The vibrant colors of fall

Created date

September 24th, 2015
fall scene
fall scene

Fall is my favorite time of year for exterior photography. The air is cool, the sky is textured with clouds, and trees and shrubs burst with color. The monotonous green of summer gives way to brilliant landscapes of yellow, red, ochre, and brown. Autumn is the time for Mother Nature to put on a show.

Jump in your car and head out into the countryside. That’s what I do. Sometimes I even get lost driving around looking for the perfect scene—a field of hay bales with a fence in the foreground and a background of fiery trees, a winding path nestled in a blanket of leaves, or a barn forever still in a flaxen field of wheat waiting for the harvester. 

Look for streams and lakes where you can catch reflections of a white birch forest. You might want to just shoot the reflection and put the shoreline out of the frame. If you’re lucky, a slight shimmer in the water will mix the colors of the leaves into an abstract work of art.

Cloudy or sunny

Don’t be disappointed if it isn’t a sunny day. A light, overcast sky is the secret to capturing a dappled landscape. The colors are muted, but not hidden, because the low contrast reveals the less vibrant colors, which can otherwise be lost in deep shadow. 

While distant and wide-angle shots produce beautiful photographs, don’t forget to shoot close-ups. Details of colored leaves, mottled tree bark, or a farm implement give a different perspective to familiar objects.

While any time of day is good for fall photography, my favorite times are in the morning and evening. The golden light during the half hour after sunrise and the half hour before sunset gives you the chance to shoot stunning fall colors. Autumn mornings are particularly magical when the coolness turns the warmth from the earth or water to mist.

If you’re traveling in unfamiliar territory, talk to the locals. They probably have a good idea of the best time of the month for fall foliage and where to get the best views. They might direct you to an old mill or covered bridge that you didn’t know about. I often go back to the same place and invariably find it looks different. I might even find a setting that I missed the first time. 

Don’t pass up this time of year when Mother Nature shows us her glorious colors.