Master misty landscapes

Peter Fenech

Although we might not like to think about it just yet, the end of summer is in sight and we need to start considering autumn

Master misty landscapes

Although we might not like to think about it just yet, the end of summer is in sight and we need to start considering autumn. Sun-seekers may be upset, but as photographers it’s a time to be excited. Autumn brings a multitude of environmental changes that make incredible images. Most will be thinking of autumn colour, but mist is another factor to bear in mind. Misty landscapes can look incredible, being filled with atmosphere and intrigue, but there are some technical aspects to remember if you want to capture a balanced image.

Watch your exposure

Mist can play havoc with your cameras’ metering system, as it often fools the technology into ‘thinking’ the scene is brighter than it actually is. This result is underexposure and a muddy, dull image. Sometimes it is only slight and therefore easy to miss if the photographer neglects to refer to their histogram, meaning that the issue isn’t corrected. The quickest solution is to use Exposure Compensation and start increasing exposure in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments until you feel the image has more life to it.

Master misty landscapes
Mist can fool auto-exposure into producing an underexposed shot

Change your metering mode

To help minimise the amount of compensation you have to make, try switching your camera to spot or centre-weighted metering. This will reduce the area of the viewfinder the camera uses to measure exposure, making the process more precise to your subject and less likely to be ‘distracted’ by extraneous bright areas.

Switch to manual mode

A fool-proof way to customise your exposure is to take full control over the process and use your camera’s manual mode. This will give you control over both the shutter speed, aperture and ISO, preventing the camera from choosing an unexpected exposure value that you might not notice until back at the computer. Start with an aperture of around f/11 and work your exposure from there.

Master misty landscapes
Even with spot metering, in a high contrast scene such as this, the shadow areas can create the opposite problem: overexposure. Use manual mode to combat this

Focus manually

Another system likely to be confused by mist is the autofocus. Misty scenes are often quite void of detail, providing little for the system to identify and lock on to. A quick fix is to turn off autofocus and manually work out where to place the focal plane. Use your live view feature to zoom in and judge when you have everything sharp.

Master misty landscapes
The right balance. A good amount of shadow detail with no washed-out highlights, with perfect focus
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