Photographing the Autumn colors is on top of the list of any photographer, and for a good reason. This is the time of the year when nature transforms from the greenery of the summer to the vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. It’s the best time of the year for a landscape and nature photographer to capture unique and beautiful images. It’s also a great time to go enjoy the beauty of nature at it’s finest.
The best Autumn foliage is starting in only a few weeks in Lapland, Northern Europe and will make its way down to Southern Europe in October. So now is a great time to learn the basics of Autumn color photography and get yourself ready to make the best images from this wonderful time of the year.
Pack your gear, choose your destination and get ready to photograph the best images you’ve taken with these 5 tips on photographing the Autumn colors.
The first thing you need to plan is the location. Do you want to capture fall colors in an urban environment or in pure nature? The best place would be, no doubt, in nature. Head out to a forest, with preferably lot’s of leafy trees, as these trees will have the best colors. Almost any beautiful landscape will do at this time of the year. Think about mountains, grand landscapes or lakes and rivers as these places offer you an opportunity for reflection photos. If you are blessed enough and you can find a spot with a waterfall with trees around, be sure to go there!
You can do a quick google search on the best places to photograph the autumn colors around your destination, and you’ll find many places to go. Or then just take a chance and go find your own unique spot!
It’s also a great idea to go on a multi-day hiking trip to a national park or to the wilderness during autumn. You’ll be able to capture lot’s of great images during your hike and get also the experience of hiking and camping in nature.
This is very crucial for you to nail if you want to get photos of the best color of autumn. Check the forecast for foliage in your town and country. Every year, it’s slightly different depending on the temperature and moisture in the air. Sometimes it might be two weeks earlier or two weeks later than normal. Also, if it’s very windy, the wind might drop all the leaves from the trees earlier than normally.
The fall colors might only last for a week or two, so you need to be ready to go when the time is right or then just trust luck.
Weather & Light
Weather can make or break your photo. And there’s nothing you can do to change the weather, but you can try to outsmart it.
The ideal weather conditions to photograph the fall foliage would be the golden hours (sunset & sunrise) or an overcast day (cloudy day). Quite often you find out that the weather is not on your side, so you need to have a backup plan.
The worst time to shoot the fall colors would most likely be during mid-day with harsh sunlight. This produces harsh highlights and dark shadows. If you must shoot during this time, use a polarising filter. You can also try to find shadow from a dense forest, or try to make it to a high vantage point to photograph a big landscape.
Ideal weather during the day would be an overcast sky, or maybe even some fog. This weather will produce a soft and even light and will allow you to shoot the whole day. The saturated autumn colors also pop very nicely during a grey, moody day.
Gear is very important for two main reasons. First, you need to choose the gear on what type of photographs you want and secondly, you want to have weatherproof gear to protect them from getting damaged if you get caught in bad weather. Meaning also that your clothing should be appropriate. In the north, it’s not uncommon for storms and even snow in Autumn!
For landscapes, two main lenses would be a wide-angle and a telephoto lens. With the wide-angle you’ll be able to capture the big scenery, or if you have a tight forest scene for example. With the telephoto lens, you’ll be able to capture small details of the landscape, which can make for some very nice and unique images. With the telelens, you can take some wildlife photos if you get lucky!
Autumn is also a fantastic time to take stunning macro photographs. The forest is full of mushrooms, berries, details of the colorful leaves and plants and if the temperature goes below freezing, you can get photos of ice crystals.
Remember to take your tripod so you can take long-exposures of waterfalls and rivers, or if you get lucky with a clear sky, you might be able to photograph a stunning starry sky or even the northern lights!
Filters play an important role too for capturing the best autumn images. A polarizer is useful for reducing exposure and also deepening the saturation of colors. It also reduces glare, which means that those colorful leaves that were originally washed out from reflections now have color that is deep and vibrant.
An ND-filter is a tool you need for slowing the shutter speed of your camera, so you’ll be able to capture those silky waterfall shots, or making the seawater look like mist. You can also use a slow shutter app for your phone to achieve this result combined with a tripod.
When you see a magnificent scene full of autumn colors, it’s easy to go crazy and start shooting without thinking about the composition too much.
Before you start taking photos, walk for a while and find the perfect angle for the photo. Then you have to remember the basic rules of landscape composition. Create a focal point, use shapes, lines, and interesting parts of a landscape to create balance and harmony.
Remember to take your time and compose your image and try to be unique. Today it’s so easy to go to all the famous spots and get the same photo that everybody takes, but if you make something unique, it will make you happier! You can still take the iconic images, but remember to be curious and different.
Here are a few compositions you can try on your next autumn photography trip!
Isolate a small subject in the frame.
Shoot straight upward.
Use leading lines in the scenery.
Shoot from different angles including high and low perspective shots.
Keep the rule of thirds in mind when positioning the main subject.
Autumn colors make great reflections look for ponds and lakes on calm days.
Remember to add some interesting foreground elements in your photos.