As summer gives way to autumn and the days get shorter and nights get longer there are great opportunities to make the most of the changing colours and misty mornings. The world, normally a mix of blues and greens, suddenly shifts to warm tones of yellow, orange, and red.
Take the time to carefully scout the scene you’re photographing and look for things that stick out. Perhaps it’s a red leaf in a small puddle, a branch that’s losing leaves, reflections of a colorful tree or a cluster of colorful trees. Look for backlit autumnal leaves, textures on tree trunks, old pieces of wood or decaying plant life. If there’s been a heavy dew look for water droplets on the end of leaves or spiders’ webs – they all make for interesting patterns, details and textures.
One way to accentuate the colours in your shots is to think about framing your shots in such a way that the different colours contrast with one another. Golden leaves on a blue sky – a red leaf on a lush green grass etc.
Autumn’s cold nights followed by warm settled days makes for perfect conditions for early morning mists and fog, especially over water. Mist is at its most atmospheric around sunrise – and soon begins to evaporate and disperse, so your window of opportunity is limited. Look for scenes that stick out from the surroundings.
The best time of day to photograph the autumn colours is early in the morning or in the evening. The light is softer at these times and can produce deep rich colours. The midday light can be harsh especially on a very sunny day but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot at midday, just be aware of the conditions.
Double the rich autumn palette using reflections. You’ll need a high vantage point to shoot down to a lake to reflect as much of the scene as possible. Ideal conditions are a calm windless day, so the surface of the water is as still as possible for a mirror-like reflection. Shoot with your back to the sun so that the landscape is illuminated to maximize the reflected colour.
A long exposure will smooth out any ripples, so use an ND filter along with a tripod to keep the camera perfectly still over the long exposure.
If you find that the sky is quite bright and the surroundings are a bit dark then use a graduated neutral density filter. This will help to equalize the exposure.
Consider a Benro long exposure kit.
The saturation of colours that you get with one of these is fantastic. It is particularly useful in getting lovely blue skies but you’ll find that it decreases some of the haze that you often get at this time of year also.
Sometimes Auto White Balance won’t give you the most vibrant results. Warm up your colours by increasing the colour temperature a touch (not too much) - either by increasing the kelvin numbers or by selecting a WB setting like ‘cloudy’.
Concentrate on where the light is coming from: backlighting is good for patterns and side lighting best for creating strong textures.
When shooting close ups have the light source coming from a side angle. This will help create a shadow and add more contrast to the scene. If you find shadows in the scene that hinder rather than help then use fill flash to eliminate them.
Pull back the exposure on your shots a touch and you’ll find that it gives your colours a slightly deeper saturation.
Throwing or kicking leaves up into the air adds a sense of fun and movement to the shot, it also gives people something to do, helping avoid a stilted pose.
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