Take Great Fall Foliage Shots - Here's How!

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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 are 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 a fall foliage site from The Weather Channel:http://www.weather.com/activities/driving/fallfoliage/  & a site from Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection: http://tinyurl.com/2oumh5 .

FYI, peak foliage time for Connecticut in 2011 will be later than in previous years with the upstate area being peak from October 25th to 27th and a week or so later for Fairfield County. Yankee Magazine selected the nearby town of Kent, Connecticut as the best place in all of New England to see fall foliage in their September 2010 issue.

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 the single red leaf that I took on Rt 7 was backlit, resulting in an almost stained glass effect as the sun shone through the leaf.

You should be careful with lens flare when your subject is backlit so use your lens hood or your hand if necessary to block out any sun streaks. Side lighting creates increased depth and contrasts to bring out sharp details.

Don't put your camera away when the light isn't perfect. Overcast, ambient lighting can produce shadowless subjects with soft pastel shading that can produce some interesting results.

For warm & dramatic results, "the magic hour" of  1 hour before & after sunrise/sunset is the prime time to shoot not only foliage but any landscape situations.

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 a 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 shot in Brattleboro, VT using the Olympus E-PL1's art mode to further enhance the already golden colors on the leaves.

Here are some other tips: Whenever possible, use a tripod. It will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds than what you are able to do when you handhold 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 movement 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! Our thanks to the 2 Mikes

(Mr. Lopez from Nikon &  Mr. Deutsch from Sigma) for joining us for our 1st "Demo Sales Day" weekend along with Steve Weinstock of  Tamrac/Vanguard.More Details on our  next "Demo Sales Days" coming up on Tuesday. Join us for our "Digital Point & Shoot Basics" class on Thursday (10/20 ) at 7 PM.

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