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Tips and techniques

Into the Fog by F.M. Kearney

By January 17, 2014No Comments

Story and photograph by F.M. Kearney


New York Botanical Gardens, © F.M. Kearney

Fog is a collection of liquid water droplets suspended in the air at or near the earth’s surface. It forms when the difference between temperature and dew point is less than four degrees Fahrenheit. At least, that’s what it says on the internet. I’m not sure I know what all of that means, but what I do know is that fog can create some pretty compelling—and, sometimes, creepy-looking—images.

Living just a block away from New York’s Central Park has its benefits. Whenever I see fog rolling in, I can usually get out there and photograph before it starts to dissipate. Bare branches in winter paired with dense fog can take on an almost sinister appearance in images. I used the eerie tree on the right of The Lake as a graphic foreground element in the image shown here. The fog shrouds everything behind it in an endless void—including the city skyline, which would have been clearly visible under normal conditions. In a way, this image reminds me of the old Chiller Theater intro (younger readers might have to Google this reference).

When shooting in fog, placement of your subject is important. A dominant foreground subject helps to create a sense of depth, as the background fades into the fog. Without a strong foreground, you would essentially have an image of distant, barely discernible objects.

Fog allows you to easily set the mood of an image. A slight underexposure will produce a more ominous vibe. Interesting effects can be created by experimenting with various White Balance settings. Film photographers merely need to shoot at the recommended meter setting. The fog will be rendered in a middle-gray tone, making it appear darker and a bit more threatening. If a brighter, more cheerful mood is desired, simply overexpose by a stop or two.
In many ways, fog is like snow. It can turn ordinary-looking subjects into something unique if you act fast enough. Optimum conditions won’t last very long.

F. M. Kearney began his photography career as a photojournalist for New York City newspapers. His focus soon shifted to capturing the beauty of our natural world. As an award-winning nature photographer, Kearney’s images have been widely published. He is a frequent contributor to NANPA publications and the weekly photography blogger on His horror novel, They Only Come Out at Night, about supernatural happenings in the New York City subway (partially inspired by his travels as a photojournalist), is available at To see more of Kearney’s work, visit