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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Classic Fall Color

Capturing the best of autumn takes a combination of skill, preparation, timing and equipment

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Some classic compositions and techniques, plus an assortment of the right gear, will help you achieve the best results.
1) A reflection like this makes an impact. Here, a misty morning adds an intriguing element to the shot.

Traveling locally can have its advantages, as you can revisit the area if you aren’t satisfied with the results. Going further or even cross-country requires planning in both travel and equipment, however, and these ideas may help you plan your strategy for capturing the vibrant foliage of fall.

2) Tight compositions on a cloudy day are a good choice for emphasizing the colors. Shots like this often benefit from a polarizer to reduce any glare from the sky and to saturate the colors.
When you arrive at your destination, chances are, you’ll be overwhelmed by what you see in front of you. Many photographers will argue that the first light is the best of the day. If that’s what you like, go for it, but the autumn season has more than enough color for me to photograph from around 7 to 8 in the morning to just before noon, especially on a bright fall day. You can experiment with sidelighting or backlighting for some impressive results. Out West, the aspens absolutely light up with this type of illumination. In my part of the country, New England, the red maples combined with darker pines always are worth a second look. We get days with brilliant blue skies accented with large, cumulus clouds. You’ll see examples in this article, with most taken in concert with a polarizing filter to bring out the best of both worlds.

Take Advantage Of Nature’s Softbox
I like the sense and depth of color on an overcast day, and welcome the occasion to go outside and look for patches of patterns in the trees and the groundcover without distracting shadows that just seem to confuse everything. Mother Nature provides us with a giant diffuser to soften the light while at the same time allowing the colors to come through with a soft saturation not possible with bright sunlight. To add to the mix, a light drizzle can boost the saturation, and with the use of a polarizer, can get rid of those annoying reflections. As another tip, when shooting on a cloudy, overcast day, try to leave the sky out of the photo by composing tightly on the subject. With no color to speak of, a gray sky is seldom an asset to a radiant color photograph.

3) Look for abstract possibilities like reflection in rippled water.
Think About More Than Just The Colors
Fall is a good time to set your goal on a project or self-assignment. For instance, one of my favorite subjects is waterfalls or rolling streams, and at this time of the year, and with an overcast sky, a waterfall can look like salt being poured from a box. How to do it? Make sure you have a good, sturdy tripod, use a cable release and employ the slowest shutter speed you can by stopping the lens down to ƒ/16 or ƒ/22. On a sunny day, I use a Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter that dials in any density up to eight stops of light to slow the motion of the falls. On a dreary day, I often don’t even need the Vari-ND filter. I simply turn the ISO value down to 50 or 100 and use a polarizer to control the light coming into the camera.

Lens Choices For Fall Color
The use of many of the fine optics today also enters into the picture. For taking in a vast expanse, wide-angle lenses are a natural. For shooting up and into the trees, they offer a unique perpective, and for shooting down to include both the groundcover and trees, they’re ideal for scenes where you want sharpness to extend from inches to infinity. With a wide-angle, I can draw attention to a colorful palette in the foreground, or I can place something else in the foreground and make use of the vibrant colors in the background.

I always take along a true macro lens, as lulls in the day’s shooting can be heightened by stretching out the legs of the tripod, getting down and dirty on the ground and exploring for fallen leaves, acorns or patterns formed by a combination of both.


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