A wonderful subject that many landscape photographers go out of their way to shoot is morning mist. Given the popularity of our mist collection, as well as our fake mist Photoshop tutorial, we thought we might also cover the purists approach to capturing a good shot of mist.
What Are Good Conditions for Mist? For the most part, morning mist forms in specific weather conditions. You are going to often get mist when the preceding night has been still and cool and the preceding day has been quite warm.
What happens is that the moist, warm air of the day cools, falls and then condenses into mist. If there is little or no wind about, then it will still be there the next morning. Usually you will have a limited amount of time before the sun starts to warm up and dissipate the mist. Check your local weather report!
The landscape often also has a bearing on things. If you have undulating hills with dips and depressions, then the mist will often be found in these pockets. Often it will also be at lower lying areas closer to sea level.
Shoot to the Right – One unique trait that mist photographs have is that often they are dominated by highlights and mid-tones. In general this means that you will want to “shoot to the right” – ie. check your histogram to make sure that you have exposed for mid-tones and highlights so that the graph is towards the right. If you are unsure about this then check out our tutorial on reading a histogram – it's actually quite simple.
While shooting in mist, you might also need to consider positive exposure compensation. The reflective nature of mist can often trick your in-camera light meter in the same way that photographing snow can.
Look For Layering – Misty mornings are about the best conditions to hunt for scenes that allow layering. This allows the photographer to experiment with depth and can produce some stunning imagery. Remember that the further away an object, the less contrast it will have in your photo in misty conditions. The photo below demonstrates this quite nicely.
Look for Shapes – Shooting in mist often means that the resulting images will be dominated by form rather than contrast. Exposing for the mist will ensure the prominence of the shapes in your composition.
Take a Lens Cloth – Shooting in moist and misty conditions isn't exactly great for your camera. Don't forget to take along a lens cloth so that you can wipe away condensation on your lens.
Take a Tripod – This kind of depends what time of the morning you are shooting, but the earlier you get to your spot, the greater the likelihood that you are going to need to stabilize your camera. You won't always need one, but you'll kick yourself for forgetting one if you do.
As you can see, shooting in the mist can produce some stunning shots. While patience in waiting for the right conditions is a large part of capturing them, following a few of the above tips is going to help you get a better shot.