Thursday, July 17, 2014

Exploring Fall Colors

Capturing the essence of autumn and the change of seasons
Text & Photography By Meredith Winn Published in Shooting
Exploring Fall Colors
We come inside with dewy shoes and arms full of firewood. The air shifts, the leaves fall, and the farm stands are full of crimson, browns and orange. The cooler wet weather creeps in; we light the first fire in the wood stove and walk slowly into autumn. Welcome to fall in New England.

Through the early-morning fog, we drive past ponds where mist rises; I note the time of day and slant of light. My desire is to drive back this way alone with my camera, tripod and a few hours of solitude with which to explore. If the seasonal transition of summer to fall finds you feeling adventurous and nostalgic, like me, you might enjoy stepping outside the box with your camera to photograph this shift of season with the lure of lingering colors before they fade into winter.


Not all things need to be photographed in bright sun. In the fall, sunlight is best used as side lighting early or late in the day. There are two types of light we need to be familiar with. The first is diffused light from an overcast sky. This type of light is cool and bluish. It helps to eliminate harsh shadows and brings out the strong tones and colors that aren't visible under the sun. Diffused light is very soft and even, produces great results and allows for shooting all day long (as long as the clouds cover the sky).

The second type of light is the "golden hour" that occurs just after sunrise and just before sunset. When the sun is this low on the horizon, it gives off a warm tone that's complementary to the fall palette. While enhancing the tones, it can lead to very saturated colors.

With both types of light, you'll need to adjust your white balance accordingly. Getting familiar with white balance will only improve your photography. Proper white balance takes into account the color temperature of the light source. Our eyes are good at adjusting what's white under different light sources, but digital cameras can have difficulty with auto white balance.

Understanding white balance will help you avoid color casts in your images. Color casts are unwanted tints that evenly affect the entire image. Certain subjects create problems with a camera's auto white balance, so if the scene already has an abundance of warmth (like vibrant fall foliage shot in early-morning light), the camera will try to compensate for this warmth by creating a bluish color cast. Using presets or a custom white balance gives you more control with your images. White balance is an element of photography that's often overlooked. While shooting fall colors, it's important to adjust white balance so our color images are as accurate as possible.

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