Thursday, May 31, 2012

How to take photos when it's foggy

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Shooting a scene when there is fog or haze can create a very mysterious image but it can be really tricky to capture.  Taking pictures on a foggy day or night is unlike taking pictures in clear weather because there is very little contrast and color saturation.  And, while these conditions add to the moodiness of the scene they can be frustrating to photograph because sometimes a photo can look washed out and flat if you don't carefully select your settings.  I'm no landscape photography expert but there are definitely some things that I've learned along the way that have been helpful. 

1.  Exposure compensation

Fog, which is essentially water vapor suspended in the air, makes the air more reflective to light so your camera will think (yes, your camera thinks)  that it needs to decrease the exposure.  In other words, your camera's light meter can't read the light conditions accurately.  Since there is very little light in a fog scene and low light situations usually require longer exposure times, it might be helpful to have a tripod.  However, if you don't have one with you, then your best bet is to dial in some positive exposure compensation (+1 or +2 stops usually works).  Definitely take a few practice shots until you get the proper value. 

2.  Contrast

Heavy fog lowers contrast and can make a scene look washed out in photos because it acts like softbox light does (it broadens and softens the light). You can add contrast by including an object or people or some other subject, in the image.  Including a subject in the foreground will also add depth to the picture.   

3.  Shutter speed

Don't use your flash.  You'll be tempted because it's dark and your camera will be slow but it will only wash out your image even more.  Longer exposures (using a tripod or the image will be blurry) will give you a smooth look.  Fast shutter speeds will give you that lovely clear fog scene and it will obviate the need for a tripod or some other steady surface.  You can also try shooting at higher ISO but watch out for using ISOs so high that you get too much noise in your photos.


Compare the following three images all taken within 30 minutes of each other




Copyright Monica L. Shulman

A little washed out but the clear waves in the foreground make it stand out a bit.

The reeds in the front bring out the fog in the back.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Asking for stories


My grandmother is visiting for the summer from Argentina.  I'm always asking for stories -- I want to know the most random ones.  We spent the weekend in East Hampton and she told me about my grandfather and how it was when they first met just after World War II -- she was only fourteen and while they were courting she worked in a photography studio and he walked her home every night.   There are so many things I need to know from both sets of grandparents and I want to start writing them down so that my own grandchildren will know them.  I feel a little bit hollow to think that these are things that can be forgotten unless we make it a point to remember them.  I start to think about my own great grandchildren and I hope that I'm lucky enough to meet them and I want them to know about people who they will never meet but who are so important -- people who made me who I am. 

I see Lucia with her great grandmother, my thoughtful and fascinating grandmother, and it makes my heart beat faster.  These are moments that are recorded in my heart and mind forever and even though she won't be able to really remember it, I will work hard to help her.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Instagram Weekend

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Daily trips to the beach, lazy afternoon naps, long walks to no place in particular and easy meals al fresco.  The long weekend was the perfect start to what will surely be a wonderful summer.

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A foggy night in Montauk.

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Fog on the pond.  Stay tuned for a tutorial this week on how to capture it.

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The quietest block where we can walk in the middle of the road and actually feel safe.

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The grass never gets this long in the city.  I love how green and beautiful it is in the woods behind our house even though I don't let anyone in my family walk in it because of the ticks.

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My assistant and me shooting the fog.  The next day it had all lifted but I decided not to take my phone to the beach that day and to truly disconnect.

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I love how there's just a tiny hint of sunlight dancing on the waves.  The sun really wanted to come out.

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The hose is apparently where it's at...even though the water is freezing cold. 

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The fog was so thick at one point...

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And then just like that, it was gone.

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I think she is the funniest girl.

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I love this patch of woods behind our home.  That tree has been down for as long as I can remember.

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Looking for seashells and rocks to throw back at the ocean. Getting our legs wet even though the water was ice cold.

