Techniques For Fall Color Photography

No matter where you live or travel this fall season, try these 10 creative techniques to make your best autumn images yet
Tip 5: With a shutter speed of a half second the camer was moved up and down during the exposure to create a more painterly, abstract image. Acadia NP, Maine
Tip 5: With a shutter speed of a half second the camer was moved up and down during the exposure to create a more painterly, abstract image. Acadia National Park, Maine.

5. Move That Camera

Another fun and creative technique worth experimentation is moving your camera during the exposure. Panning, rotating and racking your focus (manually rotating the focus ring) during a moderately long exposure can result in otherworldly, impressionist representations of the landscape. I like experimenting with the technique when shooting in the forest, using the vertical lines of tree trunks as strong graphic elements to anchor the composition.

The technique basically entails slowly moving the camera up or down during the exposure. You can do this handheld or with minimal tension on your ballhead. My advice is to experiment with shutter speeds in the neighborhood of ¼ second, as well as varying the speed of your camera movement. The amount of blur is completely subjective, but the slower the shutter speed, the more blur you’ll achieve, and a faster shutter speed might result in too much detail. Another tip is to put your camera on continuous shooting mode and hold the shutter release down for a sequence of shots during one up or down panning movement.


    Thanks for the article Kurt and all the good comments, especially the extending the shooting hours. Heading up to the Eastern Sierra next week and hoping for some good streamside and Aspen images.

    Having just returned from my first trip ever to Vermont to see The Fall foliage, your article and creative techniques really hit the spot Kurt! This is especially true for the close up shots of trees and enclosed landscapes you predominantly use to illustrate the various techniques. The dry Summer & prolonged mild weather capped the anticipated splendor this year, but there were nontheless many photo opportunities, especially of the composition scale you illustrate. No doubt my shots would have been greatly enhanced by conscious application of the techniques you mention, but realizing their value and application after-the-fact has made them really sink in, for use in other places and circumstances…and, hey, why not return to Vermont next Fall…? Loved the place and its people.

    I am a little late coming to this article but I suspect the trees in Image 6 are birch not aspen as written. Birch would be much more likely in Acadia Park. Thanks

    Another way of exploring reflections is to try the effects of a polarising filter – sometimes it’s actually more interesting to remove the reflection altogether, to give more of an appearance of things on the surface floating “in mid air” (not really – but it can kind of look like that).

    Great article, Kurt. You gave me some new ideas. Although I’m in Upstate NY, I love all of New England, especially Acadia National Park. Experimenting with camera and post processing techniques can provide new excitement and a change from the more traditional fall landscapes we so often see. The light can change quickly in the fall, so I use neutral density filters for better control and a polarizer for water, clouds, reflections and especially color.

Leave a Reply

Main Menu