Capture The Fall Colors

It's the time of year when landscape photographers feel their adrenaline pump and await the arrival of reds, yellows, oranges and a morning chill in the air

Autumn color is near. Deciduous trees will soon reach their peak and the sound of shutters will harmonize with the melodic tunes of migrating robins and the whistling of gentle breezes over the soon to descend leaves. It's a time of year when landscape photographers feel their adrenalin pump and await the arrival of reds, yellows, oranges and a morning chill in the air. If you've read this far, capturing nature's arboreal fireworks is of interest to you. Use the following tips to get some keepers about which you'll feel proud.

Details: Don't overlook details that appear everywhere. Spend an entire session with nothing but your macro lens. Force yourself to go beyond the obvious gorgeous tree, rolling hillside of color, or iconic S curved river lined with fall color. Position yourself close to the bank and look for small pockets of still water to capture the reflection on its surface. Find the fallen leaf that sits atop a stone in the river and make an intimate portrait. Slow the shutter down to capture the effect of the water dancing around its perimeter. Spend time at the river bank and then go back into the forest and look for details at your feet, at eye level and on the branches. Find a lone leaf that dangles from its stem to await the inevitable drop to the ground. Use the blue sky as the background or play with the depth of field to create a wash of out of focus color from the branches of other trees. Look down at the leaves that have fallen to find a macro landscape. Look out at eye level for a leaf that may have gotten lodged in a section of bark. Move in close to tell a macro story. You may wind up with so many winners that you keep the macro lens on for more than one session.

Contrasting Color: Colors found on opposite sides of a color wheel are great to incorporate into a composition. If you're familiar with the color wheel, blue and yellow are opposites. Talk about an autumn match made in heaven. The crisp clear blue sky days of autumn integrated with the fall color of yellow - it doesn't get much better. In that red and orange are in the same color family as yellow, it's no wonder why fall foliage set against a clear blue sky works so well. Deepen the blue sky with a polarizer. Not only will it be enhanced, it will remove glare on the leaves and provide more saturated color. Try to work at right angles to the sun so the polarizer has its maximum impact. If you feel the sun squarely warming either of your cheeks, you're in the right position. If the sun is in your eyes or hits the back of your head, the polarizer will have little or no effect. Create compositions that have balance. Simply including blue sky and yellow foliage doesn't produce a winner. If the sky lacks interesting clouds, try to minimize it and include just a sliver of the blue at the top of the frame.

Tranquility: To me, fall is a time of tranquility. In that this is my view, I try to create images that portray this feeling. Before you go out into the field, make a list of adjectives of what autumn means to you and tape it to the back of your camera. Look for compositions that illustrate the words. Go into the shoot with a certain feeling to increase the potential to get better images in that you're focused on what you want to capture. There are two schools of thought going into the shoot. Some photographers not only create a list of adjectives, they go one step farther and make a shot list for each word. If this is your style go for it. On the other hand, some photographers feel that the previous tactic places too much pressure to find specific images which disallows an open thought process to just go out and photograph the adjectives. Regardless of your strategy, let what you feel encourage you to make the best possible images. I look for tranquility in a peaceful S curve of a country road or line of fallen leaves, a slow moving river, a falling leaf captured in mid air, or a quiet reflection on a still morning. Let your feelings take you to whatever images you want to create and simply go out and have some fun bringing home some great fall captures.

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    I really like the tip about the sun warming your cheek as an indicator that you are at a right angle to the sun. It is a good sign that you are maximizing the use of the polarizer. Wonderful tip!

    Great article! Wish I had it before visiting Rocky Mtn. National Park last week. The aspens were breathtaking! Oh well, I have another chance, colors are just changing at home!

    I scrolled down after reading article to make the same comment as K.D. Leperi. Now I’ll just emphatically endorse it.I keep a file for random nice tips and it’s gone straight in there. Thanks for sharing.

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