How to Photograph Foggy Landscapes

Fog photography can make some beautiful images for ourselves and others to enjoy. Fog photography can be scenic landscapes, urban views, or focused on the nature of fog in itself. 

Each of these has its own unique characteristics and challenges, as well as fog photography tips for making it easier to capture what our mind’s eye is seeing.

How To Control Fog

Forget about it, you can’t control it. You can, however, increase your chances of making a great fog image by learning a little bit about fog.  

A meteorologist will tell you that in layman’s terms, fog is a cloud in contact with the surface of the Earth. So, what causes ground-level cloud formation?

A cloud forms when the air is below the dewpoint, the temperature where the air can no longer hold the water vapor within it. So, tiny water droplets form that are suspended in the air.

Ground level fog usually happens when warm moist air meets a cooler air mass, but when there isn’t much wind, as wind dissipates fog. Anywhere near a large body of water or in a large expanse of moist vegetation may be prone to fog formation. 

Certain times of year and the time of day come into consideration as well. Local weather websites can help you figure out when and where you are more likely to find fog. 

Decide Your Focus

When considering how to photograph fog, you will need to decide what you’re intending to do. 

Do you want a picture of the fog itself? Do you want the landscape or cityscape to be the primary focus with fog added as a visual element? Lastly, are we using the fog as some sort of filter for our scene? All three require a slightly different approach. 

Imaging the Fog Itself

Making the fog the primary subject of your image can create some beautiful pictures. One of the more important fog photography tips for this purpose is to find a great vantage point. Looking down on the fog emphasizes the nature of fog. A high-quality drone may be a good choice to use for this type of image.

Exposure will be the key factor for this approach. You don’t want the exposure to hide the fog with blown out highlights or extremely deep shadows. This may require using Neutral Density (ND) filters in order to get the right balance of exposure values. 

It wouldn’t require much ND to accomplish this. A neutral density filter like the Haida Red Diamond 3-Stop ND filter would be an excellent choice for your fog photography gear.

Fog As an Image Element

Basic landscape photography tips are good to use when using fog as one of the visual elements of a scene. 

Taking into account the rules of composition, the fog may be a visual  balancer, a foreground or background object, or a subject to place within the Rule of Thirds. Fog can also be used either to obscure or to highlight another visual element of the scene.

A high-quality ND filter like the Haida mentioned above can be quite useful for this approach, especially if you are trying to show the fog as a silky blanket in your scene.

The fog is moving, though it could be moving slowly. A slightly longer exposure can give you the desired effect. Just like blurring the waterfall or clouds in long exposure photography.

Fog

Fog can be used as a filter for either the light or the subject. Instead of looking at the fog from outside the fog, we are immersed in the fog.

Filtering the light gives us a soft quality not often seen in outdoor sunlit scenes. This lets us concentrate on imaging the subject without causing distrating contrast. Nothing wrong with contrast, we use it a lot as photographers. But sometimes we have in mind a result that is better with lower contrast.

Using the fog as a lens diffuser is super easy to do. Just shoot through the fog. All the same rules and guidelines for exposure and composition still apply. But now you have a natural diffusion filter.

Trial and Error

All of these fog photography tips may take some time to be able to use. You can only put them into practice when you actually have fog.  

So, get ready. Find a decent tripod or camera mount and a high-quality ND filter so all your options are available. And go look for foggy landscapes and cityscapes. Plus, whatever else looks good in your viewfinder.