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Fall Foliage, 2 of 3

Fall Foliage Pointers: Part 2 of 4 by Russ Burden Fall Foliage Pointers: Part 2 of 3 by Russ Burden

It’s autumn – the monochromatic green that dominated summer is giving way to nature’s magic as the environment is taking on a palette of warm tones and changing colors. For the photographer who loves color, it’s a glorious time. From the grand landscape to a lonely fallen red leaf to a child romping in a pile of freshly raked leaves, there’s a plethora of subject matter. Whether your passion lies in photographing nature, people, photo journalism, sports, etc., adding a background of fall color will make your images pop. There are so many tips I can share about taking fall photos that I’m dedicating the entire month of September’s weekly Tips to the subject. In this second installment of four, I will take you on a journey showing you how to improve your autumn photographs. Save or bookmark them and when the final installment is complete, you’ll have many tips to help you with your fall image making. Better yet, join me on one of my autumn nature photography tours so I can show you first hand my tips, tricks, and techniques – see last paragraph for info.

Include Wildlife: If you’re a regular visitor to my Photo Tips and Techniques on Take Great Pictures, you’ve read something to the effect of, “the background is equally as important as the subject.” A fantastic subject shot against a busy background nets a busy image. A  fantastic subject shot against a fantastic background produces a winner. I  consider a good fall background to be fantastic. Including wildlife in a good autumn hued environment  is special. Look for situations where the background can be thrown out of focus into a wash of color. Try to find the angle where the animal is surrounded with fall color. Look for a situation where you can have the coloring of the animal harmonize with the colors of fall. Be aware how the light on the animal plays against the light on the background. The best scenario is to have the primary light fall on the subject.

21 include wildlife russ burden photography tips techniques
© 2007 Russ Burden

Control Depth Of Field: In some situations, as in the above example, it’s better to have an out of focus background that’s a wash of color that complements the subject. On the other hand, foreground to background sharpness is necessary when shooting the grand autumn landscape. The recipe for the out of focus scenario includes a long lens, a wide open aperture, and a subject that has separation from the background. All play into the mix and if one of the ingredients doesn’t fit, it impacts the “flavor” of the others. The recipe for the everything in focus image includes a wide angle lens, a small lens opening and the use of the hyperfocal setting on your lens. Given the amount of space, I don’t have the room to explain how to use this setting, but an internet search will net you many hits – type in Hyper Focal Distance. Better yet, join me on a nature tour and I’ll show you the process live.

22 control depth of field russ burden photography tips techniques
© 2007 Russ Burden

Isolate Details: Most photographers tend to photograph the grand autumn landscape. A sweeping vista of maple covered New England mountains, a huge stands of aspens blanketing the Rockies, and the sprawling red tundra of the high country are fantastic subjects. If the conditions and light are right, I’d be right there filling many memory cards worth of pixels. But as you walk from composition to composition, rather than just look out onto the landscape, take a few steps and look down at the intimate details that await you on the ground. Look up at just a few majestically colored branches juxtaposed against a clear autumn blue sky. Quite often the quintessential fall photograph is above or below your line of vision. Don’t overlook the possibility of capturing an autumn slice of life image. So break out the macro or the long telephoto and fire away.

23 details red leaves russ burden photography tips techniques
© 2007 Russ Burden

To learn more about this topic, join me on one of my Photographic Nature Tours. Visit and click on the NATURE TOURS button for more information. Also, pick up a copy of my book, Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography. You can purchase a signed copy directly from me or visit your local book store or Amazon. Contact me at to order your signed copy.


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