8 Tips for Fall Landscape Photography

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Fall is a fantastic time of year for you to photograph the landscape and really push your creativity. The colors, textures, and soft light provide an amazing palette to create compelling photographs. It’s really easy though to just point your camera at the color and hope the image comes together without thinking about the composition. Here are just a few tips to take with you into the field to make the most of the colorful season in your fall landscape photography:

1. Use a longer focal length lens

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It’s tempting to photograph grand scenes with a wide angle lens, but using a longer focal length lens, 200mm or longer, can really help simplify the scene and make the subject about more than just color. You can also use the longer focal length lens to photograph the intimate details of a forest interior. Look for elements in the scene where there is a break in the pattern or use negative space to help isolate the subject.

2. Use a wide aperture to isolate the subject

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Pick a wider aperture, around f/2.8 or f/5.6, to isolate your subject from its surroundings. This will help create visual contrast between the sharp subject and the background, which will be softer and more abstract. This also adds tension between the real and the unreal, providing you with an image that’s more dynamic and expressive. Experiment with different subjects and backgrounds and get creative with your choices. Pay close attention to your subject and make sure that you have the desired amount of the subject in focus when using a wide aperture.

3. Make fall color the secondary subject

Dd tip3

The temptation is for you to make the primary subject all about the fall colors. Find other primary subjects such as streams and waterfalls that are accented by the fall colors, to make images that have more depth and complexity. Although the color may attract your eye to the scene, ask yourself what the subject might be other than color.

4. Look for patterns and textures

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Color is an obvious design element that you’ll be working with in your images but look, for others like pattern and texture, to create satisfying compositions. Learning to see the world around you as elements of 2-D design (line, pattern, texture, etc.) will help you move forward in your composition skills.

5. Be patient and wait for interesting or dramatic light

Dd tip5

Patience may be the best tool in your camera bag. Fall colors are wonderful, but can be even more stunning when combined with the right light for your subject. Patience usually is a big factor between a good image and a great image. Many times the best light can be short lived, so think through your composition in advance, and be ready for the light to work some magic.

6. Experiment with intentional camera movement

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Definitely experiment with moving your camera vertically as you release the shutter to blur the scene and create an abstract image of lines, textures, and colors. Experiment with different shutter speeds, and the pace of moving your camera, until you find the right amount of blur. This is a great opportunity for you to take your camera off the tripod and just play with camera movement. Darker elements that work well include a rock face, canyon walls, or deep shaded areas in the forest.

7. Look for elements that contrast the fall color

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Fall colors are usually bright and have texture and pattern. Look for opportunities to place the fall colors against darker elements so you can create an image with some dramatic tension.

8. Don’t forget to look up

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The interior of a forest can be an amazing and colorful place to photograph, but it’s often difficult to isolate a subject. If you’re having trouble, look up and explore the canopy. Images that contrast the fall colors with the deep blue sky can be really pleasing and make interesting wide angle photographs. Don’t forget to use smaller apertures like f/22, to create a starburst effect as you shoot through the forest toward the sun.

Summary

Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your time photographing the amazing colors of the fall season. Take the list with you into the field so you can slow down, think through your compositions, and return home with some compelling photographs.

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Dusty Doddridge

is a landscape photographer based near the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee. Dusty enjoys making fine art prints, and is a frequent speaker to photography groups on topics like composition and creative expression in the landscape. He also enjoys leading field workshops to some of his favorite locations like Colorado, the Southwest, Iceland, and the mountains of East Tennessee. To see more of his work, visit his site here.

  • Bruce Wunderlich

    Great article, and love the images

  • Thanks Bruce! Glad to you enjoyed the article and images and hope you have an opportunity to photograph some fall color this year!

  • Antonia Pagan

    Work at H ome~Follow this guide to make $97/hour…I just purchased themselves a McLaren F1 when I got my check for $19993 this past 4 weeks and just over 17 thousand lass month . this is really the nicest-work Ive had . I began this 10-months ago and straight away sta.rted making more than $97… p/h .learn the facts here now .
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  • John

    Awesome tips! Thanks for sharing so generously.

