How to capture the essence of autumn colors in pictures when we enjoy the beauty of the autumn in New England or in one of the other states famous for the colorful fall foliage? After many years of experience when taking pictures of autumn leaves for professional stock photography and for books and articles I reveal some of my techniques in this article.
Nowadays it is so much easier and more fun to use digital cameras for taking pictures in the outdoors of autumn leaves and the nice colors of fall foliage. With a digital camera you can immediately check if your shot was hitting what you wanted to capture and it is easy to redo it if needed.
The captured digital files will easily support your memory of a nice fall experience and you can work on with them at home on your computer and display it for others.
When you are on location you can choose to achieve esthetic pleasant pictures without emphasis on the natural object you are choosing. Or you can go for nature photography in the pure sense of communicating species in nature like the aspen or the maple trees or insects on fall foliage e.g. preparing for the coming wintertime. Or you can choose to focus on landscape photography.
Many nature photographers would say they aim at combining these intentions, but in reality you might benefit from this distinction for your autumn photography.
First release your imagination for possible pictures – it isn’t just the option to take pictures of fall scenics with vivid autumn color.
You can choose to communicate in your photos:
- Close-up shots of single colors or contrasting colors or a palette of autumn colors.
- Grand vistas of autumn scenics.
- Everything there are in between, like individual trees.
- Fallen colorful autumn leaves or leaves with strong colors still hanging or the branches.
- Combining autumn leaves with soil, with big stones, with the blue sky or with water.
- Make use of raindrops (as natural or some you add artificially to the autumn leaves)
- Make use of fruits of the season, or other signs of autumn.
- Combining the fall foliage with colorful mushrooms.
A simple digital camera will have many options to choose from for your autumn photography:
- Go close with the macro function
- Make wide angle shots
- Make tele photo shots
- Make experiments with the different settings, often provided with the camera, like soft colors or strong colors.
- Try the highest ISO setting to get more corny pictures.
Compose your picture to make it interesting
- Make a rather simple build up of the picture composition to avoid resulting messy photos.
- The tele setting of the lens is fine for isolating objects and blur the background.
- Try a very low position of the camera to add an interesting angle, or to isolate an object.
- With wide angle shots include some interesting object in the foreground. Make sure it will be in focus together with the rest of the picture.
- The main object in the picture can be framed to one of the sides – often to the left seems most natural.
- Be careful with deep shadows as they might come out completely black on your digital file and prohibit you to work on with the problem in Photoshop or another photo editing program.
As always the light is essential to get the bright autumn colors, but also days with overcast sky can give beautiful pictures and communicate the special mood of autumn.
In sun you have the option to make the full use of backlight to lightning up the magnificent leaf colors: reds, yellows and golden in combination with nuances of green. Especially when you combine backlit colorful leaves with isolation of leaves you can produce beautiful photos.
A circular polarizer filter is still useful equipment for digital photography in the outdoors and it will enhance the colors of the sky as well as the foliage if the sun is shining from an angel to your view.
Read more about autumn photography in ‘The Art of Outdoor Photography: Techniques for the Advanced Amateur and Professional’ by Boyd Norton, and about the further processing of your digital pictures in ‘Outdoor Photographer Landscape and Nature Photography with Photoshop CS2’ by Rob Sheppard.
About the author
Soren Breiting has a background as a biologist and has been in stock photography for many years. You find a smaller selection of Soren’s high quality stock photos of fall foliage at A-Z Fotos (http://www.azfotos.com) and autumn relevant links at http://www.fall-foliage.net/.
Submitted on 13 September’06