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Autumn—the hazy days of summer give way to crisp fall mornings. The landscape is painted with a mosaic of warm-toned leaves. The morning air has a clean fragrance and a rejuvenation of the environment occurs. For the photographer who loves color, it's paradise. From the grand landscape to a lonely red leaf, to a child romping in a pile of raked leaves, there's a plethora of subject matter. Whether your passion lies in photographing nature, people or sports, a background of fall color makes your images pop. Due to the number of factors to take into consideration when you make fall photos, both this week and next week's Tip of the Week are dedicated to the subject. It's a six-tip journey to get you better autumn photos.
Regardless of the subject matter you shoot, the time of day at which it's photographed is critical. In that photography is all about the light, choosing the right time of day to make your images determines the success of the picture. The quality of light at sunrise and sunset is unrivaled for its beauty and color. It provides a rich and warm tone, its low angle rakes the subject with magnificent sidelight, and there's a softness that can't be had at any other time of day. While getting up early for sunrise isn't high on everyone's list, the benefit of autumn is it's much later than if you were to photograph sunrise in mid-June. If motivated, get up a bit earlier for the alpenglow or pink sky and earth shadow at dawn. The same phenomena happens after sunset at dusk, so plan to be a bit late for dinner. The reward? Great photos!
Keep It Clean
Photography is a subtractive process. Stand in any given location where you see a potential subject and study the surroundings. Chances are there will be distractions in the background or along the edges. These distractions can ruin a potentially great photo. It's your job to work within these limitations and figure a way to eliminate them. Sometimes the environment makes it difficult or even impossible. Before giving up, change your position. Move to your left or right to see if the distractions can be hidden or eliminated. Maybe a shift to a higher location helps. Get down low to the ground to see if it's better. If none of these tactics prove fruitful, zoom the lens to eliminate some of the peripheral areas. When possible, if you can rearrange the elements and not cause damage, give it a whirl. Working with small subjects makes this strategy more practical.
Get Down Low
So many fall foliage images are made where the photographer raises the camera to his or her eye without any thought of creating an image made from a different perspective. The majority of photos look the same. To make yours different, get down low to the ground. If a forest floor is blanketed with a layer of fallen leaves, it's only natural that you get to ground level to use the leaves as a foreground. If your kids play in a pile of leaves, lay on the ground to emphasize the pile to really tell the story. If your camera has live view, utilize it as it's easier to create a composition on the LCD. A right-angle viewfinder comes in handy. If you need to lay on the ground, bring along a clean, large plastic garbage bag to sit or lay on top of, to stay clean and dry. Kneepads allow you to stay down longer, especially if there are a lot of little pebbles on the ground.