It’s that time of year and the leaves are changing! Fall can offer some of the best variations in your photography and often allows for seemingly unnatural beauty in nature. However, capturing that image as you see it can often be more difficult than anticipated, but there are lots of great tips and things we can do in order to get the best photos possible.
First and foremost, the most important thing is lighting. Morning and evening light will allow the best images in a big scene, enhancing the colors throughout. Like most things in photography this is when light is best, as you will typically have direct light on the horizon but soft light above. Hopefully you will also get great sunrises/sunsets that will amplify the scene you are shooting.
Just because early and late light is the best for the big scene it does not my any means imply that other times of the day are useless for shooting. Mid-day light, when focusing on groups of trees or leaves, can offer a great time to get some unique compositions. When there is harsh light you probably won’t be able to get the wonderful, grandiose fall landscape but when going in close you can get some great stuff.
Another tip when shooting fall foliage is to backlight your subject to brighten the scene, especially when photographing aspen trees this will add another dimension to the scene. Facing into the sun allows for bright and vibrant colors that will light up your subject like nothing else.
You can also take advantage of overcast and shadowed days. The muted quality of the light acts as a natural soft box and provides for added drama, also this gives you more time to be out and explore, allowing for more opportunities to get better photos, and while your colors may not look as vibrant you will be able to get some great even lighting.
Another tip to taking advantage of fall colors is to use a polarizing filter. A polarizing filter improves color, enhancing reds, blues, and greens. It will also help to eliminate reflections and a waxy look that leaves often have. One additional benefit of using a polarizer is that it cuts through morning and atmospheric haze. This added clarity allows subjects to stand out more against the deeper tones of the sky so that fall foliage looks even more pronounced. When shooting into the sky a polarizing filter can also deepen the color of the sky and help to reduce glare from the sun.
In addition to shooting in the right time of day and using a polarizing filter, the easiest way to get great fall foliage pictures is to change your perspective! Its easy to get caught up on the big, wide scene but for great results don’t always focus on the great scene in front of you, but look close and see what else is around that might not have been so readily apparent. Fallen leaves, reflections, and other small elements can offer new views to an easily viewed scene. Switch your lens from standard zoom to telephoto or macro and see the new scene that can be captured by your camera. But last and most importantly of all, just get out and shoot!
© 2015, Tony. All rights reserved.