A New Spin on the Obligatory Fall Foliage Article
Written by: steve
By Steve Russell
The internet seems to become crowded with articles on how to photograph fall foliage at this time of year. We’ve done articles on the subject ourselves, such as Four Tips for Photographing Fall Foliage. The topic is so overdone that Steve decided to go with fall still life photos for his October photo challenge rather than rehash the subject.
In an effort to bring some variety and nuance to this particular topic, I have challenged myself to make sure that this is not going to be just another list of tips explaining how to take pictures of dead leaves.
What is it that we love about fall foliage that prompts us to grab the camera and get outside at this time of year? It’s the colors, and the opportunity to enjoy the cool, fragrant air. It’s the crunch of leaves underfoot, and the stillness of the woods broken by chattering squirrels scolding from branches high above. It’s the lovely light muted and filtered by long twilight. It’s the contemplation of something warm and comforting waiting at home when you’re done – your favorite slippers, a cozy fire, or soups and stews that only appear in the cold weather. We tend to slow down, absorb, pause, observe, and savor our environment at this time of year. Thoughts of all of these sensations are present in our minds as we photograph the vantages of autumn.
I recommend, as you pursue your foliage photos this year, that you create a story out of the experience. Put yourself into the story, with your individual personality incorporated, that turns an ordinary experience into something that is uniquely you. If I lived in an area that HAD fall foliage (there are no leaves in the Arizona desert! I’m most homesick for Maine at this time of year), I might do something like the following, incorporating Steve’s suggestions for still life photos with broader landscape shots:
- Begin a half-hour or so before the “golden hour”, whether that be in the morning or evening. Personally, I would choose the evening. Here is a great calculator to help determine when the golden hour hits for you.
- Photograph a still life of the coat, scarf, hat, and boots that I choose to wear. Maybe even take a self-portrait.
- Take a picture of my front door decorated with harvest wreaths, shafts of dried wheat, and pumpkins.
- As I walk to my destination, take photos of my neighborhood. Perhaps my neighbors are raking leaves – maybe their kids are jumping in the piles and undoing their parents’ hard work. Maybe someone’s yard is blessed with a fantastic oak or maple tree for some great close-ups. Perhaps I am fortunate enough to see a flock of geese flying by overhead, or spot a chipmunk with its cheeks stuffed with seeds.
- Photograph all the vantages of fall foliage available to me – distant hills, individual trees, a single leaf, lay down on the ground and shoot up into the canopy, climb a tree (CAREFULLY!) to get an elevated perspective. Throw some leaves up in the air and catch them in a photo as they fall. Get the golden shafts of light filtering through the trees, or colorful leaves floating on the surface of a pond. Get a photo of the tree’s colors reflected in that pond.
- Try some long exposures as the light gets dimmer and dimmer – I’ve seen some really cool shots of fall foliage that were practically taken in the dark. I would also give some HDR shots a try, if the wind was very calm.
- Take similarly framed photos on the walk home as I did on the way out – the now-quiet neighbor’s yard with tidy piles of leaves, the silhouette of the oak tree in the yard against the glow of the street light, and my front door with the porch light welcoming me.
- My final photo would be of my scarf and hat discarded on my kitchen table, with a hot cup of tea steaming next to a plate of cookies.
If you want to find out the foliage conditions for specific areas of the U.S., go to The Foliage Network. The Weather Channel also has a good map of US regions and their foliage conditions. For our Canadian readers, check out The Weather Network for links for each province.
I also found a really neat and extremely scientifically specific twilight calculator which I recommend that you check out. It is applicable across the globe.
Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “Autumn Reflections at Stacy Creek” by InAweOfGodsCreation on Flickr Creative Commons.
- Leaves against night sky by tfkt12 on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Foliage” by matteo0702 on Flickr Creative Commons.
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