As regular readers know, I love fog. It’s a little like snow in the way it can transform an ordinary landscape into something dreamlike.
We’ve had a lot of interesting fog around here lately. Last week the fog was very dense in the Central Valley, sometimes persisting all day rather than burning off in the afternoon. One morning we made an early trip into the lower foothills of Mariposa County, an area with rolling, grassy hills and scattered oaks (I’ve posted images from there before). I was hoping that the fog would be thick enough to push up from the Central Valley into these foothills, and it was – just barely. We were right on the edge of the fog, which was actually perfect – foggy enough to create a misty, ethereal mood, but not so foggy that it completely obscured the landscape.
I started off working with the monochrome patterns of the oaks and hills. Then the orange ball of the sun appeared through the mist, and I raced around trying to juxtapose that sun with individual trees or groups of trees.
Most of these compositions were made from elevated vantage points. I climbed several hillsides to get better spacing and separation between foreground and background trees. Here are a couple of examples to show what I’m talking about. The first has decent left-to-right separation between the three most prominent trees, but they merge with other trees behind them:
Realizing this problem, I climbed the hill behind me, seeking a higher angle of view. This elevated perch “raised” the background oaks relative to the ones in the foreground, enabling me to get almost complete separation between all of them. And as a bonus, we see some nice spacing between the four layered ridges:
I’ve written before about the advantages of high viewpoints in this post about creating depth. If you’re trying to create a sense of depth with a normal or telephoto lens, or even a moderate wide-angle, gaining elevation helps by visually separating the foreground, middle ground, and background, which makes perspective lines and size comparisons more apparent. While there are no perspective lines in these foggy images of oaks, and it might be stretching things to say that any of the photographs have a foreground, middle ground, and background, there are some size comparisons – trees getting smaller in the distance. And there are certainly some strong atmospheric effects. So even though all of these photographs were made with telephoto lenses (my 70-200 zoom), most have them have some sense of depth.
Then again, as I’ve said before, creating depth isn’t an end in itself. The most eye-catcihng photograph of this group might be the simple, graphic image at the top of this post. It has little sense of depth, but I hope it conveys some mood, and that’s the most important thing to me.
I’d love to know what your favorites are. If any of these images stand out to you, please post a comment and let me know.
— Michael Frye
Did you like this article? Click here to subscribe to this blog and get every new post delivered right to your inbox!
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.