Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Autumn is a season when fleeting colors produce exceptionally vivid scenes. By combining water elements, you can add extra dimensions and motion.
Autumn is a special and an enchanting season for me, not just because the plant habitats here in the Northeast are ideal to showcase a wide gamut of color, but also because of the variety of landscapes—rugged mountains and rolling hills, rushing streams and rivers, deep ravines and flatlands all combine to set up quite a show to behold. There are few places on earth where all nature’s colors mingle with such quintessential romantic and wild sceneries. It happens every year, but still feels fresh and remarkable every time.
In And Around Water
I always try to bring the dynamic nature of water flow into the image to create a sense of symphony with the color scheme. Waterfalls look their best during autumn, be it in the peak season or even past peak when they’re covered with colorful fallen leaves. Try to shoot during overcast days or early and late in the day to avoid direct lighting on the scene. A polarizer is a must. It cuts the glare and the reflection from water while saturating color, and the resulting effects can’t be replicated easily with Photoshop or other digital means. It also can be used to cut light for motion-blur effects. Compositionally, avoid the typical straight head-on shots and the tendency to capture the entire waterfall in the frame. Instead, look for elements that combine well to create a flow and present a sense of place and season. Visiting waterfalls after a rain will get a more robust water flow, as well as wetness on the otherwise dry rocks of the area.
When visiting waterfalls, look beyond just the falls. Often, you’ll be able to walk the streams, up or down, and be able to find many other unique images. Try combining rushing water flow with submerged boulders and colorful trees on the bank. These scenes often are done best without direct light, and you can play with various shutter speeds using an ND filter to create artistic water action. Look for the angles to capture the reflection of the colorful foliage on the moving water. When the trees are lit, but the water is still in the shade, rocks submerged in water will reflect the blue of the sky above, while the water will have the reflected golden glow of the ambient environment, thereby creating interesting warm-cold combinations.
Beyond moving waters, still water in lakes, ponds and marshes provides iconic Northeast autumn reflection shots. It’s best to shoot in the early morning, when the water is motionless and light is diffused. Early-morning fog also goes well with autumn foliage. You have to be careful when using a polarizer on these scenes as you try to capture reflection. Also, design of the image can be tricky as you attempt to balance capturing the symmetry while avoiding static compositions (i.e., giving the trees and reflection the same amount of space in the frame). A trick that I often use is throwing a small pebble into the water and letting the water have some ripples to create a more dynamic scene.
Abstracts, Close-Ups And Surrealism
Some of my dearest fall photographs aren’t the wide vistas, but more abstract, intimate portraits of nature that capture the true flavor of the season. Abstracts can be found everywhere in the autumn—in forests, around the streams and rocks. Look for lines, shapes, textures and patterns and combine them with the seasonal color palette to express your inner vision. For example, you can choose to shoot the still or rushing water reflecting autumn glow while isolating a part of the scene with a long lens. Alternatively, you can get so close to a colorful leaf with a macro lens that it’s almost unrecognizable.
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