Foggy Morning at Lake Hodges (6 photos)

Sunday morning walk at nearby Lake Hodges. A dense fog shrouded everything, cool and mysterious. The grebes make one hell of racket of course, but the limited visibility makes it feel surreal and isolated. Every now and then the outboard motor of an angler briefly disrupts the peace, when they relocate their boats. Otherwise, few people are out in the morning hours when it’s foggy, thankfully. A welcome morning meditation on the trail, with a little dog and the camera.

San Diego didn’t get a lot of rain recently. February was almost entirely dry, and in March it rained for maybe two days. El Nino hit northern and central California pretty good, but in Southern California, it feels like yet another dry winter and spring. No March miracle for us, and as a result, the hills are nowhere as green as they could be at this time of the year. The muted colors and fog make for lovely black & whites though…

A few technical remarks about making photos in fog. During my mentoring, I see that one of the most common problems that people are having with fog photos is underexposure. This is problematic in general of course, but in fog especially, since you’re most likely looking at scenes with relatively low contrast, and don’t have a lot of data to work in favor of the signal to noise ratio. Getting a good (bright) exposure is critical for image quality.

Now the camera’s light meter always assumes it is looking at an averagely lit scene (18% grey or 50% reflected light) but with fog, the relative brightness of the scene is actually high – even though you may feel it’s dark and gloomy. So when I make photos in dense fog, I often dial in an exposure compensation of +1 stop.

Needless to say – you need to watch your histograms and highlight warnings. This has a lot to do with “expose to the right” (Wikipedia), a technique that I highly recommend pursuing when you’re using digital cameras. Since the camera’s preview can’t be trusted (what you’re seeing on the screen is not the raw data, it’s a fully rendered small-size JPEG), you should set your camera’s rendering to low contrast and a flat or at least neutral tone curve, to be able to more accurately judge the data you’re capturing.

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