are hand-holding, the use of higher ISO’s will not create as much noise for bright subjects as is the case for dark, low-light scenes. Still, find the lowest ISO that allows you to effectively hand-hold your camera and lens. The overall exposure will likely look best slightly over-exposed. The camera might read the fog as WAAAAY too bright and want to darken the exposure in order to tone down the white fog. We must override this with exposure compensation towards the positive, or by adjusting our exposure settings to achieve a plus-1, or even plus-2 exposure, in order to maintain white fog, not gray fog.
Read the weather forecast and try to get outside and photograph fog. It is often a silent and still experience full of drama and photographic possibility.