We have had almost three days of moderate fog up here in Caithness, which is a major pain in the bum 99.9% of the time. Brilliant, sunny days on the east coast of Caithness are frequently ruined by huge banks of fog creeping in from the sea, engulfing the sunlight and making things generally dark and damp. However, it’s not all bad…
In the past I have seen fog passing through trees, hovering above water and generally looking pretty cool, but I’ve never actually been out to take photos when all this was happening. Last night put an end to that when we went for a little wander through the Wick Riverside Park and then down to the bridge that connects Wick and Pulteneytown at Bridge Street (aptly named).
As far as I can see photography in fog has a few potentially challenging aspects. Contrast and colour saturation is seriously diminished, to the point of making images almost look black and white because they are so washed out.
The lack of contrast is caused by the droplets of moisture in the air creating a very diffused light, with very little in the way of shadow creation. If you think of fog as being a very large softbox or shoot-through umbrella, it’s almost the same thing. The main difference being that softboxes have some direction to the light they create, and therefore make interesting shadows. Shadows are one of the most important elements in creating contrast in images, without shadows images become flat – and quite boring, and that’s what happens in fog.
With all that said, fog offers the photographer an opportunity to create some stunning images where you can do the following:
Emphasise depth – The fact that saturation and contrast get seriously worse the further objects are from the camera in fog means that you can get a nice contrast transition like the photo above.
Emphasise light – The reflective moisture particles in the air channel light into what appears to be beams. Finding bright light sources in fog would make for some interesting photos!
Emphasise shape – Backlighting to create silhouettes is a really cool type of photography. Simply position yourself behind something (like the lamp posts above, trees etc), set your exposure for the fog and not the subject – click – cool silhouette!
Emphasise mood – There’s nothing like dull foggy days to remind me of Hound of The Baskervilles. Fog makes things look a bit more mysterious and moody, and this comes across well in images.
In the future I may not be quite as disappointed when sunny days are gobbled up by the east coast fog!
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© All text and images copyright 2013 Gordon Mackay. All Rights Reserved.