Our natural world is an amazing place! There is a romance to the landscape that transports one away from life and into a state of tranquility. Bringing out that romance takes a good photograph and a little help in post.
Well as the image might suggest, the topic this time around will be about capturing those images that really just show the beauty of Fall color. Now I have no idea who first came up with the idea of photographing Fall color but when it comes to the field of landscape photography there really isn’t any other subject matter that most people will agree upon that is as beautiful as Fall color. For anyone really serious about their landscape photography it’s pretty much a must have in your digital library. The great thing about Fall Color is that it doesn’t just happen in one place. If you live north of the equator then between September and December you will probably experience some form of Fall color amongst the deciduous trees. The green pigments known as Chlorophyll mask the other colors in the leaves throughout summer but with fall the Chlorophyll dies out revealing the yellows, oranges and reds that we love so much.
In order to photograph Fall color you first need to find the areas that have deciduous trees. Aspens and Cottonwoods are the too most prevalent species around the Gallatin area so for me those are my go too subjects. Depending on where you live will vary your target species. Now you can photograph Fall color in many ways. That’s one of the great things about Fall color is having so many options to the point where you can just go and play around. Typically most people want a giant grove of trees to work with. The example up top would be a small grove. While a big grove is nice to show the vastness of the color, usually captured with a 18-35 or maybe a 24-70, these smaller groves can often lead to more contrast and in depth images.
This is one example that I really like. While the ideal Fall color shot that has been optimized in magazines are like the Maple Trees of the Northeast with their vast oceans of reds and oranges, a lot of places have little pockets of color. Aspens that grow in the mountains are often surrounded by Pine Trees. Cottonwoods can be found by waterways in long rows. To me these pockets allow you to get closer and more personal with the subject which can lead to some great images. Keep in mind also that Fall is usually a cold period of time, while yellow, orange and red are all warm colors. Bringing out that contrast is a lot easier to achieve if you have blue sky in the background which is a cold color. This shot was taken with the 24-70mm while out on a shoot with some clients. It was the only grove of trees around but they had more then enough color to make them interesting enough to stop.
Fall color begins and ends with the leaf. That is the one variable that we have to look at and we can do so with a photograph of that leaf. While I have never considered myself a macro photographer, there are elements of nature that do stand out by themselves. A single leaf is a great example of one of those elements. Obviously this isn’t Montana anymore, it’s Yosemite National Park which is incredibly famous for it’s Fall color and landscape opportunities. This happened to be a morning well past Fall but the lesson remained. I used a 70-200 VRII for this in order to really blur out any background information. I went to the minimal focusing distance to get as tight on the subject as I could. I didn’t want any distractions just the leaf and if you notice there is also frost on that leaf which adds even more character.
The big thing when it comes to an image like this is finding that one really good subject that stands out. It has the best color, the best shape, the best background, etc. You want to make sure that it really has character because it’s no longer part of a giant homage of other colorful leaves but now stands alone amongst the others. This is the time to be picky and not settle.
Fall only lasts a few months and then it’s gone. I highly suggest everyone gets out at least for a little while to experience the joys of Fall. As I said early there are many ways to photograph Fall Color. The best way is to go out and play around and try to capture the beauty from all aspects whether it’s from the perspective of one leaf or from thousands of leaves.
Landscape Blog Posts
- Long Lens Black and White
- A Little Light Goes A Long Ways
- Looking Forward
- Looking Back
- Some Evenings You Just Need a Camera
- Intermittent Snowstorms
- Playing with the Z50
- Eastern Montana Skies
- It Just Takes One Rock
- Black and White Icebergs