Tips and tricks for photographing football in foggy weather


Football is usually played outdoors and the games can be subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Even though I have never seen a game canceled due to the weather, there are sometimes conditions that can make their photography difficult.

On November 11, I photographed St. Mary’s in Edison during a second round high school football playoff game. It was a close and hotly contested game that St. Mary’s ultimately won 29-23. But what made it even more memorable to me was the foggy weather.

Read more:Edison, St. Mary’s Fog Bowl 2021 was an instant classic. These are the reasons why

(11/12/21) Edison's Aiden Car, right, throws a pass under pressure from St. Mary's Dylan Lozano in a second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section's football playoff round at Magnasco Stadium in Edison in Stockton.  The contrast in this photo was manipulated in post-processing to help minimize the effects of fog.  CLIFFORD OTO / THE STOCKTON RECORD

Fog can be difficult to photograph as it can obscure players and decrease the sharpness and contrast of images. Some people like the effects of a light mist. This can help remove distracting backgrounds and in some cases can deepen the color of a scene. But heavy fog can make things difficult for full photos.

There are techniques you can use to alleviate post-processing (in the computer) haze like “demisting” and increasing contrast, but there isn’t much you can do with them, especially with a thick fog.

The fog was not too strong at first. The evening began with a light mist. Then patches of fog formed on the pitch with players often running in thicker portions and in clear air. For a short time it seemed like the mist was lifting, but by the end of the first quarter it was clear that the fog was here to stay and would only get worse.

(11/12/21) Edison's Aiden Car, right, throws a pass under pressure from St. Mary's Dylan Lozano during a second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs at Magnasco Stadium d 'Edison in Stockton.  CLIFFORD OTO / THE STOCKTON RECORD

An amateur photographer on the fringes asked me what we could do to photograph in the fog. I told him there wasn’t much. The only thing was to wait for the players and the action to get closer to her.

Sports photography generally requires a telephoto lens, which helps bring the action closer, but there is also a side effect of compressing the elements in the scene. This means that all atmospheric conditions, in this case fog, are exacerbated by a long lens. Waiting for the players to get closer to you helps clear some of the fog between you and them. But as the action draws closer, you have to react faster because everything is happening at an accelerated pace.

(12/11/21) Edison's Jaylen Blacksher makes his way to a touchdown during a Sac-Joaquin Section second round football playoff game against St. Mary's at Edison's Magnasco Stadium in Stockton.  CLIFFORD OTO / THE STOCKTON RECORD

As the second trimester continued, the fog grew thicker and thicker. Soon I couldn’t see the other side of the field. The action in midfield felt like a mere suggestion of movement. Not only was it difficult to see, but it was difficult to focus the camera. Even identifying the players took a lot of effort. Edison’s players wore black jerseys with black numbers, which were difficult to distinguish even under ideal conditions. As the fog thickened, it became almost impossible.

Halftime ended and I returned to the office to set the deadline, heaving a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to deal with the fog anymore and at least it wasn’t raining.

Record-breaking photographer Clifford Oto has photographed Stockton and San Joaquin County for over 36 years. He can be contacted at [email protected] or on Instagram @Recordnet. Follow his blog at recordnet.com/otoblog. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.


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