How to Photograph Fall Colors

How to Photograph Fall Colors

Autumn colours at the Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park in Chelsea, Quebec October 12, 2014. Photo by Blair Gable

Autumn colors at the Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park in Chelsea, Quebec. Photo by Blair Gable

I have had the privilege of living in two regions of Canada that feature some of the most colorful autumn transformations – the Niagara region in southern Ontario and the Ottawa-Gatineau region in eastern Ontario-western Quebec. Both the Niagara Escarpment and Gatineau Park at the edge of the Canadian Shield have amazing natural habitats that transform in the fall.

The easiest thing to do is to walk out your door, point your camera at the nearest tree and take a snap shot, but what is the fun or value in that? Generally speaking, the farther away from civilization you venture, the more stunning the views.

When you arrive at a natural area and are surrounded by all the colors that autumn has to offer, it is easy to be overwhelmed by your surroundings and can be hard to see the smaller details which can be just as beautiful. Your first instinct might be to whip out the widest angle lens you have to try and capture as much color as possible, but the wider you go, the smaller the details get, and the less focused your image can become.

Pro Tip: use lenses at different focal lengths. Wider is not always better!

Examples of Autumn for Corel, in Niagara Region October 8, 2014. Photo by Blair Gable

Examples of Autumn in Niagara Region. Photo by Blair Gable

The right time of day is also crucial to the success of your photograph. Colors become more rich and vivid when the light is soft and warm – as at the beginning and end of the day. Photographing fall colors in the early morning or late afternoon of a clear and bright day will yield the best results. Shooting on a gloomy day will dull the colors and shooting on a bright day at high-noon reduces their vibrancy.

Autumn colours at the Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park in Chelsea, Quebec October 12, 2014. Photo by Blair Gable

Autumn colors at the Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park in Chelsea, Quebec. Photo by Blair Gable

Keep your eyes open for smaller details that can show off the colors of fall in a simpler, more elegant way. The closer you get the more photographic elements like color contrast, textures, and patterns emerge.

Autumn colours at the Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park in Chelsea, Quebec October 12, 2014. Photo by Blair Gable

Autumn colors at the Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park in Chelsea, Quebec. Photo by Blair Gable

Autumn colours at the Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park in Chelsea, Quebec October 12, 2014. Photo by Blair Gable

Autumn colors at the Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park in Chelsea, Quebec. Photo by Blair Gable

I like to bring a macro lens with me to get up close and personal with tiny aspects of the natural world. When the fine details of a small plant are revealed in a photograph, you can almost feel it. A wet leaf is just something to step over until you get close enough to see how amazing it looks when water beads on the leaf’s waxy surface.

Examples of Autumn for Corel, in Ottawa Region October 9, 2014. Photo by Blair Gable

Examples of Autumn in Ottawa Region. Photo by Blair Gable

Here are the camera settings for my examples:

Camera mode – manual (M)
ISO – 100-400
Shutter speed – 1/200th – 1/4000th of a second
F-Stop – f2.8 – f14
White balance – Auto

My gear:

Canon 5D mark III
Canon 24-70mm f2.8 II lens
Canon 100mm f2.8 L macro lens
Lexar Professional 600x 32 GB compact flash card

– Blair Gable

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