If the camera was invented for only one of the four seasons, it would have to be autumn. The colours, cooler weather and threat of the long winter ahead inspires countless photographers to get out and photograph the beauty of fall. If you are one of those photographers, here are a few tips and techniques that I use.
1. Make it Vivid!
In the debate between shooting RAW or jpeg, I say shoot both! Like most photographers, almost all of my images have a degree of post-processing applied to them. But with today's digital cameras, I now "pre-process" my photos as well by using the various Picture Modes available on my Olympus cameras. Autumn is all about the colours so switch to the Vivid picture mode and really make them pop! Use the Super Control Panel to change the Picture Mode to Vivid. You can also adjust Sharpness, Color Saturation, and the Tone Curve. The increased colour saturation is only applied to the jpeg file. Should I decide to process the RAW image I now have the jpeg as a frame of reference. The reflection below should make the difference obvious.
2. Don't let the weather stop you
Fall weather can certainly be unpredictable, but if you only wait for the beautiful sunny days to go shooting, you are definitely missing out. As a matter of fact, bright sunshine can wash out the colours and create unwanted glare on the leaves. Keep in mind that the first strong wind can drop those leaves and leave you with a colourful carpet and bare branches. Speaking of wind, stormy weather can also make for a great subject. If you have a weather-sealed camera like the Olympus E-M1 or E-M5 II, that's just another reason to get outside.
3. Shoot High, Shoot Low
Try to find some hiking trails or roadways that provide a panoramic view of the tree tops. That 1970s shag-carpet look can really add dimension and depth to an already splendid view. Of course, if you find yourself under a canopy of colour, put your camera near the ground and point it upwards. The articulating LCD on all Olympus cameras can make composition easy.
4. Details Matter
A grand vista can certainly get shutters clicking, but don't overlook the smaller details that might be right at your feet. The entire line-up of Olympus PRO lenses have incredibly close working distances which allows you to focus in on the finer points of your autumn hike.
5. Perfect Portraits
While you are out for your autumn hike with family and friends use the opportunity to capture some portrait shots in front of a beautiful backdrop. The sun is at a lower angle in autumn creating warmer light. You may have to bump up the exposure value by a full stop or more in order to ensure that faces are properly exposed. As well, select a wider aperture to soften the background and isolate your subjects.
6. Track the Colours
Looking out your window may not be enough to determine the best time to get out and capture the maximum colour palette. Go online to find out when the autumn colours are peaking in your area or wherever you plan on travelling this fall. In the U.S. check out The Foliage Network. Reports are provided for the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast that will help you time your excursion with prime viewing.
In Canada check out the Fall Foliage Reports which will guide you to reports specific to your province.
7. Autumn Sunsets Rule
...and so do the sunrises!
The shorter days and more unsettled weather help to create the perfect conditions for impressive sunrises and sunsets. Check out my sunset photography tips for specifics on how to capture a great autumn sky.
8. Take the Road Less Travelled
Autumn is the perfect time to explore. Hop in the car and spend a weekend driving down roads you've never been on before. Nothing inspires the photographer more than discovering new sights. Almost all of the images in this post were made in locations that I had been to for the first time. I can't wait for my next autumn excursion!
Peter Baumgarten is a professional photographer and educator. He is also an Olympus Visionary and NiSi Official Photographer.