This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Accessories For Autumn Color

The critical gear you need to make your best images of the annual fall show
Outdoor Photographer may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. Outdoor Photographer does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting Outdoor Photographer.

As the vibrant palette of the autumn season begins to emerge, be prepared to capture the changing landscape. Once you’ve planned where to shoot and when, make sure these essential items are in your camera bag before you hit the road in search of fall foliage.

Remember The Basics
This time of year presents various natural lighting scenarios. During fall, the best light is early and late in the day, when it’s naturally warm and rich, and is at a lower angle, giving you sidelighting. An overcast day is even better, when the light is soft and offers the added bonus of allowing you to shoot all day long. And don’t think that a rainy day is a bust. A great time to shoot is right after it stops raining, when the water makes the colors pop and a little sun peeking through the clouds helps illuminate the landscape. Backlighting is another interesting technique to use on sunny days with blue skies, allowing the light to shine through the leaves and reveal lots of detail.

While your main goal is to let the colors of the landscape speak for themselves, some filters can help enhance the scene by removing unwanted glare and reflections, and add more drama to the colors.

B+W Slim-Line Mount Circular Polarizer

Circular polarizers allow you to control glare and reflections, making colors more vibrant. If saturated colors are what you’re after, a polarizer is a must-have item in your camera bag. When aiming your camera about 90º from the direction of the sunlight, a polarizer can change a light blue sky to a deeper blue and can help cut down on haze in distant shots. If your scene includes water, a polarizer will help eliminate glare and even enhance the color of the water. And if the fall leaves are shiny due to moisture, a polarizer will help reduce any reflections.

Marumi DHG Variable ND2-ND400 filters

Neutral-density filters don’t have any effect on color or reflections, but they do allow the use of slower shutter speeds in bright light by acting as a light-reduction tool. Available in several levels, each representing one stop of light, ND filters can be stacked to give the desired amount of light reduction.

Tiffen 10-stop XLE Series Filter line is designed specifically for long-exposure photography

In the event of an uneven light source, say, when the sky is bright but the foreground is in shadow, a graduated ND filter will save the day. These filters come in different strengths, and are clear on one half and slightly opaque on the other with an abrupt or gradual shift in the middle, allowing you to darken an overexposed part of a scene.

Manfrotto Compact Advanced with Ballhead Kit

Camera Supports
Many cameras and lenses offer shake-reduction technology, but camera supports are still essential for sharper photos when shooting in available light, shooting seamless panoramas, and shooting with slow shutter speeds and long exposures. Small and lightweight tripods are available to lighten the load on long treks, but taller and sturdier supports are a better choice when using heavier cameras and longer lenses. Before choosing a tripod and head combination, check the specs to be sure they’re designed to support the weight of your camera and lens combination.

Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead

Some tripods come as kits that include the tripod and ballhead, or you can purchase them separately to fit your needs. You’ll find tripods made from plastic, aluminum and carbon fiber.

The SIRUI W Series waterproof tripods feature a Waterproof Sealing System, with a series of waterproof rings that prevent water from seeping into the tripod leg tubes and locks, which can cause damage.

Those made from weatherproof materials are great if you plan on being in an area that’s susceptible to rain/snow or are shooting near rivers and streams. Rubber nonslip feet work for indoor and outdoor shooting, and spike feet are also available to keep your tripod firmly grounded outdoors. Other types of camera support include monopods, which are great for their lighter weight, but aren’t as stable as a tripod, and car window mounts, which are convenient for roadside shooting.

Nikon HB-40 Bayonet Lens Hood for AF-S 24-70mm F/2.8G ED

Canon EW-73C Lens Hood

Lens Hood
Lens hoods are a great way to protect your lens from rain, dust, fingerprints and scratches, but they can also provide richer colors and deeper saturation in your images by preventing light from hitting the front lens elements from the sides.

Sigma 50mm F/2.8 EX DG Macro

Tamron SP 60mm F/2 Di II 1:1 Macro

Macro Lens
Wide-angle lenses are a popular choice for capturing fall scenics, but remember to mix it up and add variety to your autumn portfolio. A macro lens will capture the finer details, patterns and textures, and a lens with a 1:1 ratio is great for this kind of close-up work. The focal lengths of macro lenses range from about 35mm to 200mm, giving you options for moderately wide to telephoto compositions.

Fujifilm EF-42 Flash

Flashpoint 198 LED Bi-Color

Flash And LEDs
Shadows are longer and deeper in fall, making flash a great tool to help reduce unwanted shadows. A flash can also help bring out the rich colors in your scene. However, using too much light can wash out the image, so finding balance is key. Dialing in flash output takes practice, and many photographers prefer to work with LEDs; as a continuous light source, LEDs let you see the effect immediately and make adjustments.

Kolor Autopano

HDR And Panorama Software
HDR software combines multiple images taken at different exposures to create a final composite with expanded dynamic range. It’s a great way to bring out more detail in your images, especially when you’re working with a scene of extreme contrast between bright areas and shadows.

Stitched panoramas are another way to showcase your fall photography. Your results can be successful by keeping a few tips in mind: Overlap the images by at least 40%, keep your settings the same throughout the series of images, and shoot vertical for a taller panorama.

HDR Express 3 from Unified Color

While there’s a variety of software available that allows you to create HDR images and panoramas, Lightroom 6 and the latest version of Lightroom CC include new, easy-to-use HDR and panorama features.

The Case Logic Kontrast Pro DSLR Backpack has a unique water-resistant DuraBase bottom.

Camera Bag/Backpack
A sudden rainstorm or a slip in a stream could cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Make sure your fall bags and backpacks are made from waterproof materials, especially on the bottom, and look for bags that offer impact protection, top-load entry for convenient access, comfortable, padded straps and room for a water bottle and snacks for long hikes.

LensCoat RainCoat

Rain Cover
Protecting your camera from the elements with a rain cover not only keeps your gear safe, it allows you to continue shooting if it starts to rain or snow, instead of having to dive for shelter. There are a wide variety of covers to choose from, in a number of sizes to fit various lens lengths and flash attachments.

Leaf Peepr

Apps And Websites
Location is everything when it comes to shooting fall color, so don’t waste your time leaving it to chance. There are apps on the market that can help you find the best locations. Yankee Magazine’s free Leaf Peepr app (available in the Apple App Store and Google Play) helps people find the richest fall displays in the U.S., and allows them to report on the locations by posting photos and comments, as well as rate foliage status. Some states, such as New Hampshire and Missouri, even have their own fall foliage apps.

You can also find websites that cover some less common locations for fall color. California Fall Color (, whose motto is, “Dude, fall happens here, too,” is a seasonal blog that reports fall color throughout the state.