Photographing Fall Landscapes

Photographing Fall Landscapes
Now that the weather is cooling down are you about ready to start photographing fall landscapes? I am!

In fact, I’m heading to Vermejo Park Ranch next week for my Elk & Aspen Photo Tour and, in addition to photographing bugling elk, we’ll be focusing on the golden Aspen leaves.

I like to do most of my composing in the camera—outdoors and in nature—rather than inside and at my desk, that digital “darkroom.” After all, isn’t that what nature photography is all about?

Time spent in nature is never wasted so take your time when creating fall landscapes. Hopefully, the following will help you do as much of that in the field as possible:

Shoot for Yellow

Fall makes for great photography for many reasons, but one is because of how yellow helps keep things from getting too mellow. Our eyes are attracted to yellows because they reflect high amounts of light. For the same reason, yellows “wake up” sleepy images.

On the other hand, evergreen trees will have a “mellowing” effect when they’re included in the image. That’s okay; many of the best autumn landscapes include a nice balance “yellow” and “mellow.”

Analogous Colors Please

First of all, a little “color theory” review: Analogous colors are any three colors next to one another on the color wheel.

During autumn, nature doesn’t make you look far to find such colors. And, when nature’s colors don’t line up exactly next to one another in an analogous way, change your perspective—use your feet—until three colors are analogous when you look through your lens.

With analogous colors, one usually dominates and that’s okay—just don’t rely solely on color for your focal point.

In addition to lending harmony to your image, analogous colors tend to make it easier to add depth to landscapes.

Let the Light Shine Through

When done well, backlighting adds a nice touch, but it especially brings something special to autumn images.

Picture sunlight streaming in from behind a branch of crimson and golden autumn leaves, the leaves’ irregular edges highlighted by sparkles (some brighter than others, especially where you’ve given them a little squirt with a water bottle) and you can see what a great tool backlighting can be when shooting these colorful scenes.

When’s the best time to create autumn images using backlighting? Early morning or late afternoon when the sun sits low in the sky.

“Fall” Diagonally

As you search for the perfect fall landscape, put the camera down and pay attention to how your eyes travel.

You’ve heard how diagonal lines take a viewer’s eyes for a more energetic ride so ask yourself: in this particular spot, did my eyes go for such a ride?

If not, squat down, move to your left, your right, stand on a rock, a stump, then set your eyes to wandering again. If they wander a lot you’ve probably got some diagonals in there that’ll make for an interesting shot when you’re all done shooting the scene. (Be careful that they don’t wander so much that they can’t rest, though.) This time of year, color is often at least one of the diagonals in your scene that has set your eyes to their most energetic wandering.

Make Good Photos out of Bad Weather

Most of the time it’s that sweet golden light of early morning and late-afternoon I’m after, but with fall landscapes overcast days can actually result in some of your best images because they bring with them soft, even light.

In fact, when they also bring along rain or drizzle you can actually end up with your best autumn forest scenes.

Such weather and lighting evens out tonalities, making it easier to hone in on details. It also tends to highlight colors found in the leaves, woods, and interesting small stuff of nature that otherwise gets lost in brilliant light.