Photography in the Fog

Farm & Pond in fog 2

Moving cows in fog 2

Horse in Snow 2

Owl on wire 2

 

Pritchard above the fog 2

The past snowfall gave us a grand depth of a bit over two feet. That exciting event included hours of shoveling and roads that were pretty much closed to driving for a while. I wonder why we “dig” dirt and “shovel” snow? Hmm…I remove the dirt from the hole and remove the snow from the walk. Yep, it’s the same thing as far as I can tell.  Both activities use the same tool and make my back tired.

Our yard now has deep three-foot deep trenches dug out and shoveled clear by me that lead to all the important locations. Basement door to chicken coops, front door to the car, and car to the road; however, I also made trails for the feral cats so they can come to the door for the food we leave them.

When the days of soft, cold snow finally ended, everything quickly warmed up and a suddenly a thick, damp fog settled in.

My first thought was to get out my snowshoes and head up into the hills surrounding our home. I mentioned that to my wife, but not in the mood for trudging through the snow she suggested we get our cameras and go for a drive around the now foggy neighborhood in Pritchard instead. So we bundled up, grabbed our cameras and took off.

Our car is perfectly equipped for photography with beanbags. Just set them in the window and nestle the lens on them to reduce camera shake when using our long lenses. However, on this day my wife set aside her 150-500mm, and decided her light weight 70-300mm would be better suited for the foggy landscape, and I chose my 24-70mm. But it’s good to always have the beanbags in our car even if we don’t need them.

Fog is a tricky business because contrast is all but lost and the moving mist reduces sharpness. Everything is so flat that it’s hard to get definition.

I enjoy fog and recall the imagery of a poem from Carl Sandburg.

“The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.”

I think that description is pretty good and I enjoyed how the fog obscured my view of things in the distance and created a mystical looking world as I drove along our snow covered rural road.

Years ago when photographers were making exposures of foggy landscapes with film the best way to increase contrast was to use yellow, orange, or sometimes red filters. We could also over-develop the film, or as a last resort process it in hot chemicals. There were also filters that could be used while printing to reduce the tonal values, and some specialized chemicals would help also increase the contrast. All that was lots of work and if you screwed up the negative…well, you were screwed.

Today we have software like Photoshop (and lots of other programs available that are just as good) to help us out in those flat, foggy conditions, and when Linda and I drove off into the whispering fog I knew I would be spending a short time sitting at my computer increasing the contrast and reducing the grey tonal values.

It is now all so easy and it doesn’t take much time. As I sat manipulating the hazy images I thought about all the hours I used to put into producing our photographs. We have it pretty good these days.

Fog is fun in which to shoot. All one has to do is find subjects that are distinctive enough to be understood through the quietly creeping and silent fog. My suggestion is instead of drinking your chocolate and staring out the window on the next foggy morning waiting for the sun to come out, get your camera, go out, and see what you can do.

As always, I really appreciate your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

 

 

Cold Weather Photography

Snowy vineyard Jim Vineyard pruning Vineyard tractor  John

It’s beginning to be a long, cold winter. Lots of snow, wind, crappy roads, and well, I suppose that’s just winter in British Columbia.

I have been getting out with my camera (chasing the light as it were) whenever I can and just having fun photographing as many different subjects as I can.  Sometimes, however, I have to remember to make a living. So I packed up my camera and flash when I received an email from the owners of a vineyard I have been photographing since spring reminding me it was time to get pictures of the seasonal pruning.

I have written about my excursions in the winter snow, but on those I could take my time. I would wait for, or follow the sun, and when the weather got too windy or too cold all I had to do was go inside.  On this occasion I couldn’t do that. The day was very overcast, flat, and gray. The temperature on the high, flat, plain along the river wasn’t painfully cold, but even at minus 5 degrees Celsius the constant wind made fingers and ears uncomfortable quickly.

The vineyard workers slogged through sometimes knee deep snow and were all bundled up against the wind and cold as they pruned the acres of vines. My job was to make pictures that were more than just documents of people working at a local winery.

I put on my warm winter boots, several layers of clothes, and my convertible fingerless mitts. My biggest problem wasn’t the weather; my concern was the light, or at least, the lack of it. I didn’t want to be limited to a wide aperture. Limiting my depth of field would put foreground and background out of focus, and I wanted vines and/or people on both sides of my subject to be in focus.

To compensate, I increased my ISO to 800, selected 1/250th shutter speed, and tried to keep my aperture at F8 or smaller. For any close shots of the vineyard workers pruning vines I had a flash mounted on a flash bracket attached to my camera. I like that bracket. It positions the flash about ten inches above my camera so it doesn’t get shadow from my big lens hood like the pop-up flash, and I can easily move the flash off-camera to light subjects from different directions.

I didn’t have to worry about the vineyard people being camera shy because by now they are pretty used to me, and most have an easy smile and are happy to discuss their work and don’t seem to mind me joining into a conversation and even pose a bit to make my pictures better. That’s my style anyway. I’m not one to hide behind a camera. Whenever I am involved in an event I change my position a lot, and am never concerned with getting my clothes dirty or wet. I work to keep everyone relaxed and I quickly lift my camera to make an image, and just as quickly lower it do keep contact with my subject.

After the cold, windy hours of photography I hitched a ride on a tractor back to the barn. Those fellows were happy to get out of a long day in the cold snow and wind, returning to their warm homes to relax and pack ice on their sore, right hands. The hours of pruning comes at a cost.

For me it was a productive day. And, even though I now have lots of images for my clients I’ll keep an eye on the light for the next week and return to the vineyard hoping to get a few more shots.

I do appreciate any comments, Thanks

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com