March 18, 2008

Shooting Into The Fog


I like to photograph Mt. Rainier’s waterfalls. If I am really lucky, I’ll get to shoot when the fog is trapped over the falls. Fog makes everything more interesting to me as a photographer.

Unfortunately, fog will usually fool your camera meter. The brightness of the fog (like snow) makes the camera think there’s more light than really exists, so it doesn’t allow enough exposure to properly render the scene. You can compensate for this by adding a stop and one half to your exposure. Most cameras have an exposure compensation dial that makes this easy or you can do it manually. In some cases you can add as little as one stop. Sometimes you may want two full stops. I suggest you bracket and experiment. Just remember to add some exposure when you shoot into the fog or your pictures will come out underexposed.

Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. I found on a couple of occasions that I wish I had a bit more flexibility with my post productions after hiking trips or similar than I had with JPG. Since I’ve made the decision to shoot almost exclusively RAW, I’ve had much more satisfying final results.

    One particular situation was a fairly wide landscape shot with fog hanging over lower falls but with some sun in the top 1/3 or 1/4 of the frame. I knew I wasn’t likely to get the shot since I had little-to-no experience. So I took a variety of different shots, using the histogram to try to zone in. I ended up pretty close and had to do little-more than tweak the RAW interpretation to get to a place I was happy with. (I do wish I had bracketed as I think the situation would have ended itself nicely to an HDR.) Anyway, my point is that RAW may give you the edge you need if you’re uncertain of the exposure or find yourself guessing in the field.

  2. This may sound like a silly question, so sorry if it is.
    Is there a reason I should use the exposure compensation instead of my brain? In this case it seems to me if you know you need to add a full stop wouldn’t it be less work to meter correctly then just add the stop? I feel like on my camera (XTI) when i set the exposure compensation it locks it in until i switch cards or turn the camera off and that makes me nervous, i.e. if Im shooting into fog but then turn around where there is no fog and see a sweet bird I want to shoot, the exposure compensation is set for the fog and then I have to turn it off before i shoot no? I guess my problem is I don’t fully understand the benefit of it, especially when you can bracket and just get the stop above and below anyways. I hope someone can explain this to me a little better because I enjoy learning things that make my work easier! thanks for the great blog

  3. Great tip …. knowing when the 18% grey is foold by nature, like snow and fog.
    Any situations where one must think of underexposure (or is it over expusure, it always mixes me up, anyway the opposite off adding a stop)

  4. I these situations, I will turn to centre weighted or spot metering.. I guess as Matthew says. Either way, with digital it is instant feedback.

    I like fog for BW shots. And I am now playing with my new F80 to do just black and white. So I will take this advice on board too – as there is no instant feedback. When I did film before, exposure was not hard. But after shooting digital for a while, it has increased my standards and expectations, so I will now bracket on film. Something I never did before having used digital.

  5. Thanks for the tip. Living on the north shore of Lake Superior I get plenty of opportunity to shoot in the fog. I have had mixed results in the past

  6. To Matthew, you shouldn’t have to turn the camera off to change your exposure compensation back to normal, you should be able to change it back exactly the way you changed it in the first place, right? The benifit of exp. comp, in my experience, is when shooting in AP mode as I usually do, the camera wants to meter for 18% grey, but if you WANT your scene to be brighter than the average 18% grey (like when there is fog or snow), that is when you want to compensate upwards. If you are using only your own brain, which I guess means you are shooting in manual mode?, I think it would take longer to think about which shutter speed or aperature to change it to rather than just changing your compensation back at the flick of a finger…

  7. Back reading some blogs and thought I would share this link since we were on the subject of mount rainier park.

    From my last trek up the mountain.

  8. Thanks Joe but in the future – please post pics in the TWIP Flickr Forum.

  9. Oh ya, just had to share because of the subject. Not for really sharing.

  10. Lovely shot Scott and great tip. Thanks!

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