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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a blog about photography in New England.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

In the Fog

It continues to be a tough winter for photography with cold temperatures threatening to freeze my pipes, but not encouraging any insulating snow. I have captured all the images of moldy decaying leaves that I will require for a lifetime so I was excited last weekend when I awoke to find a nice blanket of fog settled on the hills around my house. I guess the rule should be that when the scenery is uninspiring the best thing to do is either bath it in golden hour light or mute it with fog, but fog can add great dimension and mood to your images. Here are a few brief thoughts about how to get the most from your misty opportunities.

First an entirely worthless answer to a question you didn't ask. What is the difference between fog and mist? Actually they are both essentially clouds which have come down to earth, but the difference has to do with how far you can see through the cloud. Fog is thicker, limiting visibility to one km or less, while you can see through mist for 1-2 km. Who decided this? Obvious NOT an American. How far is a km anyway?

Perhaps the most valuable attribute of fog is that it adds a wonderful sense of depth to images. I always look for compositions that accentuate this effect. It can be challenging to find focus and interest in a picture of a distant, uniformly soft misty scene, but a line of trees going off into the distance, boats across a foggy harbor or merely one sharp element in the foreground can make the dimensions of an image pop off the page. I always start by looking for the foreground element(s), and build my composition from that focal point. Consistently soft images can be very effective especially when communicating a mystical mood, but in many situations this choice abandons perhaps the best advantage of the foggy conditions.


Foggy images are most often found with the sunlight diffused through an overcast sky, but when the sun shines through the mist it makes the light dramatically palpable. To catch the brightest rays of light it is usually best to angle your view toward, but not directly into the light. The rays of light may only last for a few minutes as the fog lifts, but during that time you can find some magical images. It is well worth waiting for. Here, as in many other situations, the most dramatic light tends to occur as the weather changes and, to slightly modify the old saying about New England weather; If you don’t like the light, wait a minute. 


The penetrating light may also create nice silhouettes whose sharp edges can add depth to the image. The pattern of important foreground elements that would normally be lost in a busy background can stand out nicely when the mist softens the clutter. For example, one of the challenges of photographing spider webs is finding a background which doesn't compete with the delicate pattern. Fog accomplishes this nicely while often coating the strands with shimmering water droplets.

 Of course fog can also be dramatic when seen from above. Around here relatively modest increases in altitude can change your perspective from moody and subdued to brilliantly majestic as your view opens to valleys blanketed with puffy white.

In all these situation it is important to keep a close eye on exposure.
Fog can fool a light meter, often leading to dark images requiring an increase of exposure by a stop or two. The problem is easily corrected on digital cameras by closely monitoring the LCD and histogram. Finally, when processing these images I always have to be careful to avoid my natural tendency to heighten contrast. With fog it is ok, if not mandatory, to avoid the deep darks and brilliant whites that I usually seek to add pop to my images. I usually feel uncomfortable when the histogram is floating somewhere in the middle of the graph, but here I just have to let it go.

So whether it is fog or mist have a great time out there. Maybe we can forget about the lack of white, at least for a magical misty moment - you can tell that I'm desperate when I descend to alliteration.

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