Color Chase !

September 22, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Since it is officially fall (my favorite season to go out and shoot all the beautiful color nature is creating), I thought I would make a blog post about photographing the colors of autumn. I would like to share a few tricks that I have learned.

Admittedly, we are not living in the prime locations for foliage photography like the Northeast, or the Southeast, or the Midwest. Those are the regions that produce the most striking and vibrant colors. Locally, though, there is still a lot of beautiful color that will happen a little later in the season -- especially up in the Laguna Mountains  you will see bracken fern which turns golden brown and creates a nice contrast against the green forest and in the Cuyamaca State Park you will mostly see black oak trees.

During the autumn months from September to November, the trees start to change in color. The green leaves turn into vibrant yellows, oranges, reds, and rich browns. Each type of tree has its own special color, and it can vary from year to year for each individual tree. When the leaves change color, the chlorophyll -- which gives leaves their green color -- begins to break down, allowing for the masked pigments to show up. Every leaf color derives from a unique pigmentation process and its color change varies wildly depending on the right conditions of light and temperature.The colors usually flow from North to South and in colder higher altitude regions, it starts sooner.The colors usually arrive at the coastlines toward the end of fall.  

Tips:

1. Shoot in Daylight white balance so the colors will not be neutralized as with AWB.

2. Use your RGB histogram instead of the luminosity histogram so you can see if specific channels are clipped and correct as necessary. Find complimentary colors such as reds and greens for example.

3. Good color isn’t enough. Try to find compositions that help the photograph. Look for dominant elements such as one colorful tree, on a plain or some sort of field, vegetation, or a single leaf isolated against a contrasting blue sky.

4.Experiment with a shallow depth of field.

5. Try more unusual and different angles. Go down low or climb up high.

6. Use a zoom or a longer lens and crop in tighter.

7. I especially love the morning light, just before the sun appears and a little while after it has risen, but the late afternoon and evening light is gorgeous as well. An overcast day will bring out the colors even more. These are probably the best times for me, but you can experiment with other types of light as in the middle of the day, or try to backlight your scene and create sunbursts with a small aperture while shooting directly into the sun. This can also add a lot of atmosphere to the shot especially when some sort of mist or haze is present.

8. Don’t let bad weather hold you back from photographing. Often times in autumn it will rain, storm, or even snow. Rain will bring out the colors even more in the foliage and clouds will add to the images. Take advantage of the atmospheric conditions of fall, such as the morning mists that can add mood and atmosphere to the photographs. In windy conditions, try to experiment with motion blur by putting your camera on a tripod and focus on something static such as a tree trunk. Then use a longer shutter speed and have the surrounding vegetation start to create a soft blurry veil around the focal point such as the static tree stumps. This is perfect for creating more impressionistic photographs.

Hurricane RidgeHurricane Ridge

I have given you some tips that hopefully will help you to go out there and capture some fall colors!

Most important for me, as always is to be present and connect fully with nature. Take a walk through the forest, notice the smell of the foliage, touch the fallen leaves, feel the the different textures of the vegetation, notice the array of colors…Or just sit still and observe for a moment, let the wind blow through your hair, let your eyes gaze softly and see where this takes you. Sometimes one of these moments captures me and that is the one I feel compelled to photograph. I think those are the moments that I connect on a deeper level with what is. 


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