September 28, 2010

14 Tips for Creative Fall Foliage Pictures

 The autumn equinox was last week (along with an amazing harvest full moon) and the trees around us in the northern hemisphere are beginning their annual display. Here are some easy tips for making memorable images of the vibrant colors. 
  • Shoot early or late in the day when the warm sunlight accentuates the autumn colors. The air is often stillest in the morning so leaves and other plants are not moving, ensuring your photos are sharp.
  • Shoot under overcast skies for richer color. Leave the sky out of the picture to focus attention on the leaves.
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    • Photograph the light coming through the leaves and accenting their color and translucency for a dramatic effect.
    • Use a polarizing filter to cut the glare off the foliage. The filter works best when the sun is to your right or left. For compacts without lens threads, just hold the filter against the lens. Be careful if using your polarizer when shooting reflections; too much polarization can make the reflected color disappear. 

    • Isolate a particularly colorful group of trees with the telephoto setting on your zoom. If you isolate a single colorful tree or cluster of color, try placing it off-center for more visual impact. (Think Rule of Thirds.)
    • Lie down, or put your camera on the ground, looking up through the colorful leaves toward the sky. Use the wide setting on your zoom to exaggerate the "reaching" effect of the tree trunks.
    • Photograph the leaves fallen on the forest floor with your macro setting (compacts) or a close-up filter.
    • Include a stream, path or road winding through the autumn display.
    • Look for colors reflected in still or moving water or in windows or puddles or any other reflective surface. This works best when the reflecting surface is in the shade and the source of the reflection (i.e., the trees) is in bright sunlight. If the water is not mirror smooth, experiment with various shutter speeds for different effects.
    • Look for complementary (opposite) colors. Plain blue sky can set off yellow leaves; red foliage looks more vibrant against green conifers. Out of focus color in the background can be the backdrop for another subject. Color opposites are bold and eye-catching.
    • Put your camera on a tripod, a rock or another stable surface to ensure a sharp shot. Use the self timer or a remote release to prevent camera movement.
    • Slightly underexpose your pictures (by -0.3) to deepen the color.
    • Use the Daylight  or Cloudy white balance setting (instead of Automatic white balance) to record the colors better.
    • Intensify the colors by changing your camera Picture Style or Optimize Image setting to Vivid color. Or use the Foliage scene mode.
     You can use any of these ideas, alone or in combination, to make autumn photographs that are out of the ordinary. So grab your camera and head for the woods!