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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Autumn Light

Keep it clean and simple for the most dramatic photographs

Labels: On LandscapeColumn

This Article Features Photo Zoom

autumn light
Autumn forest, Baxter State Park, Maine.
Every season of the year has its special qualities for the landscape photographer. Autumn is no exception. By the end of summer, I already find myself wondering where I’ll go to photograph and how the colors will be this year. Every autumn season is different, and we all hope that this year will be the brightest and most colorful.

If we’re traveling away from home to photograph the fall colors, then timing is a big issue. Fortunately these days, the Internet offers abundant sources to research when the colors are usually best and to track their progress.

What light is best for autumn photography? When I look through my favorite fall images, I see that I’ve favored two main types of light. The soft, even lighting of an overcast day, especially a rainy one, is prime light for forest scenes. Generally, the even tonalities make it easier to see the strong colors and details of leaves and branches of most forest scenes.

This image from Baxter State Park in Maine was made in a soft rain. I used my 4x5 camera and a 4x5 film back adapted for a 2:1 panoramic format. The colors were saturated and vibrant throughout the forest, but I located this section of woods where there was an especially good variety of color as well as strong graphic shapes. The moss-covered boulders, well-defined tree trunks and freshly fallen leaves add to the quality of the image.

I made full-framed exposures as well as panoramic ones like this one. I was pleased with both, but I especially liked how the rhythm of color and design is portrayed in the narrow format. The key quality in this photograph for me is the soft lighting provided by the rainstorm. That the leaves were wet and many of them had fallen to the forest floor add impact to the image. The hanging and fallen leaves blend somewhat in the composition, which gives the viewer pause to look more closely.


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