Autumn offers some of the best opportunities for nature photography. From moody, misty mornings to leaves changing from green to gold, to more colorful sunrises and sunsets, to crisp, cold days that work miracles on light — it's the ideal time to get outside with your camera and start creating beautiful portraits of this chilly yet comforting time of year.
If you want to bump up the creativity and quality of your nature photographs, we have six tips that will spark your imagination and help you see the landscape with fresh eyes.
One of the most spectacular aspects of fall color is the contrast between the greens of summer and the golds, oranges and reds of autumn. Find a way to work that contrast into your frame, not only because it's visually intriguing but also because it gives viewers a sense of seasonal change in your photograph.
You can accomplish this by picking out a single tree that is the only one to have changed color among a forest of still-green foliage, or perhaps doing the opposite, framing a hold-out of summer's green among the vivid warm colors of the new season.
As this photo shows, how you frame the contrast is every bit as important in taking a compelling photo, so think about an interesting way to compose the colors that will draw viewers in.
Showcase textures of the season that make your viewer want to reach out and touch the image. What textures make you think of autumn?
Think about wood grain, chopped firewood, leaves on damp rocks, fall leaves crisp with the first frost on a cold, blue morning, even the texture of glassy calm water reflecting the fall color of the shoreline.
Look for opportunities to highlight fall color in ways that aren't just focused on the hues of changing leaves, but on all the colors of the season.
Autumn color brings to mind a sense of change, a shifting of time and weather. You can highlight this concept through movement in your images, particularly in utilizing a slow shutter speed to create blur.
We have a tutorial on how to get that soft, misty effect from moving water. You can apply these same techniques to capturing the blurred movement of leaves blowing on trees, falling from branches, blowing across sidewalks, or swirling in a stream.
Weather and Light
Fall color isn't only about the changing foliage. The weather also gets cold and stormy, and sunrises and sunsets gain more drama. The pinks and oranges of a sunrise or sunset are the perfect complement to an already colorful landscape of autumn leaves, as are the stormy skies and gray days of fall against which vividly colored leaves will stand out.
So, to capture fall color in a landscape, consider not just focusing on the leaves of trees, but on the scene as a whole. Select the time of day and the quality of light during which you shoot with as much care as you select the location and composition of your photograph. And remember to use our tips on creating compelling landscape photos.
Zooming way in on fall foliage can be as effective at creating a dramatic photo as zooming way out. You can isolate fall color against a contrasting background, or even isolate particular leaves that have a beautiful shape, pattern or color. Macro photography of plants is a wonderful way to stretch your creativity, so consider isolating just a single leaf or even a portion of a single leaf in your photograph.
You can even do a study of leaves, and create a series of autumn leaves isolated against similar or contrasting backgrounds, or a series of differently patterned leaves. There is no limit to what amazing photographs you can create even when zeroing in on tiny aspects of autumn.
And finally, remember you aren't just stuck with what Mother Nature provides (though she provides more than enough!) but you can add in man-made elements as well. Just remember to think outside the box and avoid old cliches. For instance, a road winding through fall colors is a classic photo, so if you decide to incorporate a road in your image, do it in a more unique or interesting way, such as in the photo above.
The same goes for other elements, such as umbrellas and rain boots, wheelbarrows or wooden farm fences, barns, bales of hay, and so on. If it's been done before, why do it again? If you want to incorporate creative elements such as man-made objects and props into your images, make sure you do so in a way that is unique and interesting.