Behind The Shot: A Moody & Foggy River Reflection

Photographer Catrin Grabowski (@kathinkas_world) calls herself a foggy mood addict. “My photography journey started several years ago when I bought my first mirrorless camera and became infected with the well-known photographer’s virus,” she explains. “Some years later when the Sony Alpha 7 crossed my path it was love at first sight – the full-frame sensor was like discovering a whole new world through the lens. As a true lover of foggy conditions, I usually seek out what others may call moody weather. I find the special kind of mystical light it provides suits my photography in the best possible way.” Sony Alpha Universe connected with Grabowski to learn more about this dreamy foggy river image she took with her Sony Alpha 7R IV and Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master. Keep reading for her story behind the shot.

The Scene

I woke up to thick dreamy fog one morning back in last year’s April and immediately decided to go for shooting before heading to work. I had a shot of calm water with backlight from the rising sun hidden behind misty air in my mind for months but hadn’t been lucky with the conditions so far. My hometown is surrounded by soft hills and while foggy conditions are often to be found on top of those hills, they rarely reach the depths of the riverbed of our main river Fulda.

Shooting in special weather conditions always includes a limited time frame, as fog usually dissolves as soon as the sun starts to rise. A while ago I had discovered a small landing stage looking to the east, the perfect place for a shot of a misty sunrise and reflections of the trees and buildings on the other side of the river, so I directly drove to this spot and set up my tripod on the landing stage.

The Gear

Now I had to decide about the focal length. Lenses with a shorter focal length tend to eat some of the fog away and make it less dense, so normally I would choose a longer focal lens to emphasize the density.

In this case, the fog was dense enough that a wide-angle was an option, which led me to the choice of the newest addition of my lenses, the FE 12-24mm 2.8 GM. I experimented with different focal lengths and ended up with the sweet spot in between, a focal length of 18 mm. Using a wide-angle lens allowed me to create space between my shooting spot and the opposite riverside. I didn’t want to include the landing stage itself but chose to keep the foreground clean to emphasize more on the trees in the distance.

While I’ve always been drawn to foggy conditions, they can be tricky to photograph. Back in the day, I was mostly focussing manually but with the Sony Alpha 7R 4 this changed, the autofocus is not only super fast but also very reliable even in conditions like this. I found it works extraordinarily well in combination with the FE 12-24mm 2.8 GM. This gives me much more time for creativity and to focus my mind on the shooting instead of thinking about technical issues.

Also, I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of the back button focus, which allowed me to take several shots of the same scene in different settings without having to focus again each time I pressed the shutter button.

The Shot

The picture I had in mind was a tranquil, almost minimal scenery with lots of negative space in it. Something I like best about fog beside the reduction of colors and details is the sound: all the noises get swallowed by the thick dense air and the whole sensory experience of our busy world is diminished. This feeling was what I wanted to capture.

I experimented with the angle of the horizon and took several shots with the other side of the river being strictly horizontal. While I found this angle added to the symmetric effect of the reflection, I ultimately decided against it and rather went with a diagonal leading line. I also experimented with longer shutter speed but found it softened the reflections too much – I wanted them to be as clear as possible in the otherwise diffuse conditions. Initially, I had the camera on a tripod, but as the sun was slowly rising, I could leave it out and shoot the final image with 1/200 Sec at F/8 ISO 100.

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