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Fall Foliage Photography Guide for Taking Better Autumn Photos

The world is filled with Red and Gold…Get out there and Shoot!!!

So, as many of you know, I have never actually lived in a place with true fall. I’m from Los Angeles, lived in Hawaii, both of which basically are perfect always, did an eight year stint in North Dakota, where it’s frigid for ten months, then there’s a brief stint of bee and mosquito season, then right back into frigid again, so when everyone would wax rhapsodic about “Going to see Fall Colors”, I was kind of nonplussed.

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

I mean, what’s the big deal about a few leaves turning colors anyway? Well, I was w-r-o-n-g, WRONG…The colors are SPECTACULAR!!!

And the movement of the leaves, the swaying of them on a windy day, the leaves in water, the way that the trees seem just plain and summery and green on the bottom of the trees, while, if you just lift your gaze a bit, you see utter brilliance of light and smashes of color booming down…if you aren’t just so inspired to go pick up your camera and run out there, DO IT ANYWAY!!! It’s fabulous out right now!!

Fall’s Small, but Glorious Window

Last week in Northeast Ohio was probably the most beautiful, vibrant week ever, every day was a crimson and gold explosion, so I ran out and shot, but there will be plenty of fall color to shoot for the next two weeks for sure. Even if you don’t go out until most of the leaves are off the trees, it’s ok. Find any little spot where there are leaves, zoom in, get close and create your magic. If you’re not sure when to start, or want to travel to go see real leaves in action, you can try getting a leaf changing color app like Leaf Peepr, where people report on what the leaves look like in their town. Wow, who knew? There really IS an app for that.

The Possibilities are Limitles: Now Where Do I Start?

I am a people shooter, which really struck home for me when I tried to show shots of masses of orange and yellow leaves.

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

I mean, it’s cool, but aside from the interest that the reflection gives from the still part of the water, I found it a little…boring, like every other fall color shot that everyone has ever seen, so then I moved so that I could have some plants in the foreground and the peninsula in the middle, with the trees and their reflections behind and pulling the picture in.

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Playing with Nature

Something else that you can try is isolating something that you find interesting, like one important element, in this case, the redness of the single leaf. Even though this is not a person, there’s no reason to disregard the rule of thirds. Take Visually interesting and turn it into a Visual Feast by forcing yourself to move that little piece of fabulousness out of the center. You can even walk over, find the reddest, most beautiful leaf you can find, and put it in among the other, equally beautiful, magnificently diverse, yet somehow more muted leaves, exactly in the place that your little heart desires. This isn’t photojournalism, so you don’t have to keep things as they are…think of it as a beauty shot of nature, and take the time to make it beautiful!

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

You can also zoom in on one specific element, like this shot shows summer green, brilliant orange and brown all in the same shot, which makes it visually interesting. I took this shot on my iphone, by the way, straight out of the camera. Not the most amazing quality, but still beautiful.

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Change it Up… Wayyyy Up!

Another way to capture fall color is to change your perspective. You can point your camera up through the backlit leaves and see the sun coming through them which makes really pretty patterns.

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Light Matters

Usually in shooting nature, photographers shoot early morning or late afternoon, but one thing that I noticed about shooting fall color in particular is that the colors are so vibrant that they popped in full sun, full shade, side light, golden hour light, and even directly overhead light, depending on how you use the sun to your advantage. Each of the above images were straight out of the camera, with no adjustments in Photoshop whatsoever. So watch your light. If the sun is directly over head, you would shoot into it, allowing the sun to backlight the leaves. If you’re in full shade, concentrate on the contrast between the colors. For big, sweeping vistas, stay with the golden hours right around sunrise and sunset, and you should see amazing results.

Next week, I’ll talk about shooting people in fall colors, so let’s go on this journey together! Show me your fall nature pictures and start shooting your fall people pictures, and we’ll go through them, just you and me.

Barbara Stitzer

Barb Stitzer is an award winning Master Photographer living in Hudson, Ohio with her husband, her teen, Zoe and her tween, Tenley. She creates beauty and memories worldwide. Feel free to find her on Facebook or check out her website.
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