Now is the time to head out and capture beautiful fall colors, and in this article, I give you five tips on how to do so.
You can also follow along in the feature video as I apply these and more tips during a photo tour through the German Rhön.
The Time Is Now
Autumn is upon us. In some regions, the fall colors are just starting to pick up, while in other areas, most of the leaves have already fallen. Wherever you live in the Northern Hemisphere, do not waste any time. Head out now and make the most of the conditions. It just takes a few cold nights and a strong wind to turn a colorful into a monochrome landscape.
Just take the photo above: I took it at an alpine lake in Germany. The colors were at their peak. Now, imagine the same scene with the leaves having fallen from the trees. There would have been no photo. That's why I try to head out as much as possible during the few weeks of autumn, and you should too. Sometimes, you'll be out too early, with the leaves not nearly as colorful as in this photo. Then, come back a week or two later to try again if the location is not far from where you live. If you waste too much time, on the other hand, you might have to wait for a year until you get another chance to capture a colorful fall photo.
And don't let the weather discourage you. As you'll learn in the next tip, wet and gloomy conditions are perfect for autumn photography.
Get Moody Photos in The Rain
I don't know how the weather is where you live, but in Germany, autumn can be wet. And that's great for photography. Rain creates moisture, and with moisture often comes mist and fog. Especially for forest photography, rain can be the next best thing to fog. While rainy conditions can be challenging for you and your gear, the moody photos you'll get will compensate you. And with the technique I share in this article about photography in wet conditions, you can keep your camera equipment dry.
I took the photo above after spending several hours in the rain. The longer it rained, the thicker the fog got in this forest. It was a magical morning and totally worth getting drenched.
Don’t Shy Away from Using High ISO
In autumn, I often photograph woodland. It's where I find the most intense colors. It's also where the slightest gust of wind can ruin a photo. In the forest, it's often much darker than when photographing under an open sky. And with all the leaves and branches, you'll get a lot of movement in your photos if the exposure times get too long.
With the capabilities of modern cameras and AI noise reduction in Lightroom, there is no longer an excuse for blurry leaves. It's now possible to work with ISO 1600 and still get a high-quality photo. I have a detailed article on how to use the latest advancements in technology to create detailed woodland photos. In this article, I show the steps involved in creating a tack-sharp forest photo with minimal noise showing in the image.
For the photo above, I still had to work hard in photo editing to get a clean result. I took it a few years ago, using ISO 800 and underexposing to preserve the highlights behind the leaves. With today's software, editing this photo would have been a breeze. It shows you should never let yourself be limited by the camera you're using. Chances are that in a few years, the software will be able to fix the technical issues you're having now.
Use the Low Angle of the Sun
You'll often read and hear that the golden hour is great for landscape photography. We typically refer to the golden hour as the time shortly after sunrise or before sunset when soft, warm light illuminates the landscape. In summer, this period often lasts much less than an hour, while you can get great light throughout the morning and afternoon in autumn. The reason for that is the lower elevation of the sun in the sky. Its arc is more southward, and its light passes through a thicker layer of the atmosphere, making it warmer.
That's why you shouldn't just head out for sunrise and sunset in the fall. You can get beautiful light throughout most of the day, especially if you live farther north. Use that time like I did, capturing the photo above around 90 minutes before sunset.
Look for Details
Be open and observe your surroundings, including what hides at your feet. There, you'll often find wonderful arrangements of fallen leaves. You don't even need a macro lens to capture their details. Get close with your normal lens or use a telephoto lens if you own one. A polarizing filter will help you to control reflections and enhance the colors of the foliage.
Mushrooms are another subject you can look for in the forest. If you head out during blue hour or night and bring some LED lights, you can get creative with your mushroom photography, as this photographer shows in his portfolio. It's something I will have to try in the future myself. Here are some more ideas for mushroom photography.
These five tips are just a small selection of what you can do to capture beautiful autumn photos. The most important one might be to use the time, head out, and be creative. And don't forget to share your tips in the comments below.