I’m running a bit behind this Autumn, but there’s still enough color on the trees to make it worth while. This is a favorite season for photographers because of the foliage color – nature puts on a show that sets autumn apart from any other time of the year. And in the spirit of capturing some stunning images, here are a few tips:
- Shoot before the light is up: shooting during twilight lets you take advantage of gentle, diffused light, which is perfect for foliage. Ideally you can expose for some pastel color in the sky as well. Since twilight light is usually cool, warm foliage tones will stand out well.
- Overcast days are great: similar to the previous tip, overcast days make use of diffused light. The gray background also creates less color competition in a scene; as opposed to a sunny day, when the blue sky competes for attention with the foliage, overcast days make the fall color stand out, and allow for enhanced warm color tones.
- Shoot when it’s wet: rainy days are even better! Head out as soon as a shower has passed to capture the foliage while it’s still wet and dripping – the water adds another element, and helps make colors look more vibrant. Just be sure to keep your gear as dry as possible.
- Don’t fear motion blur: tripod-based photos of foliage surrounding a flowing stream are common this time of year, and for good reason. But all too often there’s a breeze blowing, which can make leaves, branches, and even entire trees move. In a long exposure this shows up as ghosting, or motion blur. But instead of fearing it, embrace it – shoot specifically to capture motion amid your image.
- Use long lenses: when it comes to autumn scenes, most folks reach for their wide-angle lens. After all, in a beautiful setting you want to capture as much as you can. But it’s easy to capture such a wide view that you lose sight of a primary subject. Try switching to a telephoto lens, such as a 70-200mm. This will help you isolate individual subjects: a particular patch of mountainside, a single tree at the edge of a field, a falling leaf.
- Try black & white: it seems counter-intuitive, but autumn black & whites can be stunning. Sometimes all the color becomes too busy; converting B&W can simplify the image and pull it together. Be sure to shoot in color (in RAW is best) and then convert to B&W in post – both ACR and Photoshop have excellent B&W tools. Use the individual color adjustment sliders to fine-tune the image to taste.