Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Pro Tips For Dynamic Fall Color
Top professionals share their techniques for capturing the best of autumn
Digital cameras have superior dynamic range compared to film. You can take advantage of this by shooting autumn scenes in mixed light. This way, you can create uniquely lit images that maximize color intensity and luminosity. Avoid mixed-light scenes in the middle of the day because the light might be too harsh for even digital sensors to handle. Early-morning and late-afternoon/evening light often works best, as the light is softer and more colorful at these times. Grad neutral-density filters and multiple-exposure blending and HDR techniques are also useful to balance mixed light. One of my favorite types of mixed-light scenes is an autumn stream or waterfall, where the stream is in shade, but some light is falling on autumn foliage in trees in the background (preferably backlit). The mix of light and shadow can create a pleasing juxtaposition of warm and cool color tones.
Often when photographers see strong colors in the trees, they relax about the need for strong graphic design. Every great image needs a clean and clear composition. Look for good spacing between trees so that key shapes don't merge together. Consider using other trees, such as evergreens or trees that are still green, for better color balance and contrast. Eliminate distracting elements that don't contribute to the main subject.
That's right! Break the cardinal rule of nature photography. The key to creating a successful image here is twofold. Zoom into your scene and backlight the leaves and trees. The effect is almost painterly. Watch your exposure when you try this because, depending on how you frame the shot, you can fool your camera into underexposing, giving you a flat image. Bracketing is always a good idea with backlit scenes to give you options when you get back to your home base.
Look Through The Viewfinder And Explore The Scene
Explore many versions to fully explore your creative options! Try different focal lengths and camera positions. Aim up, aim down and all around you. For example, on the same morning in the same area, I made the backlit aspen included here and then moved into a shaded grove to produce my "Aspen Impressions" image using a slow shutter speed.
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