Autumn colors the hillsides at Fords Pond, 21 October 2012.

Autumn, as a season and as the elements that make it up, is fleeting. Transitory, arriving with subtly until suddenly you realize it’s really here, and then just a couple of weeks later it’s passed, always fading out faster than you remember. Then the hillsides are brown and it’s simply winter, or pre-winter, or whatever you want to call it while you wait for the first snow to fall.

There are days amid the season that still stand out, days that are simply pure autumn. These are the days that I look forward to, the times when I’m able to search for autumn. And find it. We got one of those days last weekend, when the leaves were at peak and the sky was a brilliant blue and speckled with white, puffy clouds. In short, the perfect afternoons to grab the cameras and head out.

When I left home, there was still a big patch of clouds overhead, but clearing to the west. It took thirty minutes to drive out to the Susquehanna River at Falls, PA, where you’re able to drive right out and park on the exposed upper riverbed itself. It isn’t a place I visit frequently, being a little too constrained and a little too far out of the way. But in the late afternoon the light comes right onto the cliffs across the river, where there was still some good color.

Autumn colors the banks of the Susquehanna River near Falls, PA, on the afternoon of 21 August 2012.

Autumn colors the banks of the Susquehanna River near Falls, PA, on the afternoon of 21 August 2012.

Autumn colors the banks of the Susquehanna River near Falls, PA, on the afternoon of 21 August 2012.

I started out with the 14mm lens and polarizer, but quickly found that to be too wide, so switched to the 25mm for a more focused view. The river is bordered by cliffs on the east and winds back and forth along them. It really isn’t very wide, so the overall feeling is somewhat contained, and a tighter field of view works well with it. So much so, actually, that I only used the 25mm for a few shots before switching to the Olympus 75-300. The telephoto let me focus in on details, as well as take advantage of the compression effects, to capture the bends in the river and shape of the cliffs.

I wasn’t able to use the polarizer with the telephoto – my filters are 52mm and the 75-300 takes 58mm. I’ve got new filters and step-up rings on order, so I can use the same filters with all my lenses. But I wish I’d had them at the time – days like this are made for polarizers, which make the colors even more vibrant.

Autumn colors the hillsides at Fords Pond, 21 October 2012.

Autumn colors the hillsides at Fords Pond, 21 October 2012.

From Falls I headed back up the road to Fords Pond, both to shoot the landscape across the pond and to capture my favorite tree on the edge of the hayfield. Perfect day for both, and once again switching back to the 25mm lens for pretty much all the images (I used the 75-300 for a couple at first).

Made a few panoramas up here, which I’ll share soon, as well as some single shots.

Autumn colors the hillsides at Fords Pond, 21 October 2012.

I finished up with some hiking up at Lackawanna State Park, but didn’t come home with any great shots from there – but by that point, it was really more about the hiking than the photography, the urge to get out and move, to work up a sweat.

All in all, the prefect afternoon. And none too soon, as the leaves are already reduced since then. In another week or so they’ll be mostly gone and the landscape will be brown until the snow falls.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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