In contrast to a widely-accepted impression of autumn as the gloomy, sullen, and melancholic season, photographers view fall from quite a different angle, eagerly waiting all year long to capture and reveal the true awesomeness of autumn with its spectacular kaleidoscope of colors, shades, and moody textures you simply can’t find in any other season of the year.
From auburn to deep golds and orange – the color spectrum of autumn can be absolutely mesmerizing. In fact, even the melancholic attribute itself can be transformed into the sign of eternal hope and life sequence – though the leaves fall down and die every fall, soon the trees resurrect, giving a new beginning to life.
Now, this post is the first of our upcoming series of photographs along with useful photography tips, featuring all the four seasons. In fact, many artists loved the idea of the theme of seasons, trying to illustrate the unique aspects and atmosphere of each season. Just recall the music masterpiece by Antonio Vivaldi – Le Quattro Stagioni or The Four Seasons. In his masterpiece, he managed to recreate the particular images of autumn, winter, spring, and summer (the Quattro four seasons) with the help of sounds.
So, for now, to help you capture and convey the real beauty of autumn, we’ve compiled a quick list of the top autumn photography tips, along with some breathtaking autumn photographs at the end for some inspiration. Let’s dive in.
Tip #1: Include Water in Your Autumn Composition
Using water to reflect landscapes can make for some seriously stunning, symmetrical compositions. Search for still water in lakes and lochs to capture such shots, with the top half of the shot comprising the landscape and the bottom half comprising the reflection.
When shooting on a sunny day, it is a good idea to use a polariser to optimize color saturation. But do make sure that it doesn’t ruin the reflection. Try a neutral density (ND) grad filter when you’re trying to strike the perfect balance between the landscape and its reflection.
Typically, the reflection will appear darker in the raw image. So, balance the final image by giving it more exposure with some level of grad in the top half of the shot.
The colors of the autumn season make for truly great abstract reflections. The rich foliage of fall trees reflects well in water, even in moving water such as streams where the distortion makes for a nonconventional dynamic reflective effect.
Tip #2: Get Down on Your Knees
High-grade photography often requires you to get down and dirty in the mud and muck.
Don’t flinch from getting down and dirty by lying on your back to get that perfect woodland canopy shot or muddying up your pants by wading up a riverbank to get a more complete view of the landscape.
At the same time, protecting your gear is a must. But don’t be afraid to take some risk and hold it at an awkward angle to capture unique perspectives.
Tip #3: Apply a Warm White Balance
An excellent way to bring out more colors is to add more warmth to the White Balance. Auto White Balance will try to neutralize colors, which isn’t always helpful.
So, increase your White Balance by using a warmer Kelvin (such as 6000) but be careful not to overdo it; a too-high Kelvin will lead to fake-looking color contrast. Another way is to try a different semi-automatic preset (such as cloudy and sunny) and edit the preset to your preferences.
Tip #4: Use a Telephoto Lens
Landscape photographers often prefer wide-angle lenses, but proper use of a telephoto lens can really make a specific subject stand out vividly.
The biggest advantage of using a telephoto lens is that they magnify your subject, making it more noticeable in the frame, which helps you isolate the most riveting elements of a subject or scene and capture some of the finer details that may easily get missed with wide-angle lenses.
That being said, you need to be heedful when using a telephoto lens. For starters, their sheer size makes it nearly impossible to shoot handheld without risking camera shake.
Keeping in mind the old rule of a shutter speed figure equivalent to your focal length, you must aim to shoot handheld with a telephoto lens at any shutter speed faster than 1/250sec, preferably with image-stabilization lenses. But if you do have a lens with image stabilization then you may be fine shooting at 1/60sec for a typical 70-200mm or 75-300mm zoom.
Tip #5: Photograph During the Golden Hour
While this tip is not limited to the fall season, good landscape photography often leverages the utter beauty of the golden hour.
The horizon lights up when the sun is at a low position during the hours around sunrise and sunset, which results in a glowing landscape that begs to be looked at. The radiance of the sun gives a pretty ‘pop’ to the lively colors and can dramatically intensify the atmosphere.
Sure, a blue sky makes for a great contrast to the yellow or orange trees but the light quickly gets too overpowering during daytime which results in the image losing the soft glow you want to achieve. Thus, getting up early or staying out late to photograph while the sun is near the horizon can bring amazing results.
Tip #6: Try Leveraging Natural Framing
Natural framing is by far one of the best compositional techniques for landscape photography and during fall the opportunities to take advantage of one is typically more.
Keep an eye out for branches, leaves, trees, or other natural elements that can frame your main subject. This will help emphasize the main subject of your photo with a beautiful natural frame around it.
It can be easier to implement this technique when using a telephoto zoom lens or one with at least 50mm. Nonetheless, you can leverage natural frames effectively with a wide-angle lens too, but it may be challenging to find efficient frames and the depth of field may take a hit.
Tip #7: Cover Clouds in Your Autumn Composition
A dull overcast sky or even a clear blue sky can seem vapid or unexciting. Clouds add depth and points of interest to the shot, presenting the viewer with something to focus on in the sky section of the image.
Clouds can also cast shadows on the landscape as they float across the sun. Clouds glow delightful shades of red, yellow, purple, and pink when they are underlit, so try covering them in your autumn compositions.
Even a single cloud can significantly liven up a landscape and become interesting subjects themselves. To emphasize patterns in the clouds, use an ultra-wide lens, and maybe consider tilting your camera back to create a little distortion effect.
Furthermore, the blue color of a sunny sky can be enhanced with a polarising filter. It will deepen the blue, enabling better contrast against the white clouds. For this, make sure to keep the sun on one side of the camera for optimum results.
And that’s a wrap! If you’re a landscape photographer with more tips to capture the beauty of the fall season, feel free to share them with fellow photographers by dropping a quick comment below.