Mist Opportunities

By Geoff Harris

How to Photograph Mist & Fog


Autumn/Fall means lots of mist, which means lots of great photo opportunities. Even quite mundane landscapes or cityscapes can be transformed by mist – and as the poet said, autumn is the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.

Although Keats died before the advent of photography, he would have certainly appreciated the wonderfully photogenic possibilities of mist and fog. So how do you get great mist shots?

1) Be prepared to get up early

Mist (as opposed to fog) doesn't tend to hang around for long, so you have to be up early to make the most of it. Mist is usually generated when there is a big difference between daytime and night-time temperatures, and hangs around in the early morning after being generated overnight.

As the sun rises it soon disperses, so set your alarm clock early and give yourself plenty of time to get set up.

2) Pick your place

Cormorant fishing
Experience will tell you where mist tends to occur in your area, but there are several predictable spots where it tends to gather. Mist is often found around water, such as lakes, rivers and the sea, and often gathers in valleys and hollows.

Hilltops are another good place to find it, and you will get greats vistas of mist over low-lying land if you drive or climb to the top of a steep hill.

3) Think about composition

Mute Swan, Cygnus olor, UK, autumn
Mist itself is not massively interesting – what is interesting is how it conceals and interacts with natural features or buildings. So rather than shooting a thick blanket of mist or fog, it's better to capture trees or hills or church towers sticking out of it, or silhouettes against it.

Very tall buildings sticking out of mist look great too, but you will have to be even higher to get the right vantage point (the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, aka the tallest building in the world, is ideal, but it's a long way to go!)

4) Shoot with mist or fog around you

The other option is to shoot in the middle of mist or fog. It can create wonderfully eerie effects, and is obviously perfectly suited to gothic locations like churches, ruins or graveyards.

Portraits can also look great in mist or fog, while mist hanging over the sea can make for wonderfully minimalist seascapes. So don't be afraid of shooting in thick fog as it can obscure annoying distractions that would otherwise get in the way.

5) Camera settings and gear

As fog and mist acts like a big softbox, you can get some lovely lighting effects. It does present some challenges, however,

You may need to use a long exposure and tripod to capture dimly lit objects in the murk, and if you want to capture a moody silhouette against the mist, you need to meter for the mist, not the object to be silhouetted.

To freeze the appearance and movement of fog, you will need to set a fast shutter speed; a slower shutter speed will smooth it out and give it a more amorphous appearance.

Further Study

Low Light Landscape Photography with Tony Worobiec Fine Art Landscape Photography with Sue Bishop Fine Art Colour Photography with Phil Malpas

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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