Great Fall Foliage (And Family) Pictures - Here's How!

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We've posted a variation of this article every fall since we've had a blog ... Read & Enjoy!

Text and Images by Fred Bonilla

Fall is a great time to take pictures, and nothing beats the great colors you get in the foliage surrounding us this time of year. Just about any shot you take this time of year will look good, but here's a few tips that can turn your good shots into great ones.

The first tip is simple: While great fall foliage is all around us, it pays to look into where the best times & places will be to find these vibrant colors. Yes, location, location, location is key and there are many helpful web sites that chronicle the foliage progress throughout New England. The Foliage Network is one such site;  You can find additional information from Connecticut's Department of Enviormental Protection: http://tinyurl.com/2oumh5 . Here is their 2015 forecast in a nutshell:

  • The leaves will change in the northern parts of the state first, around Columbus Day, and then move down into the valleys and down toward the shore.
  • It’s predicted that peak foliage will begin October 9 – 16 in Connecticut’s northwest and northeast corners, followed by eastern and western mid-state counties October 17 - 25.
  • The shoreline and lower Connecticut River Valley will peak toward the end of October or early November.
  • A little known fact is that the Connecticut River, starting at the mouth of Long Island Sound (between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme) and going up toward East Haddam, will hold the foliage the longest – into the first week or so of November.

Yankee Magazine selected the Litchfield County town of Kent, Connecticut as the best place in all of New England to see fall foliage. The back roads surrounding us in Fairfield County, CT  &  Westchester County, N.Y. are excellent as well.

So now you've got the time and location. Lighting is also key to a great foliage shot, for knowing how to position your light can turn an ordinary shot into a bright and vibrant one you can brag about. The above shot of  leaves that I took near my home in Trumbull was taken during  "the magic hour" of  the first hour of sunrise or before sunset which is the prime time to shoot not only foliage but any landscape situation, resulting in a golden effect as the sun reflected on  the leaves. You should be careful with lens flare when your subject is back lit so use your lens hood or your hand if necessary to block out any sun streaks. Side lighting creates increased depth and contrast to bring out sharp details. And don't put your camera away when the light isn't perfect. Overcast, ambient lighting can produce shadow-less subjects with soft pastel shading that can produce some interesting results.

There is one essential filter to have when taking foliage shots - a circular polarizer, which would produce dramatic results by darkening the sky, increasing contrast & enhancing /deepening color. There is also an specific "enhancing filter" that is available just to increase the density of the primary colors of fall, primarily red,orange & brown. Those who own newer point & shoot cameras should look to see if you have a "Dusk/Dawn" or "Foliage" mode in their scene programs. They will simulate the enhancing filter effect to deepen the earth tone colors of fall. The photo below was taken in Brattleboro,VT using the Olympus PEN's art mode to further enhance the already golden colors on the leaves.

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 Those are some technical tips...what about taking photos of family & kids this time of year? Just so happens that my friend & Sony Artisan Of Light Me Ra Koh just posted an article on her Disney Babble blog called  "13 Ways To Capture The Beauty Of Fall".   Her articles are always fun & informative and these tips can result in a family photo that you'll treasure for years to come!

Just a few more tips, ok?  Whenever possible, use a tripod. It will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds than what you are able to do when you hand hold the camera,  and also allow you to use low ISOs such as 100 or 200 for the sharpest possible image. You can also use a remote or cable release to prevent any motion when you activate the shutter. Also, remember that photographic rules are made to bent (or broken!). The rule of thirds is a great guideline for composing fall foliage or other outside shots, but be open to changing your point of view and position for a new perspective. Above all, take lots of pictures and enjoy the view!


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