Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fall Foliage Photography

So I'm sitting here working on my Fall Foliage Fotos special for the website and it hit me...

...THIS is today's blog post!

Autumn is right around the corner, bringing with it a seasonal change that inspires photographers across the nation: Fall foliage. There’s no question that autumn’s dramatic landscapes are stunning to behold; the real challenge is how to preserve the impact in a still photograph that captures the unique quality of this season. Here are a few tips that may help:

Closer is Better!
The temptation of wide shots, of entire forests or mountainsides may be hard to resist. However, variety is important. Shoot the panoramic landscapes, but also remember that beauty can be found in the details.

Out-of-focus backgrounds are a photographic effect you can heighten, or reduce, by controlling your aperture: Wider apertures (that is, lower f-numbers, such as f/4, f/2.8, etc.) will result in a shallower range of focus, and soft backgrounds. Smaller apertures, such as f/11, f/16, or f/22 will increase the range of focus, resulting in sharper backgrounds. Either effect may work; you just need to make the creative choice depending on what, and how much of the background you want to see in the image.

Instead of pointing and shooting, think about ways to artfully compose your shots for greater impact. Many beginners only pay attention to their main subject in the frame, and capture it in obvious ways (such as centered in the frame, or right in the foreground). Instead, take the time to consider the background, and experiment with more dynamic ways to make your main subject stand out:
  • Try not to shoot everything from eye-level.
  • Remember the Rule of Thirds.
  • Look for patterns or repetition in the frame, such as reflections or groups of similar objects, which creates a pleasing effect in the composition.
  • Remember that contrast can help colors to ‘pop’ – for example, the warm tones of autumn leaves will be enhanced with the subtle inclusion of something cool (blue, or blue-green) in the frame. For example, a vivid sliver of sky, or a blue-painted automobile or house strategically placed in the foreground.
  • Don’t forget the power of wide-angle lenses. A standard zoom lens, such as an 18-55mm lens (or 28-90mm lens on a film camera) can produce some spectacular results – especially if you move in close at its widest setting and focus upon one object in the foreground. A low-hanging branch with leaves can suddenly become a broad burst of color and detail, if you move in and focus upon the nearest leaf.
  • Shoot some back-lit pictures, with the sun coming toward the camera and shining through leaves. Back-lighting can really increase the rich color of fall foliage. Watch for glare or lens flare, however. Sometimes, moving the camera just a bit can cause other leaves to block the sun, shading the lens and reducing or eliminating lens flare.
Try to Use Natural Light
If possible, make a point of shooting during the ‘magic’, or golden, hours. This occurs generally during the first half-hour right after the sun rises in the morning, and the last half hour just before the sun sets at the end of the day. During these fleeting periods, the quality of light is ideal for autumn landscape photography:
  • The sunlight is naturally warm, rich, and golden-hued - further enhancing the colorful leaves.

  • The angle of the sunlight is lower and more directional. You can create enhanced textures and shapes if you shoot with it as side-light, or increased depth if used as a backlight.

  • The quality of magic-hour sunlight is more diffuse, with a pleasing contrast that is less likely to overexpose in the highlights, or underexpose in the shadows.
However, if the weather is not cooperating (magic hour light is most pronounced on days with clear, sunny forecasts) – don’t get discouraged. Fall showers can inspire beautiful photo opportunities, as well: Fall colors can look even more saturated during or right after a rainstorm, and moody skies can offer that perfect contrast to a fiery-hued tree. Or, get out your macro lens and look for details such as raindrops clinging to the leaves.

Autum photos are a big hit - everyone likes them. Take advantage of this short time period: Go out with your camera and shoot! Remember to look for different ways to shoot familiar subjects, whether it's up-close, down low, with filters, after dawn, or during a storm -- and you will find it pay off in many wonderful, dynamic shots that capture the spirit of the season.

See you tomorrow,

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