Fall is a truly magical season–a time of great movement and change. Days grow shorter and shadows grow longer. Animals migrate to their wintering grounds and the Autumn displays of color offer their final farewell to the abundance of Summer. Fall is rich with photographic opportunity–and Autumn color and slant light of the season can provide for striking imagery.
This Photo Tip is an addendum to Photographing Landscapes. While certain locations are well-known for their vivid displays, most areas of the country experience some kind of Fall color. Aspen, ash, birch, maple, oak, and numerous other deciduous trees turn ablaze with the season’s arrival of colder temperatures and waning sunlight. The first thing I recommend when photographing Fall color is to assess the scene. A few minutes spent here can make for a more efficient and productive photo session. View the big picture. What immediately attracts your attention? Does that small, isolated stand of aspens provide the bright splash of color to make your landscape pop? Or is the stand of trees an interesting and worthy subject in itself? When is the best time of day for optimal light? Consider all the possible vantage points. The best photographs are often hard-won. A little extra effort may mean the difference between an average photograph and one that really stands out. A polarizing filter can increase color saturation and contrast, but I suggest going easy on the amount of polarization you use. Too much polarization takes on an unnatural appearance and can reduce subtle detail, particularly in shadow areas. When using a zoom lens, check your composition at a variety of focal lengths. If multiple compositions appeal to you, photograph them all. If you are a professional photographer offering stock images for licensing, having several options increases your chances of selling the image. You can never foresee what might appeal to a particular client.
Think outside the box. While sharp depth-of-field and crisp detail are usually desirable when photographing trees and foliage, you can also apply the same principles you use to create the effect of soft, flowing water. Long exposures (1/8 second or longer) allow blowing leaves to paint abstract blurs of color across the photograph. As a counterpoint, consider anchoring all that motion with a sharply focused branch or tree trunk. Try using a flash at dusk to photograph the leaves as they rain down in a windstorm. Experiment–and most of all, have fun. It’s a wonderful time to be outside embracing nature’s beauty and diversity.
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Until next time, happy image-making…