I have to admit to being fascinated by fog and mist. There’s something mysterious about the way it shrouds everything, especially as it rises off the fields. It’s not exactly a unique event in Shropshire of course but it does invite great photos, particularly for agricultural and farming photography.
I remember as a kid living just outside London, the fog would occasionally be so thick that you couldn’t see more than twenty feet in front of you. Getting to school was a major adventure, half the journey would be spent bumping into things (mostly intentionally). Some of the kids ended up lost for hours, being immediately disoriented and turning the wrong way out of the front door. They’d be found confused and walking around in circles in a field somewhere. Any excuse to skip school! I was actually kept at home once for three days by my mum (I wanted to go to work but she insisted). I remember it clearly, when you opened the front door the fog would drift into the house and street lights stayed on throughout the day. I’m joking of course (well in part at least) but in case you’re wondering, this wasn’t Victorian London (I’m not that old), it was the suburbs. However the 1960s still had a lot of industrial smog which combined with the nearby river Thames meant that we often had really thick fog that would stay around for a long time.
I’ve read numerous books (no really, I have, honestly), where mist and fog has been a feature, adding to the tension. Watch any film interpretation or adaptation based on the classics and you’ll often see scenes which reflect the era, with mist being used to heighten the mood.
“So what’s this got to do with photography?” I hear you ask. Well, it’s actually a great backdrop, but it’s really very hard to get a good photo, or any photo come to that. You see, the trouble is you either get up in the morning and find a thick blanket of fog in front of you, or it forms while there’s no camera gear to hand. Which let’s face it is quite frustrating.So the other day, while taking a break and driving back from a Sunday afternoon coffee, I noticed mist rising as I drove out, and it was still hanging there as I drove back. It was about 4pm, the sky was a lovely violet blue and the mist was close to the ground, such that the trees were clearly visible above it, but nothing else was. Perfect. I had a couple of locations in mind for a shot like this, so I raced the 5 miles home, all the time marvelling at the sight from the car, grabbed my camera and a lens and raced out again, 5 miles to my chosen spot.
Well by the time I got there at 4:30 it was just a solid grey wall of fog. And I mean solid. Memories of my childhood returned. I got out of the car and I couldn’t see a blasted thing. Apart from fog that is, and another photographer who’d also decided on the same spot. We had a laugh and both gave up. An hour later it had cleared. Opportunity well and truly gone, later on that evening I saw someone’s photos from the top of the Wrekin and they were fantastic.
I know, I know, I should be prepared and keep a camera in the car, but last time I tried that, when I went to use it the battery was flat and I’d also taken the memory cards out and forgot to put them back. Anyway I persisted with my challenge and on a recent autumn project, I was having a quick catch up with my client and he commented that the colours across the private estate I’d been commissioned to photograph looked fantastic, particularly on a misty morning. So I looked at the weather forecast and surprisingly enough, it was likely to be misty the following day.
With first light at 7:30am I set off at 7am and yes, it was a bit misty. As I drove it got gradually more dense and when I arrived at my destination it was too thick to make anything out worth photographing. Colours were muted and it was just too thick. Added to that, a heavy overnight frost dampened the colours even more. I waited in the car for about 40 minutes to see if it would clear but it looked like it was there to stay and my early morning misty landscape was going to have to wait for another time, but I did drive around and noticed some sheep gathered under an oak tree which made a nice, unexpected photo. I really didn’t want to risk disturbing them and losing the only possible photo so this was taken from the relative comfort of my car. I didn’t get what I was looking for but equally I didn’t go back empty handed!