My 7th grade science teacher told me that thanks to the magic of photosynthesis, leaves don’t actually change colors in the fall. I took him at his word, but when I see the colors on display during the Autumn months, it’s hard to believe.
If you’re looking to capture this scientific wonder with your camera, here is a cheat sheet of advice in the 4W format.
- Landscapes, of course - Let’s start with the obvious. Landscapes and mountain ranges dominate our focus when we document the change of the season. Nothing says Autumn like vistas of golden brown to crimson red.
- Leaves - The default photo is the Forest, but don’t forget the leaves. Close up photos of leaves can also convey the feeling of season. Some leaves contain the full range of green, gold and red. When you find one, get close and fill the frame. You can get a cool backlit effect if you face the sky and shoot a close up of a leaf into the sun. Raking leaves? What fun ideas can you find in the leaf piles?
- Jack-o-lanterns - Look around and you’ll find that many people carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns that are brimming with color and personality. Capture the storytelling opportunities by photographing the process of carving the pumpkins.
- Color and texture - The warm hues are part of lure of Autumn. Feature them by filling the frame with color and texture. Look for repeating patterns of golden leaves. Then find one contrasting red in a sea of yellow or green. Patterns are fun, but it’s more impactful to interrupt them.
- National parks - Our national parks are designed to give us spectacular views in all seasons, especially in the fall. In our region, Shenandoah National Park is a must visit.
- Neighborhood parks - You don’t have to travel to a national park. Sometimes we have breathtaking views in our own neighborhoods. Take another look at the familiar and try to find the spectacular.
- Take a leaf home - Nothing wrong with taking home an intriguing leaf and staging your own macro photos. With an extreme close up and some experimenting, you might be able to create the feel of fallfall, right in the comfort of your own home.
- Farmers’ Markets - Don’t forget the cornucopia displays of baskets spilling fruit and vegetables can also convey the theme of fall effectively. Apples, squash and other warm colors are best for these themes.
- Hayrides - Take your camera when you go on hayrides. Bales of hay and other decorations make festive photos.
- Pumpkin patch festivals - You can find a literal playground of photo opportunities at pumpkin patch pestivals. Don’t forget to stage the kids for environmental portraits in the fall scenery.
- Golden hours - The hour after sunrise and the one before sunset are known as the golden hours. That’s when the sun casts a warm orange glow, which enhances the fall colors. During that time of day, the light is much softer than midday. Try and shoot when your shadow is longer than you are and the shadow edges are soft.
- Cloudy overcast days - Don’t forget that overcast days provide an even light that is also good for photography. No need to worry about harsh reflections of the sun when everything is gray.
- Rainy days - Grab your rain gear and head out while the ground is still wet. Look for reflections. Golden colors in puddles and ripples make very creative subjects.
- Landscapes - As you look out over a landscape of color, identify a focal point to highlight. That can be a color, tree, or feature. The basics of composition still apply here. This is a picture of what? Find something specific and let everything else in the frame amplify it. Remember, less is more.
- Try different lenses - Wide-angle lenses will capture the breadth of your landscape. Use telephoto lenses to fill the frame and isolate specific details.
- Look for people - Find people in situations that convey the emotion of fall. We love stories. Let your photos tell them.
- White balance - This might be a good time to wander off the auto white balance setting. Warm up your photo more with cloudy white balance setting.
- Tripod - Use your tripod for steady shots in the early morning and late evening light. That’s a reliable way to ensure things stay sharp.
- Filters - Use your polarizing filter to amp up the blue in your skies and contrast the clouds. Don’t forget the neutral density filter for longer shutter speeds.
- Exposure Compensation - Your camera might be fooled by bright skies and under expose your subject. Too much of it, and your brilliant colors become a silhouette. Use the Exposure Compensation feature to recalibrate your camera to perfect exposure on your subject. Almost all cameras have this feature.
- Angles - Don’t just stand and shoot at eye level. Great composition can be created with extreme angles. Look straight up at a tree. Get down at worm’s eye view to capture lower subjects.
- Color - Look for patterns and leading lines with color. Then look for a different color that contrasts or interrupts the pattern.
You. Get out there and shoot.