A foggy winter day in Saariselkä

As landscape photographers, we often prefer impressive sights. Those usually happen around sunrise or sunset, with clouds at the right place, sun at the right angle, and bright hues of orange, red and/or pink all around. But landscape photography in the fog is also possible and actually quite exciting. I tried a minimalistic approach there on the Kaunispää fell in Saariselkä, Finnish Lapland, to make the best of this day. You will see quite some contrast compared to another photoshoot that I did there at the end of the polar night.

The way to Saariselkä

Saariselkä is located about one hour drive south of Inari in Finnish Lapland. The advantage of this place is that a restaurant is located at the top of the Kaunispää fell. Therefore a road leads to the summit. I have already been up there countless times both in winter and summer. Every single time I discover new light and new photo possibilities.

On my way there, the weather was already quite foggy. I saw these fences covered in snow, and I just had to stop my car. Yes, this is something I often do in Lapland and going from A to B never takes me the normal time for that distance.

landscape photography in the fog
To avoid an almost complete washed out photo, I used the snow covered fence to frame a few trees in the near distance.

On top of the Kaunispää fell

Once I arrived in Saariselkä, and started driving up the fell, the fog became denser. I drove all the way up hoping to break through the clouds, but this did not happen… at least not right away (read on!).

Foggy view from the top of the Kaunispää fell
Layers… lots of them. Despite the fog, another of my photographer’s dream.

I took the previous picture from the top of the wooden observation tower that’s at the top of the Kaunispää fell in Saariselkä. On my way down, I had another opportunity to play with the frames. This allowed to add some contrast in the photo despite all the fog.

The snow covered leg of the wooden observation tower at Kaunispää
The snow accumulates from the blowing wind in this treeless area on top of the fell.

At this altitude, I was above the treeline. This meant that there were not so many opportunities to have something else than just white on the photo. By walking around a bit I found these signs that indicate a snowmobile trail. Perfect to break the white-out!

landscape photography in the fog
Those signs marking the snowmobile trail were a blessing there above the treeline.

Be patient

My motto in Lapland is to always be patient. The weather conditions and therefore the light can change in an instant. I could already notice the air getting clearer on my way down the fell.

Fog disappearing from the Kaunispää fell
The first trees marking the treeline. Fog is slowly disappearing.

The sun was trying to peak through the clouds, and the landscape started getting brighter, but all I could see was still only white and barely any shadows. When this happens, you need to find some highly contrasted elements to break the monotony of the white. Here it was the piece of black asphalt of the road that played this role.

landscape photography in the fog
The black asphalt of the road gives a focus point in an otherwise quite monotonous picture.

Look! Here is the sun!

Didn’t I tell you that conditions change quickly in Saariselkä? This time it was to my advantage, with the sun casting some gorgeous colours. Wasn’t it worth waiting?

Quite the view from Saariselkä
Gorgeous colours at last. You can see that there was still quite some fog not far.

Landscape photography in the fog: what have we learnt?

It can be quite frustrating when the weather does not play nice if you have planned a photo shoot. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t give up. There is beauty in everything;
  • Shoot with up to +1 EV exposure compensation in such snowy conditions;
  • Move around a lot to get new perspectives;
  • Again, don’t give up!;
  • Find shapes that give some contrast. It can be a tree, a building, a bird;
  • Be patient: fog is often very dynamic. One moment you can’t see anything, while the next moment you can see a lot farther;
  • Finally while editing your pictures afterwards, don’t hesitate to push your contrast slider a little more than you are used to. This allows to define better the shapes that I mentioned above.

Do you want to join me in this or a similar winter wonderland in Finnish Lapland? Check out my upcoming workshops.

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