BY DANIEL JOHNSON
WITH THE COOLER and shorter autumn
days now upon us, tree leaves and other foliage
across the country are beginning to transform
from a summery green to a brilliant mixture of
yellow, orange and red hues. Naturally, this colorful phenomenon presents fantastic picture-taking possibilities. But remember, the peak of
any fall color event is short-lived, often encompassing just a few weeks or less. (Once the
leaves have fully changed color, it usually takes
just one windy day to blow down the show.) So
plan ahead and discover how to create memorable images of fall color, as well as make note
of a couple of potential problems to avoid.
Shoot a variety
One thing I love about taking pictures of
fall colors is that they can turn an otherwise
ordinary scene into a great photographic subject. Tree-lined streets, tracts of forest, a
wooded lake setting and even a single tree on
a hill are all photography possibilities that can
become even better with a dose of fall color.
Autumn color reflections on water are also a
Shoot a lot of photos, but think while
you’re doing it: How can I improve this image?
Would a change in location help? Should I get
lower, or higher? Should I shoot in the other
direction? What’s the best time of day to photograph this scene? Do a little hunting to find
the best perspective.
Once you’ve thoroughly covered an entire
scene, remember to focus on some up-close
details. Sometimes narrowing in on a single
beautiful leaf or branch can create a strong
image that packs a visual punch. Close-up
images also give the viewer a chance to slow
down and examine some of the intricate
details of nature.
Don’t forget that it’s not just the trees that
change colors; many plants put on a show as
well. One of my favorites from my region is
the Virginia creeper vine, which turns a beautiful intense red in the fall and often climbs up
the sides of old buildings and trees, making
for interesting pictures. The bright red leaves
also make great close-up subjects on their
own. Stay on the lookout for similar fall
shrubs and plants in your location.
Conquer color pitfalls
A common complaint among autumn
photographers is that the colors in the pho-
tos don’t seem quite … right. Comments like
“That isn’t quite the same red,” or “Really, it
was more vibrant in person,” pop up when
people are photographing the changing
leaves. The reason lies in a simple digital cam-
era function called white balance. Different
light sources actually have different colors in
them (think red sunset, blue fluorescent
lighting, etc.), and the white balance setting is
used to ensure that the colors in the finished
photo match what the scene really looked like.
Almost every digital camera allows the
user to control the white balance, but most
beginner photographers leave it on the
default setting: Auto. Auto works fine in
many situations, but in the case of a scene
with rich, strong colors—like autumn
leaves—Auto can cause problems. If your
camera is on Auto white balance and it “sees,”
for instance, a large source of orange color
(say, a big orange maple tree), it will try to
compensate—incorrectly—by adding a blue
cast to the photo, making the orange tree
appear paler and yellower. The same thing
can happen with other vibrant colors: Auto
white balance will generally leave them less
intense and slightly off-color.
What’s the solution? Take control of your
fall photos by manually selecting a white balance setting that corresponds to the current
weather/lighting conditions. On a clear
sunny day, select the Daylight setting rather
than Auto, and watch as your colors pop. In
overcast conditions, try Cloudy, although
you may find that Cloudy can make things
appear a little too intense. The best thing to
do is experiment.
Capturing fall’s beautiful colors in photos
THE COSTCO CONNECTION
Costco offers a range of cameras in the
warehouses and on Costco.com. Also, the
Costco Photo Centers feature a variety of
services, such as prints, posters and calendars, to make the most of your photography.
Early morning and late afternoon
lighting can help make fall colors more
vibrant. Add a person or pet to help give
the viewer a greater sense of scale.