Fall color can be a sensational subject for landscape photographers. If you are shooting landscapes, and have the desire to include a beautiful array of color into your portfolio, this can be helpful for you. New England has some of the most devastating color in the country, however, this is not to say that other locations in the north are lacking, I spent 5 years in Maine and found that entire area to be a wonderland of differing shades of reds, oranges and yellows.
Bear in mind, that some of these northern areas can get rather cold in early October, so dress for the environment. Check the weather information websites to see what the local temperatures average for the time you plan to shoot. Also remember that snow has been known to fall early in the year as well.
Here are some tips to help make your shooting a memorable and pleasurable experience.
Gear: Take what you anticipate shooting. If your goal is to shoot panoramas or landscapes consider the wide angle lens, the wider the better. For wildlife, a long lens, preferably a zoom, can make the difference in getting that moose in it's natural habitat. If there is snow, you will probably need some ND filters to help with the bright white reflected light. My biggest suggestion is to take what you need and keep the weight down for traipsing around in the woods. The 2 photos are from Outdoor Photographer, photography by Russ Burden.
Fall color shot as reflections in water can be a real benefit to your portfolio. The best time to shoot these reflections is very much the same as for any shot you take, early morning and late afternoon. Early morning is good because the water in the lake is pretty much motionless, very little movement. The reds, yellows and orange colors give the image a warm look whereas, objects in the shade will provide a contrasting cool tone. This is due in part because of the shade and these objects are lit by blue sky reflection. You get a stunning array of color. Don't be afraid to experiment with the white balance settings, allowing you to discover your own creativity. Zoom in and crop a tight image or shoot wide for a panorama of color.
Make sure that you properly expose the image. Underexposing will darken the reds, oranges and yellows, and conversely, overexposing will lighten them. Either situation will change the way the image appears and can look muddy or washed out. Using a flash will assist in proper exposure in a shady environment. Remember, your camera only sees light that is present.
When in the woods, midday sun backlights the leaves and can be almost painterly, a different effect altogether. Be careful and watch your exposure again. Your camera can be fooled by the bright light and underexpose the shot, depending upon how you framed the shot. Not only will the image look washed out most likely, it will also look flat. If you are having difficulty getting the exposure correct, try bracketing and then post edit merge. If you are going to bracket for better exposure, use a tripod.
Wide angle landscape shots give richness to the fall spectrum of color. Try to position yourself up on a hill overlooking some rolling hills and capture the Grandscape as photographer George Lepp calls it in the October 2012 issue of Outdoor Photographer.
Be sure to blend a mix of color using a variety of tree types. Don't get all absorbed by the majesty of the color and allow the photo to lose it's graphic design. Make sure you have space between the trees and branches so they keep their key shapes and don't merge together. Having some greenery will help balance the scene by providing a pleasing blend.
These little bits of information is a mix of my own experience and those of contributing photographers to Outdoor Photographer magazine. I would like to thank the following photographers: Ian Plant, George Lepp, Jay Goodrich, Sean Arbabi, William Neill