Summer isn’t officially over according to the calendar, but the leaves are already starting to change and if you’re not prepared, you can miss the best opportunities to photograph the spectacular displays of fall foliage. Capturing the colorful beauty of autumn isn’t necessarily as easy as it looks, but with planning and some helpful tips, you can capture quality images of the season’s inspirational show.
Plan where and when
To capture fall’s color in full glory, you need to know when the leaves change in your chosen location. If you arrive too early or too late, you’ll either capture mostly green leaves or bare trees and while both types of images have their appeal, they’re not examples of full fall foliage photography. Online sites, local weather forecasts and weather apps have fall foliage maps easily accessible so check them frequently and plan the right time to head out for a shoot. The cycle of leaves changing usually goes from north to south, starts sooner in higher elevations and lower, wet regions and arrives last on the coasts.
Get inside information
The best experts on when the leaves change in a certain area are the people who live there so gather inside information by talking to residents of your chosen location. Ask local shop owners and try visiting the town offices for more information.
Schedule enough time
Even with a set destination in mind, during such a colorful season, you’re certain to find other interesting scenes to photograph along the way. Schedule twice the amount of time you know it will take you to reach your chosen location. This way you won’t feel rushed and can take your time to capture more of the foliage displays you encounter in your travels.
Use a map
GPS devices or the app on your phone can certainly direct you to your chosen location, but they can’t tell you what scenic features exist along the route, which is why you should use a printed map. Map out your route ahead of time and look for interesting elements such as streams, lakes, waterfalls and unique architecture that will add to your fall foliage images.
Work with the weather
Autumn usually means unpredictable weather so you need to be willing to shoot even in “undesirable” conditions such as rain and even early snow. When there’s precipitation the colors of the trees can appear more saturated and if it starts to clear, the sunlight among storm clouds can create a stunning background and additional contrast.
Pick the right time of day
Sunrise and sunset are ideal times to shoot because that’s when the light is the warmest and coming in at an angle that illuminates the colorful leaves beautifully. However, shooting later in the morning and into early afternoon can also capture amazing images, it’s just a matter of location and experimentation.
Featured image by JulieAnn Corbin