Monday, September 6, 2010

Photographing Autumn Leaves

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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One of the most exciting times of year is coming for photographers. Few times of year offer such a unique opportunity to capture wonderful landscapes and scenic shots as in the fall. Particularly in this area, the change in foliage is a truly beautiful event that many photographers want to capture. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your shots when photographing the leaves in autumn.

When shooting large vistas, or panoramas, make sure to use a small aperture (high f-stop), to capture as much detail as possible. A wide angle lens is a must have if you want those expansive shots, full of ranging colors. Another great tip is to shoot from a lower angle. This can give a more unique effect than some shots when held at normal height. This is a lot easier with the use of a tripod, which will also come in handy when using available light since you can shoot slower shutter speeds. A long enough exposure can even help you capture the leaves falling, not just the wide variety of colors in the trees.

Close up photography of leaves on the ground, or floating in a puddle can also capture the essence of fall. This is a great time of year to get out into nature and experiment with macro. A brightly colored leaf or two, floating in a puddle that is catching the sun just right can be a beautiful sight, and photograph. If you can't find it in nature, you can always fake it. Spraying leaves with water can give that beads of morning dew effect at any time of day, in any lighting; and if you can't find a puddle, a dark bucket will suffice, provided you crop the frame tightly enough.

Sometimes the sharpest pictures aren't always the best. A winding forest path, with the sun shining through the leaves can be given a dreamy effect with the correct use of soft focus. A special effects lens, a soft filter, even a little breath on the lens can produce this effect. Obviously using a special effects lens like a Lensbaby or a filter is preferable to breathing on your lens or filter, but it's a trick that can work. The effect of selective soft focus that a Lensbaby can give will let you control sharpness very precisely, for some stunning results.

The lighting will change throughout the day, so there will always be ample opportunities if you use the light to your advantage. Experiment with your images, delete what doesn't work, and try to improve on what does. As with everything in photography, practice makes perfect, so try as many different things as possible. Just imagine the possibilities. From a shot up high of an entire valley of vibrant colors, to a single tree on a hillside slowly dropping its leaves for the winter, down to the intricate detail of a single leaf itself, fall provides photographers of all levels the chance to get out, and just have fun with your photographs. For photographers, this is one of the best times of the year to get out and shoot.

To learn more and continue to build your skills, visit our Classes section on for information on upcoming seminars and classes covering a wide variety of areas.