On a nature photography critique web site where I have been participating since 2001 a discussion began with this question: “Images shot in the fog — is there a way to do it?” The poster went on to say: “A lot of noise removal was necessary. I also enhanced the contrast. Is there a way to get a well-defined bird in the fog?”
For me, this goes against my reasons for shooting in the fog – I don’t want a “well-defined” bird nor would I increase the contrast trying for better definition.
The essence of fog is the way it simplifies a scene by reducing contrast and eliminating detail – the subject and setting are reduced to a minimum of lines and shapes while color and detail are suppressed. I think this makes for a simplified image depending on strong graphics, and I like to have some of these images in my portfolio.
The Black-necked Stilt group at the top of this post is an excellent example. A heavy fog in central Arizona at the Gilbert Water Ranch gave me a rare opportunity to create a simple graphic image. Stilts are high contrast birds with stark white and black plumage, but the fog has reduced the contrast and made these birds two close shades of gray. 12/12/07, D200, 300/2.8 plus TC20E, ISO 400, 1/500th second at f/8.
Great Egrets in fog
Taken just a few minutes earlier this pair of Great Egrets at the Gilbert Water Ranch shows a little more detail since the birds are closer to the camera putting less fog between to reduce detail. 12/12/07, ISO 400, 1/320th second at f/8.
Green Heron on a foggy day
This Green Heron was encountered about an hour before the egret and stilts, and at even closer range. So, the image has more color and detail, but the heavy fog has obliterated details of the busy background just a little farther behind the heron. 12/12/07, ISO 800, 1/640th second at f/8.
The technique works for small birds as well, as with this Cactus Wren at the Gilbert Water Ranch. Again, I’ve taken advantage of a bit of fog to minimize background detail that might have been distracting. 12/22/08, ISO 320, 1/160th second at f/8.
White-crowned Sparrow in morning haze
Finally, a White-crowned Sparrow in light mist at the Water Ranch, where the mist has softened the background to pastel shades. 11/25/08, ISO 400, 1/60th second at f/8.