Autumn has arrived. The days grow shorter, a morning chill permeates the air, many large mammals begin their rut, deciduous trees create landscapes of rainbows and photographers head to their favorite fall color locations. Nature’s adornment of the landscape is short lived, so roads become packed with leaf peepers, tourists and, of course, photographers seeking a glorious autumn capture. To help you make a great fall foliage image, use the following fall color tips to bring home some winners.
Spin the Polarizer: A polarizer provides many benefits for autumn captures. Dust off the one in your bag or order a new one before you head into the field. BENEFITS: A polarizer cuts through glare that reflects off leaves. When the glare is eliminated, the color of each leaf comes through. Glare robs leaves of their color, so use the polarizer to remove it. A polarizer richens up a blue sky when the sky is at right angles to the sun. The blues of the sky pop. On a color wheel, yellow and blue are opposites. Look for yellow foliage that’s offset against a blue sky to create a winning photograph. A polarizer helps remove reflections, so if you include water in the composition, spin the polarizer so the rocks along a river or close to a waterfall appear more pronounced.
Incorporate A Focal Point: Sprawling hillsides of color are gorgeous to view but don’t necessarily translate well to a stand-alone capture. Low-lying ground fog contributes to the potential success of the photo, but it doesn’t guarantee a winner. When you run across a situation like this, find a slice of the overall scene and include a compositional element that commands attention. Place it in the rule of thirds and if possible, integrate other compositional strategies such as leading lines and balance. It may be a single tree that commands attention, a huge boulder surrounded by fallen leaves, an animal that enters the scene or other isolated elements that bring the photograph to the next level.
Make a Pano: In the above example of a sprawling hillside where a single image doesn’t do it justice, a panorama may be the answer. Be sure to level the camera, use manual metering so you don’t get exposure variations, set a fixed white balance and, if your polarizer is attached to your lens, remove it to maintain even tonality in the sky. Overlap each panel of the panorama by 30%. Don’t be afraid to be a bit generous with the way you frame the image so there’s wiggle room to crop.
Get Creative: Add a new twist and do something creative. Create deliberate blur by zooming the lens during a slow exposure. Radial lines will converge at whatever appears in the center of the frame. Have a strong point of color in the center so the viewer’s eye is drawn to it by the radial lines. Make some vertical pans of tall trees. Use a slow shutter to paint the sensor with your subjects. It doesn’t require much movement. A few degrees of upward motion during a two-second exposure is all you’ll need. Make a double exposure with one frame in focus and the other out of focus. It creates an ethereal effect.
Capture that Reflection: Early morning is a great time to make autumn images because there’s a better chance of windless conditions, which translates to calm water. Calm water means smooth reflections. Incorporate the reflection into your composition. Utilize the polarizer to even out the exposure between the reflected and actual parts. The effect is visible through the viewfinder.
Get In Close: Macro fall color photographs add diversity to your portfolio. The majority of fall images include overall scenes or isolated stands of trees. Don’t ignore the single leaf in prime shape. Think about making images of scattered fallen leaves on the forest floor. Find a leaf that has eroded into just its veins and get in super close to find patterns, shapes and textures. What’s great about autumn macros is these images can be made in the middle of the day when the light for the grand scenic isn't optimum. With this in mind, you can make fall foliage images all day—life is good!.
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