Article © 2005-09 by Jenna Caplette, with tips from our staff at F-11 Photographic Supplies
Changing seasons show themselves in part by changes in light. As the sun moves to the south, and the earth tips to the north, colors around us change too – greens deepen to gold, to red.
Look for trees like aspen, birch and oak that become dramatic and colorful now. Watch for the startling contrast between green lichens and wild strawberry leaves. Early autumn is about color contrasts – late autumn is more austere. Objects like antlers and tree trunks add interest to images of this season.
Though autumn light is more forgiving than summer’s glare, try not to shoot in the middle of the day. The sun gives far better light earlier or later in the day- the Golden Hours. If you must shoot mid-day, use an 81A or 81B filter to warm the light in your image. Digital photographers can use the “cloudy-white” balance setting to get a similar effect. Choose a saturated film that will do the colors justice or make sure that your digital camera is set to a VIVID color setting.
When you find an image you want to capture, try it with different lenses - a “fish eye” wide angle will give you a lot more vista. Lie on your back under a canopy of aspen and shoot up through their golden leaves into the sky. Then, take that lens off and put on one that will allow you to shoot macros – or close ups – of leaves and the patterns they create where they lie, fallen, on the ground. You can use a lens with extension tubes or close-up filters if you don't own a macro lens.
To enhance color definition and make the sky as blue as it can be, use a polarizer. Made to fit all sizes of lenses, polarizing filters are available in two types, linear and circular. Linear polarizers are used on manual focus cameras with averaging-type metering systems. Circular polarizers are needed for autofocus cameras and cameras with spot and/or multi-patterned metering systems.
Want to photograph the movement of fall colors in the wind? Use a sturdy tripod. Lighter weight tripods often have a hook where you can hang extra weight to give it more stability. There are also mesh nets that can be hooked between tripod legs to both create a hammock for your gear, and weigh things down. Try longer exposure times to make the most of the moment. Don’t forget to use either the self-timer or a remote release for shots like this so that you don’t jar the camera when you release the shutter button.
In the mornings, look for frost and ice crystals on trees, in plants, on that red leaf lying on your front sidewalk. Let the initial novelty of scraping your car windshield in the mornings allow you to see the beauty of frost patterns. You can also shoot frost on the windows from inside your house. Choose a lens that has a close focusing distance like a wide angle or a macro. Experiment with the color of the background by moving around so that different objects create color behind the frost on the window.
Most important of all, don’t put off taking autumn shots until you have time to go to a favorite spot. Tomorrow’s storm, its wind and cold, may do away with everything that might have made your special spot spectacular to photograph. Capture the beauty in your life at home, as you travel to work, as you walk the dog. It’s there.