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Camera Settings for Capturing Early Morning Mist

Mist and fog, which often occur on elevated ground especially in the early morning, can create a quiet, eerily beautiful atmosphere. But lighting conditions also make them notoriously difficult to photograph. What settings should we use in order to capture the vivid green of budding leaves and impressively capture the morning mist shrouding the roots of the trees? In this article, I will introduce various techniques used by professional photographers. (Reported by: Rika Takemoto)

EOS 7D/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 70mm (112mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/16, 8 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight
The photo above shows a spacious clearing on elevated ground, shrouded in morning mist. I found a nicely-shaped tree that I decided to use as the main subject. Then, I adjusted my shooting position to get a well-balanced shot with the grove of birch trees clouded in white mist in the background.


The scene and my approach to it

This scene was of a clearing on elevated ground that was shrouded in early-morning mist up to one metre above the ground. I was fascinated by it because it looked as though a soft focus filter had been applied only to the roots of the trees. This was what I wanted to bring out in my photograph.

As the surroundings were still dark when I did the shoot during sunrise, I used a tripod to minimize noise and camera shake, and framed and composed my image using Live View mode. 

As for composition, I chose a tree with beautiful budding leaves to be the central figure in the frame. I then reduced the aperture to achieve greater depth of field, in order to clearly depict the highlands shrouded in morning mist. Placing the white sky in the frame would be distracting, so I took care not to do so. Instead, I focused on placing the silhouette of tree trunk in the centre in order to create a simple yet bold composition. This would bring out the quiet feel of the landscape, which was the theme of my photo.


Point 1: Use f/16 to create depth

The poor contrast created by the mist can cause your image to look flat. To create depth in the image, you will want to make sure that the lightly mist-covered grove of trees in the background is also clearly captured—not just the tree in the foreground. Using Aperture-priority AE mode, I thus reduced the aperture to f/16. This also slows the shutter speed, which has the added benefit of capturing the soft, hazy texture of the mist-filled air.


Point 2: Compensate for the slight underexposure with EV+0.3

Placing mist or haze in the frame can make an image appear somewhat underexposed. In such situations, you will need to use positive exposure compensation. The key is to focus on the brightness of the mist. As the shutter speed will be slowed down, you should use a tripod when doing the shoot to prevent blurring.


Point 3: Use White Balance (Daylight) to capture the refreshing green of budding leaves

Use WB (Daylight) to recreate the refreshing colours of the highland in the early morning. If you use ”Cloudy” or “Shade”, yellow tones will appear stronger, giving the impression that the shot was taken in the afternoon. However if you shoot with “Fluorescent” or “Tungsten”, the blue tones become too strong, making the image appear unnatural. Choosing “Daylight” will increase the blue tones by just a bit—enough to make the budding leaves appear more vibrant.


Tip: Morning mist occurs frequently on highlands

There are various types of fog and mist, each with different causes and patterns. On high-altitude grasslands such as where I did the shoot, the temperature differences are extreme. so fog and mist tend to appear frequently. This is because as the sun rises, its heat causes the dew on the grass to evaporate and turn into fog or mist. It is likely that you will get wet when shooting in the mist, so do go prepared with waterproof clothing and boots.


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EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM

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Rika Takemoto


A landscape photographer, Takemoto started photography as a hobby since 2004. In 2007, she became involved with managing a photo-sharing website. She studied under the natural landscape photographer Yoshiteru Takahashi , and later became a freelance photographer. Since then, she has been shooting landscapes all over Japan (occasionally overseas), covering a wide range of themes .


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