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Friday, May 25, 2012



I was leaving the dreaded post office yesterday where I was shipping prints to clients abroad when I got stuck in the rain with no umbrella and worse, no camera. I was momentarily devastated but then I remembered my iPhone and the fact that my Nikon would have gotten soaked.

After a very wet, gray and seemingly uneventful week filled with chores and errands and way too much paper(less) work, I am very much looking forward to the long weekend. We're headed to the beach and I'm hopeful that we get some sun so our girl can do what she loves and run in the sand. But come to think of it, sometimes the rain is quite beautiful and I rather like it. Except maybe not for the next few days. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and here are some fun links.

A DIY I actually want to try!

Eyephone: THE e-book for iPhone photographers

Tattly camera tatoos!

The most stunning portrait of Marion Cottilard

Garance Dore's photos from the Cannes Film Festival are my favorite so far.

This book is on my wishlist.

Hard to believe it has been one year since the Joplin tornado

The future of social media and the photography business

How Yahoo killed Flickr
This article made me sad.  For one, it's true and secondly, I'm indebted to Flickr for inspiring me to do this photography thing full-time.  I am one of those people who uses Flickr right now simply for storage and as host to the images that I share here on the blog.  But when I first started using it, pre-Facebook, my blog, Twitter and Instagram, it was the only place where I shared my photos.  I don't really use it to engage with users or followers anymore but I'm so thankful for the friendships that I made there and for all the inspiration. 

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Happening Here

Copyright 2012 Monica L. Shulman

I see New York City as art.  Lines, shapes, contrasts and negative space all coming together to create the world's most intense and kinetic masterpiece.  Whether you choose to look up or down this city is always bustling, always pulsating and motivating.  The corner of 23rd Street at the Broadway Fifth Avenue intersection is one of my favorite spots in New York because no matter which direction you choose to look the city is alive and rich in ideas and inspiration.  Something is always happening here.

Copyright 2012 Monica L. Shulman

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Setting exposure compensation

I love the sun flares.
Photographers always talk about the magic hour - that time of day when the light is just right.  While some prefer the early morning, I love taking pictures when the sun is about the set and the light is just...magic.  It's summertime so bedtime is a bit later and this way we have all the more time to play, laugh, run and, of course, take photos.

While the light is always beautiful at this time of day, capturing it can be a bit tricky if you don't have the right settings on your camera and this is when you should break out your manual.  For these shots I had to adjust the exposure on my camera.  When I pointed the camera directly at the sky the images looked a bit blown out.  Still, I didn't want to miss the chance to chase her up and down this little ramp in our neighborhood so I set the camera to underexpose (make darker) the shot when I was shooting directly into the light of the sun.  I also bumped up the ISO to 640 to compensate for the low light.  If I had set up the shot to overexpose (make lighter) I wouldn't have gotten all these great contrasts in the silhouettes in the background or the long shadows. And, in those shots where she had more light on her face I adjusted the exposure to make sure she wasn't coming out too dark.

Finally, don't forget to change your exposure setting back after you're done since your camera won't do it for you.  Even if you shoot RAW you might not be able to fix a shot completely if it is over or under exposed.


Copyright Monica L. Shulman
I think that this photo and the one below it really create a narrative of this moment that I was trying to capture.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Underexposing here brought out all the great detail and textures of this wood deck.  Not to mention that it makes her little foot stand out even more. This really is a telling portrait of my girl since she's always on the move and being playful and silly.


Copyright Monica L. Shulman
I take so many photos of her from her eye level that sometimes it's fun to photograph her from above.  This is how I always see her and some day she will be as tall as or most likely taller than I am so this is just another way for me to remember her as a baby.  Also, I purposely made the background darker here so that she would be the main focus and also to show all that warm light from the setting sun.

New Jersey never looked so good.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spring Rain

Fog and the World Trade.

The weather is horrible in New York right now but I don't mind the downpours for inspiration. I was in a rush with my camera but I'm feeling the motivation to go out and shoot in the rain like I always loved. Like here and here and here.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman


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