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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

10 Tips For Fall

Rod Planck shares some of his favorite techniques for the leaves of autumn

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Fall is the nature photographer's dream season. We've asked veteran fall color expert Rod Planck for some of his top tips to help you get the best from this season of fiery hues.

Use Reflections
1 Not everybody thinks about using reflections when they have the goal to shoot autumn colors. But using reflections can save a photographer on a bad day. If it's particularly windy or there's harsh sunlight, go into a forest with a shaded stream. Suddenly, the chaos of the wind goes away, the reflection in the water increases the color saturation and beautiful colors can be made. I prefer using a long lens, like the telephoto AF-S Nikkor 300mm ƒ/4D IF-ED lens in this image, to isolate the reflection instead of a wide-angle where you end up chasing the length of the reflection.
Nikon D3S, AF-S Nikkor 300mm ƒ/4D IF-ED, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead

Be A Weather-Watcher
2 Planning and scouting your location can have a huge impact on your trip. Don't underestimate the power of a computer and weather apps as general sources, as well as tourism bureaus. Radar maps can mean knowing with confidence that a lunchtime rainstorm will be gone in two hours. But weather reports don't tell you exactly when and where to be, and for that you need to scout. Scouting is something I'd be lost without. For this image of Clear Lake in Ottawa National Forest, I scouted the area 10 days prior to shooting and visited again twice before bringing my camera. I got up at 4 a.m. to get there at just the right time for it to be cool, partially clear and dead-calm for my desired composition.
Nikon D4, AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G ED VR II, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead, tripod collar

3 Usually, autumn photography is concentrated on trees and leaves, but sunrise and sunset is a time to focus on the open expanse of sky. There are some trips, or even entire years, when you hit bad weather, but that moment at sunrise could be the best part of your day. A unique sky is always interesting. This image of the moonrise at Grand Sable Dunes focuses on the lack of color, with a pleasant gold band and the graphic autumn tree.
Nikon D3S, AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G ED VR II, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead

Use Atmosphere
4 Along with having multiple perspectives and vantage points, atmosphere is a key component for composition. Working near rivers, streams, small lakes and large bodies of water usually assures you that there will be a shot with fog or mist. I have dozens of photos from overlooks when the colors are right on ordinary days. But to make it special, take advantage of the weather conditions. I had been monitoring the weather conditions at Nelson Lake from my computer. When I knew it would be calm and there would be fog, I decided to venture out to the lake for this shot.
Nikon D4, AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G ED VR II, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead

5 With most landscapes, the inspiration for the shot comes from your perspective as you move through the scene. When I think of fall color locations, I don't think of flat areas or just photographing from the highest hill. I want a location with versatile perspectives. I want the ability to be on top of something, but also to stand eye level and have varying compositions. This is an iconic location at the Presque Isle River Kettles in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Michigan; the perspective inspired me as I crossed a suspension bridge over the water.
Nikon D3S, AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm ƒ/2.8G ED, polarizer, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead


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