fog

CAMERAS IN THE MIST

I was in Florida looking at some property and took note of this small grove of trees and thought it might be worthwhile returning to photograph it at some point. Then several days later when I awoke to fog, I knew exactly where I was headed. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/4 @ f14, ISO 200.

I was in Florida looking at some property and took note of this small grove of trees and thought it might be worthwhile returning to photograph it at some point. Then several days later when I awoke to fog, I knew exactly where I was headed. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/4 @ f14, ISO 200.

The biggest problem with photographing landscapes in the fog is actually predicting when there will be fog. And while timing, location, and a little luck are important, an understanding of the types and causes of fog may help lift the veil and put you, and your camera, in the right place at the right time.

But before we get into the details, why would you want to shoot in the fog anyway? For me, fog provides a softness or ethereal feeling that adds interest to the landscape. It's the unknown, the mystery. Fog can also obscure unwanted backgrounds and help to isolate a subject. But it really is that otherworldly feeling that gets me excited. 

I choose to shoot a little tighter in order to emphasize the Spanish moss hanging from the tree. It's scenes like this that scream for fog. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/4 @ f11, ISO 200.

I choose to shoot a little tighter in order to emphasize the Spanish moss hanging from the tree. It's scenes like this that scream for fog. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/4 @ f11, ISO 200.

So then what is fog? It might help to think of it as clouds at ground level. Made up of condensed water droplets which are the result of air being cooled to the point where it can no longer hold all the water vapor it contains.

There are four types of fog.

Radiation fog is formed on clear nights with relatively little or no wind present and usually forms in low-lying areas like mountain valleys. Radiation fog usually burns off as the sun and temperature rises.

Advection fog is when a layer of warm, moist air moves over a cool surface and is most common in coastal areas where sea breezes blow the air over cooler landmasses.

Upslope fog happens when moist stable air is forced up sloping land like a mountain range. Unlike radiation fog, upslope and advection fog may not burn off with the morning sun and may persist for days.

And finally, steam fog forms when cold, dry air moves over warm water and as it rises, resembles smoke. It is most common over bodies of water during the coldest times of the year.

Fog softens and obscures all the distractions from the background, allowing the tree to take center stage. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 35mm, 1/13 @ f8, ISO 200.

Fog softens and obscures all the distractions from the background, allowing the tree to take center stage. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 35mm, 1/13 @ f8, ISO 200.

Understanding the types of fog and when they might occur may help you to predict when and where it will happen. Or like me, you might just get lucky. 

And unlike John Carpenter's movie "The Fog", you probably won't encounter any vengeful ghosts of shipwrecked mariners, but the fact that you don't know for sure is what will add interest to your photographs. And if it adds interest for you, then it will certainly add interest to viewers of your photography.

ARIZONA - FINAL DAY

I woke when the alarm went off at 3:15 a.m. with the goal of doing more star photography. A quick check of the night sky showed no visible stars. I'd say I was disappointed, but crawling back into the warm bed made up for that. Got out of bed again at 4:30 a.m. and still no stars but it was snowing. This was even better. Back to bed again.

I was dressed and ready to shoot by 6 a.m., only problem was that visibility looked like it might only be 100 feet. At first light I still couldn't see anything so I decided to just have breakfast and wait it out, since I wasn't going to leave Monument Valley when there was a chance to capture some snow photos.

A Yucca plant in Monument Valley, Ariz., during a mid December snow.
Yucca plant in Monument Valley.
Finally went out around 8 a.m. and while visibility was still limited, I was able to shoot some detail shots. For a brief moment I thought I would get a break when the bottom of Mitchell Butte was visible, but the fog quickly settled back in. After two hours I returned to the hotel, checked out and waited patiently in the lobby.

The fog clears to reveal Merrick Butte in Monument Valley, Ariz.
The fog clears to reveal Merrick Butte.
First glimpse of the Merrick Butte through the lobby window came around 11 a.m., so I grabbed my gear and quickly ran to get in position. Visibility came and went, first revealing most of Michell Butte, but want really caught my attention was when I started catching glimpses of just the top portion of the West Mitten.

The West and East Mitten become visible as the fog clears after a mid December snow in Monument Valley, Ariz.
West Mitten and East Mitten.
It was constant shooting for the next hour or so as the fog came and went and more of more of the valley came into view. As the wind picked up it wasn't long before most of the fog had cleared. I knew I had about a five hour drive ahead and figured it was about time I got on the road.

Fog clears from Monument Valley after a mid December snow.
Mid December snow in Monument Valley.
During the drive south to Payson, Ariz., patches of blue began to appear in the sky and before I knew it there were these amazing cloud formations. I kept wanting to pull over and was desperately looking for something to put in the foreground. Finally I saw some interesting rock formations by the side of the road and thought they would make a good excuse to photograph the clouds. Those photos came out fine, but as I turned to head back to the car, I noticed the clouds that had been behind me were far more interesting, so I framed up a simple composition and made the final image of this trip.

Dramatic clouds in Arizona.

Hope you enjoyed joining me on this photographic adventure as I talked about planning the trip, the gear I was bringing and the daily updates while on the road. Check back after the holidays for posts on my first time shooting the stars and what I learned photographing in Upper Antelope Canyon and more.