Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Splendor of Fall Color

The Splendor of Fall Color

By Ronald Kness

Mother Nature is getting ready again to present us with her annual fall display of color. Every year, she magically transforms the various shades of green leaves into an explosion of muted reds, yellows, oranges and browns. To capture fall color, apply these tips and techniques when out shooting fall color

Fall compositions vary from mist-filled vistas, to single trees, to close-ups of leaves lying on the forest floor. For single tree shots, use a rock outcropping, lake, or stream as a background. On clear days, include some sky, but not more than the upper one third of the scene. During a bright sunny day, the reflection of fall color in still water adds much to a photo. Water makes either a good background or foreground, however if you are shooting a quiet pond with a fall color reflection, use a fast enough shutter speed to stop any slight movement of the water.

For a different look of slow-moving water reflection shots, use a slow enough shutter speed so the colors will blend and form a French impressionist-painting type photo. This look can be very impressive. Use a slow shutter speed between 1/15 to 2 full seconds. This takes some experimentation, because the correct shutter speed depends on how fast the water is moving. The slower the water - the slower the shutter speed. Also, here it is best to bracket one stop on either side of your first shutter speed setting. When shooting at shutter speeds in this range, using a tripod is essential.

For closeups of the forest floor, point the camera straight down. Even if the lighting is not dim, use a tripod. It allows you to focus on the composition without having to worry about holding the camera, especially in the awkward pointing-down position.

The best two types of light are diffused, caused by mid-day high cirrus clouds, and the soft golden light found both just after sunrise and again just before sunset. Diffused light produces an even, shadowless light. Without shadows, the colors are pure and vibrant. Now is the time to focus on individual trees and leaf closeups. Colors are especially vibrant right after a rain.

To capture the rich earth tones, use the early morning and/or late afternoon golden light. The light during these times complements the earth's muted tones. This golden light occurs between sunrise and 1 1/2 to 2 hours after and again for about that same amount of time before sunset and up to sunset. With this kind of light, focus on clumps of trees and landscape shots and look for backlit leaves.

When shooting in golden light, maximize the use of that polarizer. This filter works best when your camera is approximately 90 degrees to the direction of the sun. In this light, the sky is blue and a polarizer increases the blue color of the sky while accurately recording the vivid colors of autumn. Using a polarizing filter removes unwanted reflections from the leaf surfaces.

If you are shooting in open shade, you will most likely have to adjust your white balance setting to either a cloudy or shade setting. This adds some warmth to your photos and eliminates the bluish cast that can show up when shooting in the shade.

Prepare yourself now for Nature's upcoming color display. Applying the tips and techniques in this article will result in bold, vibrant fall color photos. The show doesn't last long, so be sure to maximize your time shooting.

If you liked this article, please visit my website at Digital Photography by Ron Kness for more digital photography tips and technique articles.

Ron Kness
Sunlight Media by Business Writing Resources
Digital Photography Specialist

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