a lone tree in the mist at dawn

Top Tips: Shooting Foggy Landscapes

with your Sony Alpha camera

Planning and Weather

Fog and mist are suspended water droplets in the air; effectively, they are clouds much lower to the ground than usual. It’s always best to plan in advance when undertaking shoots in the fog. Pick a location known to get foggy and keep an eye on the weather. Ideally, you want to get to your location before sunrise on a day with clear skies. This will give you the best light, which, like any type of landscape photography, is vital.

The light at your location will change as the sun rises, so always look for how the light creates different colours, shadows, and beams in your scene. For example, look for the beautiful beams of light through a misty woodland or a long shadow of a structure across a landscape.

spindly tree in the fanal forest in the fog

© Albert Dros | Sony α7R V + FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM | 1/6s @ f/10, ISO 100

Equipment

When shooting landscapes, the most ideal features of a camera are resolution and dynamic range. The Sony Alpha 7R V and Sony Alpha 7 IV are excellent choices with 60-megapixel and 33-megapixel resolutions and high dynamic range.

Which lens to go for will depend on precisely what you want to shoot, but wide-angle and telephoto lenses are generally the best for these types of shots. These will allow you to capture the scene's scale or focus on distant details in the landscape. There are many Sony FE mount options, but the FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master or FE 12-24mm f/4 G lenses are great options for wide scenes, whilst the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS is a versatile lens for picking out details.

Aside from the camera and lenses, using a tripod to keep everything steady is a good idea. Do also take a headlamp or torch to get to your location and set up your camera in the dark.

Composition

Shooting some of the most spectacular foggy landscapes involves standing on a hill or mountain, looking down on a misty valley. In these scenes, various features, such as buildings or trees, poke up through the fog, as if they are rising through clouds.

However, if you try to capture the whole scene with a wide-angle lens, it can often not look as dramatic as it does in reality. This is where a telephoto lens helps. Zoom in on interesting features and make sure that you leave enough space around them so that you can appreciate the foggy conditions.

an ancient temple rising up from the mist at the top of a hill

© İlhan Eroğlu

If you want to capture the whole scene, you need something of interest that attracts the viewer’s eye. Look for something in the foreground that you can use to make the lower section of the image more interesting. A small plant, a tree stump, a rock, or a path are all examples of things in the foreground to attract and lead the viewer into the image.

a tree in the fog at dawn

© Albert Dros | Sony α7R V + FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | 1/4s @ f/13, ISO 160

Use the level tool on the rear screen or viewfinder to ensure your camera is perfectly straight. Match up the level gauge lines until the lines on either side are highlighted green, which indicates the horizon is level.

Exposure Settings

Whilst the exact settings you will need to expose your image will vary, there are some rules that you can stick to.

As with any landscape image, you will want to get as much of the scene in focus as possible, so use a small aperture to get the largest depth of field but avoid the smallest setting to get maximum sharpness. A setting of f/11 should be a good starting point.

an old tree against a white foggy backdrop

© Albert Dros | Sony α7R V + FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM | 1/6s @ f/10, ISO 100

If you are shooting during sunrise, the fog may be bright. Keep an eye on the Histogram on the screen or viewfinder to check that you are losing details in the highlights. Adjust the exposure to avoid large patches of burnt-out detail; with the good dynamic range and low noise of the Sony Alpha cameras, you can always brighten the shadows to recover detail when editing.

If you don't want to edit raw images, use the in-camera HDR or Dynamic Range Optimiser (DRO) features. The HDR setting will take multiple shots of the same scene at different exposures and merge them to get an image with more detail in the highlight and shadow areas. You will need to use a tripod for HDR images to keep the camera still for each image.

DRO alters the exposure to keep as much detail in the highlight as possible while brightening shadow areas. The higher the DRO setting, the greater the boost of the shadows. Using DRO is ideal if you want to produce images to post to social media without spending time editing the image after it has been shot.

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