Here in the Show-Me state, autumn turns our notoriously pretty forests into a photographer’s paradise. The fall colors begin to make their appearance in late September up north, inching their way southward over the weeks to follow. Statewide, the autumn splendor tends to peak by mid-October and fizzle out in November. That means now is the perfect time for photographers to plan our fall foliage drives!
What better way to know where and when to photograph than to be tipped off by other photographers? I recently discovered that the Missouri Department of Conservation has a Fall Colors app that provides a way for people around the state to share up-to-the-minute fall scenes from places around the state. When a user uploads a picture, the picture can be GPS-tagged so that others can pinpoint where to find those colors! The site is also updated with foliage forecasts for various regions of the state once the color-changes really begin.
Fall Photography Tips:
- Try a polarizing filter. Even in lighting situations where you might not expect it to help much, a polarizing filter can increase the saturation of fall colors. The polarizing filter is one of very few filters whose effects can’t be replicated in photo-editing software, so give it a whirl whenever shooting fall colors, no matter what the type of light.
- Capitalize on clouds and the golden hour. Color is the leading lady in fall foliage photography, but lighting is just as important. The best lighting for fall images is diffused, so you’ll get your best photographs when shooting under overcast skies or during the so-called golden hours—the first and last hour of sunlight on a given day.
- Be careful with white balance. White balance can make or break a foliage photo. Rather than using auto white balance, use a custom white balance to offset the blue cast of overcast skies, and a preset white balance (e.g., the daylight setting) when photographing during the golden hour.
- Think black and white. Colorful leaves alone do not a gorgeous photograph make. No matter how gorgeous those colors are, they are still a single ingredient in a larger recipe that requires other elements to make it work. If the image wouldn’t be strong in black and white, no amount of color is really going to make for a standout photograph.
- Pay extra attention to leading lines. Take a look at standout photography of fall colors. One thing that you’ll notice again and again are strong leading lines—a path or bridge leading away, a mountainside angle, the bared branch of a tree. Leading lines are always a good thing, but in autumn photography, they particularly help break up the homogeny of all those leaves and make the photograph pop.