A Magical Misty Vista

‘Forest Cloud’, Ganllwyd, Gwynedd, Wales
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L @ 400mm, 1/50 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 400
Handheld, Kata E-702 Elements Rain Cover.
Adobe Lightroom.

“The incessant drudgery of pelting rain can challenge the most tenacious creatives.”

A Magical Misty Vista

Despite the muted contrast and colours, landscape photographers find mist captivating. Some of the most compelling fog and mist images are created when we are viewing a mist laden landscape at a distance without any mist hindering our view. A sprawling magical misty vista is a reliable recipe for a compelling concoction. Such an understated pastel canvas can be even more evocative when photographing through clouds. Mist and fog are formed by the same principles, they are really ground level clouds but with a crucial difference; mist and fog form when conditions are dead-calm with virtually zero wind speed, clouds are much less particular. When a scene is immersed in low-lying cloud, there is more variability in the intensity of camouflage; a shifting cloudscape allows occasional glimpses of different parts of the scene. The experience is more dynamic, more exciting.

The inescapable reality of cloud is that it is often accompanied by rain. From an aesthetic perspective this can actually be beneficial, because rain falling between us and the subject acts like a huge soft-focus filter. In punishing weather, many photographers prefer to stay indoors, the incessant drudgery of pelting rain can challenge the most tenacious creatives. Consequently, those of us who brave the elements can be rewarded with refreshingly different images, often leaning towards a more impressionist style. However, from a practical standpoint it is less than desirable; photographic equipment and rain don’t mix well.

The Canon 1Ds Mark III can be reliably used in pouring rain without a glitch, but despite the excellent weather sealing it still feels more secure when enclosed in custom made rain protection like the Kata Elements cover. I spent two hours shooting hand-held in the Welsh mountains as the rain poured down around me. It was relatively dull, so all my settings were somewhat compromised to allow for hand-held capture. An ISO setting of 400 is my preferred upper limit to maintain image quality and image stabilisation was essential to allow any possibility of successful capture with such a slow shutter speed at 400mm. As the clouds rolled in to the hillside engulfing these beautiful trees, I used burst mode to capture a number of images in quick succession with each press of the shutter and maximise my chances of some ‘keepers’.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.