Monday, September 30, 2013

Pro-Tip #10: Fall Foliage Photography

Here are some tips to help you as you venture out this fall in hope of capturing some autumn color:
Follow the internet fall color reports for the areas you plan to visit to help you arrive at peak color.  Every area with fall color will have multiple sites/blogs keeping you updated.
Research the weather; you are looking for calm days. Wind is the enemy of fall color shooters so go out on a calm day, you’ll get more keepers. Overcast days also make great days for shooting fall color as they tend to be less windy and less contrasty as nature provides the natural soft-box. Also, the wind tends to die down at the beginning and end of the day, not to mention the light is best for most any outdoor photography during this time. If you do find yourself stuck in the wind, don’t try to beat it, rather; accentuate it by using slow shutter speeds and make some dreamy abstracts. Moister will also help bring out the color saturation of the leaves, so look to shoot after a rain shower or in early morning fog that collects on the leaves, you will get richer more vibrant captures. Frost is common in the early morning hours this time of the year and can add an extra element of interest to your leaf close-up shots. Finally, if you are lucky enough to get an early fall snow that does not knock all the leaves to the ground consider it a bonus.
Pay attention to the direction of your light. Most trees will look great backlit which gives leaves a translucent quality and adds a nice rim light emphasizing their shape and form and helps separate them from the background as well as each other.

Use a polarizing filter to help darken your blue sky, saturate leaf color and reduce haze not to mention the removal of any reflective glare coming from wet or shiny leaves.

Look for complementary colors. Complementary colors work to enhance each other by making each appear more vibrant than they would alone. Think warm yellow/orange aspen leaves against a cool blue sky or bright red maple leaves against an evergreen backdrop.

Don’t forget to shoot the fallen leaves on the ground; these can be as colorful as those on the trees. Don’t be afraid to gather-up some colorful leaves and strategically arrange them on a foreground rock or log, the pros do it, you can too.

What setting should you use? You need to use fast shutter speeds to freeze motion and wide-open apertures to blur your backgrounds for those specimen shots. Try 1/250 or faster and f/2.8 – f/4. Of course, you’ll need to use a smaller aperture for those grand scenic vistas of mountain side color, try f/8 or f/11 for those shots where you are not including a close foreground element to maximize sharpness. Finally, when you are close to a foreground element you will need to go even smaller, f/16 or f/22 to maximize your depth of field.

Use these tips to help make your next fall foliage outing a success!

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