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It’s September. What better topic to share than capturing the colors of autumn. 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 pumping awaiting 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 assist you in getting some keepers about which you’ll feel proud.


Fall Color Photography
© Russ Burden

Details: Don’t overlook the details that appear everywhere. Spend an entire session using 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. Try going close to the bank and look for small pockets of still water and 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. After spending time at the river bank, go back into the forest and look for details at your feet, at eye level and on the branches. Find a lone leaf dangling from its stem awaiting the inevitable fall to the ground. Incorporate a plain 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 on the ground 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.

 

Photographing Fall Colors

© Russ Burden

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. Try deepening the blue of the sky with a polarizer. Not only will it enhance the sky, it will remove any glare from the leaves allowing more saturated color to come through. 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 hitting 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.

 

Fall Leaf Photography

© Russ Burden

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. Going into the shoot with a certain feeling increases the potential to come out with 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.

 

Fall Color Photography Tips

© Russ Burden

To learn more about this topic, join me on one of my Nature Photography Tours. Visit www.russburdenphotography.com and click on the NATURE PHOTO TOURS button for more information. Also, pick up a copy of my book, Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography. To purchase a signed copy, contact me at rburden@ecentral.com.



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Chris Frazier

05-09-2011

Really excellent article, Russ - good advice and ideas. Thank you -

Terry

07-09-2011

I liked your photography tips on autumn shots. I love this time of year. One technique I also played with is to take a shot with a slower shutter speed, and when the shutter goes zoom out from your subject (or rotate your camera). Both can create very colour effects. I have other tips at www.great-photography-tips.com
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