Douces brumes de Bourgogne

Bourgogne is one of the my favourite places on earth: a wonderful landscape with a balanced mix of nature and man-made artefacts. Contingent reasons made me know this county in Fall, with recurrent “bad” weather, even though I also visited it in Spring. After many years I have to say I still prefer it in Fall, with its delicate colours in the foliage and its sweet foggy landscapes.

Fog can manifest in variety of forms, for instance you can have good weather with a sunny blue sky and morning fog lingering only low on the ground. Many interesting opportunities, especially with backlight, are offered by this combination, which unfortunately is doomed to last for a very short time.

Brume du matin sur le Canal de Bourgogne.

Sony NEX-6 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 16 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

More often fog is regular and stable. It can be used by composing for a perspective with evident vanishing points, where the contrast decreasing with distance enhances the depth of the scene and gives a sense of mystery about “what could be there, just beyond that line of trees”.

Le Canal de Bourgogne à Vandenesse-en-Auxois.

Sony NEX-6 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 32 mm, 1/20 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 400, monopod.

Le Canal de Bourgogne à Le Fourneron.

Sony NEX-6 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 47 mm, 1/20 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 200, hand-held.

Now one of the great features of Bourgogne is the presence of hills. Fog layers usually stay low at the bottom of valleys, with the top of the hills floating above. When the fog is not heavy, it quickly starts to disappear after the sunrise and stays confined just near the ground, with bell towers and treetops emerging out of it. This is the perfect combination for sketches of landscape - in extreme cases excellent abstractions can be produced.

Croquis de paysage dans le brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 122 mm, 1/30 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 200, monopod.

Croquis de paysage dans le brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 127 mm, 1/25 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 200, monopod.

Croquis de paysage dans le brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 113 mm, 1/15 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, monopod.

A bit of challenge lies in the upper sky, that is likely to appear uniform and boring. Cutting the photo in 16:9 or such is a good idea; but sometimes a few features appear in the clouds - often they need to be enhanced in post-processing (for instance with layer filters or brushes enhancing contrast only where it's needed, preserving the delicate tones elsewhere), so a few post-processing attempts are a good idea before deciding for the cut.

Sainte-Sabine sortant de la brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 70 mm, 1/25 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, monopod.

If the rising sun is not blocked by clouds, it can suddenly change the overall mood by painting everything with warm light. It can turn warmer or colder very quickly as it finds its way through the layer of clouds, so it is a good idea to keep shooting the same subjects multiple times to have variations on the theme and later pick the best ones.

Brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 70 mm, 1/40 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 200, monopod.

Brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 80 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 200, monopod.

When the fog layer starts breaking in pieces, it makes sense to use also longer focals to isolate a small number of landscape features, such as buildings or groups of trees. Hills can be used in a different way: as a vantage point to look down. Focusing in this case can be a challenge, but fortunately my new Sony SEL70200G has been perfectly able to properly focus in each circumstance. The NEX-6 is pretty useful too as it can enhance contrast in real-time in the EVF (an operation impossible with a OVF), which facilitates composition with such low contrast subjects. This doesn't mean that the final image should have its contrast enhanced - overdoing can easily destroy the feeling of a foggy landscape - thus shooting in a raw format is mandatory here so everything can be overridden in post-processing.

L'ecluse de la Milne dans le brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 400, monopod.

Paysage sous la brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 70 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 400, monopod.

L'ecluse de la Milne dans le brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 127 mm, 1/60 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 400, monopod.

A different approach is to have something well contrasted in the foreground, leaving the fog as the background - for instance, something emerging as a silhouette.

Vandenesse-en-Auxois sortant de la brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 84 mm, 1/60 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

In other circumstances, fog layers create a sort of “sandwich” that encloses precious details; they just need to be isolated with a tele lens to create the “city in the clouds” effect. Again, the sky can be a problem when it looks dull and empty. In this case to bring details out in the upper part I also took advantage of a coloured layer filter with a slightly cold cast.

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois dans la brume du matin.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 120 mm, 1/30 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, monopod.

Last but the best, here it is something that I had been imagining since a long time: a castle emerging out of the morning fog with some shades of warm colour from the rising sun. The perfect light lasted only a few minutes - at the beginning there was no sun light, still blocked by a few clouds; then some orange hue started to appear, but the fog got thicker and the details of the buildings could not be seen; in the end the fog started dissipating while the good light was still there. Just a couple of minutes later the fog was almost completely away. In post-processing I had to be very careful with white balance and saturation in order to preserve the delicate balance between warm and cold tones.

I only had a few hours of fog in four days - honestly I was hoping for more. But I'm glad I was able to get at least a few of the planned shots I had in mind.

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois sortant de la brume matinale.

Sony NEX-6 + 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/60 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.