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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pro Fall Color Hot Spots

With the season of vibrant hues upon us, pro nature photographers from around the country share some of their favorite places to get the best of autumn

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Tim Ernst
Big Piney Creek, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas

1 The Big Piney River drains the southern flanks of the Ozarks north of Russellville, and is perhaps the second most scenic drainage in all of Arkansas (second to the Buffalo River). The main river holds many large calm pools in the fall, with cascades in between, and it twists its way through the Ozark National Forest. There are dozens of side creeks with many hidden waterfalls, blufflines and interesting rock formations. The Ozark Highlands National Recreation Hiking Trail crosses the river and runs through the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area. The Big Piney River is popular with whitewater floaters in the spring, but otherwise the vast scenic area is mostly unknown and un-photographed.
Pentax 645D, Pentax SMCP FA 645 45-85mm ƒ/4.5, Ries J100 tripod

To capture the best of autumn color, you have to be in the right place at the right time. We reached out to a group of nature photographers for their insights on where to go to get photos of the vibrant colors of the annual leaf turn. Despite the regularity of the Earth's course around the sun, it's actually difficult, if not impossible, to predict a good fall color year. Microclimates, rainfall, temperature variations and other factors that aren't fully understood all come into play. As you read this article, please share your own favorite places for fall color with the OP community. We've created a Fall Color Assignment that will remain open until the end of October. Go to outdoorphotographer.com to submit your photos, along with a description of where the shot was taken.

John Fielder
Silverjack Reservoir Below Owl Creek Pass, Colorado

2 In southwestern Colorado, the country around the old mining town of Silverton opens up myriad autumn photography routes. Drive south on Highway 550 over Molas and Coal Bank passes on the way to Durango. Head north to Ouray over Red Mountain Pass. Highway 550 can't be beat—it's the most scenic mountain highway in the West. North of Ouray, turn left at Ridgway and drive the second most scenic highway, the Dallas Divide on State Highway 62. To the south is Ralph Lauren's famous Double RL Ranch with the Sneffels Range in the background. County roads 5, 7 and 9 allow you to get into the Uncompahgre National Forest below the range. On the west side of Dallas Divide, take the Last Dollar Road shortcut to Telluride (four-wheel-drive only). These four roads boast the most beautiful aspen viewing in the state this side of Kebler Pass. Drive east from Ridgway over Owl Creek Pass. This will drop you into the headwaters of the forks of the Cimarron River and incredible aspen tree scenery.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L USM, Manfrotto tripod

Ian Plant
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

3 In late September, Grand Teton's high-altitude trees are among the first to change in the lower U.S. Look for aspens and cottonwoods to blaze with golden glory. The best autumn views are off of the main park road, Route 191, but there's plenty more to explore for those willing to get off the beaten path. Sunrise is a great time to get light on the mountains with fall color below, whereas late afternoon can be best for backlighting.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Tamron SP 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 Di VC USD, 2-stop graduated neutral-density filter, Gitzo tripod

Dave Allen
Highlands, North Carolina

4 This area of Macon County, North Carolina should be high on anyone's list of places to see during the fall foliage. A small town nestled high in the Southern Appalachians just outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Highlands is rich with natural beauty, including memorable scenic vistas and some of the largest waterfalls in the Southeast. Made up largely of deciduous hardwood forest, the area boasts an amazing display of vibrant fall color, making it a favorite location for landscape and nature photographers. Notable attractions in the area include Dry Falls, pictured here, Cullasaja Falls and stunning views from the high cliffs on Whitesides Mountain. As an added bonus, the rare shadow of the bear appears in the valley below Whitesides Mountain on only a few days each year in late October.
Nikon D700, AF-S Zoom Nikkor 17-35mm ƒ/2.8D IF-ED, circular polarizer, Really Right Stuff tripod

Michael Frye
Lee Vining Canyon, Eastern Sierra, California

5 Every fall, I make a pilgrimage to photograph aspens turning color in the canyons on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. Late September or early October is usually peak season for the aspens west of Bishop, while the extensive stands further north around Mammoth, Lee Vining and Bridgeport are usually better around mid- to late October. This photograph was made in Lee Vining Canyon on an October afternoon, just before the sun dipped behind a ridge. I positioned the camera precisely to catch the edge of the sun peeking out from around the tree trunk; more sun would have created lens flare, while with less I would have lost the starburst effect.
Canon EOS-1DS Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM, handheld

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