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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
Avoid White Sky On Overcast Days
6 If I could design the perfect day, the morning would start with not a cloud in the sky and a bit of fog; then, just as the sun gets harsh, clouds would roll in. I love cloudy days because they allow us to stay in the field all day long. But even with in-camera dynamic contrast range, a large area of white sky isn't very interesting without sunlight and can kill the viewer's attention. So on overcast days, I use the phrase, "This is a no-sky zone." This may mean working in an interior, forested area or specifically with more intimate shots. While some small highlights will work, I try to carefully compose my shot in-camera without any sky to avoid intricate postprocessing.
Nikon D2X, AF-S Zoom Nikkor 17-35mm ƒ/2.8D IF-ED, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead

Early Fall Color
7 While some areas of the country have fairly consistent quality and dates for peak autumn colors, sometimes, dates slide around or an entire season may be thrown off by drought. Don't get too keyed into the predicted dates and be at the mercy of peak color. Early greens are magical as they start to pale and become fluorescent with a patchwork of orange. In this image from Hiawatha National Forest, the red maples are already turning bright red, while the smaller sugar maples are still green. The birch trunks and evergreens add diversity and range. Similar to flower photography, don't fret about arriving a little early—the worst-case scenario is getting there late.
Nikon D3S, AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G ED VR II, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
8 There are days when the color is beautiful, but the weather isn't cooperating. With this set of images, I got a shot in just before a breeze started. I didn't feel done with the location, so I decided to take multiple in-camera exposures. My rule when working with multiple exposures is that I still need a subject and a nice composition. I'm not doing something different just for the sake of doing something different. I let the multiple come to me. I used an AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G ED VR II lens with a tripod collar. For each exposure, I rotated the tripod collar and moved the focal length backward. This way, the windy weather didn't get in the way of me capturing the beautiful colors.
Nikon D3S, AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G ED VR II, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead, tripod collar

Focal-Length Selection
9 A person could easily photograph fall color with a good-quality, wide-range zoom lens. A workhorse, such as the 70-200mm, can never be underestimated. But I generally want to cover a range from 24-300mm in either fixed or zoom lenses, and then throw in a couple of specialty lenses, including a macro and a tilt/shift lens, in order to provide variety and leave room for creativity. In this image, I used my AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm ƒ/2.8G ED lens. While I could have used another lens, this was a perfect fit for the subject and composition, and allowed me the most creativity in the moment. When it comes to focal length, don't limit yourself.
Nikon D300, AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm ƒ/2.8G ED, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead

It's Not All About The Leaves
10 It's easy to fixate on the rich color of fall leaves, but autumn is a season of transition for more than just the trees. As the leaves are turning colors, other plants are sprouting seeds and creating a forest full of details. Cattail stalks turn yellow with brown seedheads. Mushrooms of various colors cover the trees. The air changes, letting calm mornings cover the grasses with frost. In the upper Midwest, milkweed pods are an iconic symbol of the season. These pods are dry seeds that split open and disperse through the wind. I caught some of these milkweed seeds with a background of maple color.
Nikon D300, AF-S Nikkor 300mm ƒ/4D IF-ED, Gitzo GT3530LS tripod, Kirk BH-1 ballhead


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