  • Travel Bug

    Nice article. We live in the tropics and don’t see fall. I’m heading to NYC next week and hopefully we can get some good photos of fall whilst in the area. But I would be interested in your definition of ‘ fine art’. Nobody seems to offer articles on this topic or how to achieve this. Your bio suggests that you can offer some guidance.

  • Thanks John, hope you have some wonderful photography this fall. Looking forward to getting out the next couple of weeks here and photograph the changing colors.

  • Hi Travel Bug! Well there is ton to photograph in NYC and the greater New England area and hope you have a wonderful trip! Here’s a great podcast for Fall Color in New England

    http://photographyroundtable.com/4027/tips-from-the-king-of-new-england-fall-foliage-jim-salge-episode-124/

    Love the “Fine Art” question! My own definition is that Fine means a high level of craft is involved from start to finish and Art is something that is personal and expressive in nature that uses the elements of 2-D design (photography) to creatively communicate. The end goal for me is a Fine print which is something I create/produce from start to finish which i approach with as much creativity and craft as I can. If you want to explore the topic further, look for some of the older podcasts from Alain Briot. I think he can articulate the topic as good as anyone. http://www.beautiful-landscape.com/Podcast-home.html

    Cheers!

  • Marc Thibault

    thank for your article,,,fabulus,,,

  • Many thanks Marc, glad you enjoyed the article!
    Cheers!

  • Dubya

    Looking up is a great tip. I’d also suggest to look behind you. Sometimes you’ll be surprised what you might have missed.

  • Right, looking behind you is always a good strategy, you never know. Thanks for checking in Dubya!

  • Jim Singler

    No way you bought an F1 on those measly wages. Get a real job toots!

  • Vignesh Dhakshinamoorthy

    When someone post spam, be sure to FLAG it. Whatever site it is.

  • This is a great article, and very good tips. I liked overall the “Be patient and wait for interesting or dramatic light”. Here in London you have to be very patient to get the good ray of light 😉

  • Thanks Wire Up! London is a fantastic city! There are also some wonderful landscapes to photograph across the U.K With rainy and cloudy environments I’m always hoping for that light that occurs between the weather events, the changing light. Doesn’t always work out, but when it does, it can really dramatic. I live close to the Great Smoky Mountains and have always enjoyed photographing there in cloudy and rainy weather. Seems to add the mood and atmosphere that is interesting for me.

  • Thanks for sharing your tips, #5 is definitely a big one. If the trees are in the shadow, the colors will not show as well (you can see it clearly looking at the left and right side of the attached picture). Using a polarizer also help to remove the reflections from the leaves. I would also add a post-processing tip: experiment with the hue slider in Lightroom, in particular the orange and yellow to make the colors pop!

  • Thanks Jean-Marie for checking in and sharing your tips!

  • Dane Wilson

    Great Article Dusty!!! I am currently taking a full-time photography course so any information on photography from people like you is invaluable. We are soon going to be getting into extremely cold weather here in Canada any suggestions on protecting cameras etc. from the extreme cold weather. I look forward to reading further articles from you.

  • Hi Dane, fantastic that you are taking a full+time course. There is a lifetime of learning in photography and always new places to explore…I have photographed the Arctic a few times but only in Summer/Fall. My southern blood is too thin I think for serious cold weather! Check out Dawin Wiggett’s e-book at Craft and Vision. Good cold weather tips! http://craftandvision.com/collections/darwin-wiggett

  • Dane Wilson

    Thank-you for the info Dusty. I look forward to seeing more posts from you on landscape photography.

  • Beth

    Thanks for helpful and different suggestions!

  • Thanks Beth, hope you enjoy the Fall season and keep going with your photography. Fall is just starting here so looking forward to doing some shooting.

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