Shooting the Chicago fog

Fog is a common occurrence in Chicago, and it’s easy to lose motivation because of the bad weather. But fog is actually a wonderful opportunity to shoot something different! Bad weather is a great way to add drama and mood to your images.

Fog acts as a giant softbox, so your shots will lack contrast and it will be darker outside. Which means you might need to increase your ISO or shoot on a tripod. It is also very easy to overexpose the sky because it is entirely white, so keep an eye on your histogram!

I like to shoot black and white because fog tends to desaturate colors. It also adds to the mood by emphasizing the lines and patterns of the architecture. In the image above, I used a long exposure so the water would match the soft fog, putting the focus on the sharp buildings.

The image below was shot on the Michigan Avenue Bridge during rush hour. I wanted to show the motion of the cars by having them slightly blurred. To do that, I needed to have a shutter speed around 1/5s. Because of the fog, I was able to achieve it at ISO 100 by simply closing down the aperture to f/14. No need for an ND filter.

DuSable Bridge - Chicago, IL
“Rush Hour” | DuSable Bridge – Chicago, IL

Post-processing is fairly simple on these shots. I added some contrast, using either Curves or Levels adjustment layers. I also used quite a bit of dodge and burn to add drama. Don’t overuse clarity and sharpening, because these adjustments will cut through the fog. Applied selectively, they can, however, add some interest to your image.

Maggie Daley Park - Chicago, IL
“Ribbon” | Maggie Daley Park – Chicago, IL

This last image is the Maggie Daley Park, that opened last year, featuring a skating ribbon, a play garden, climbing walls and more. It’s a great spot to photograph, and I’d love to go back with different weather.

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