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How to Photograph the Colors and Essence of Autumn (Fall)

Autumn Photography Tips

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are falling. It’s that time of year when we gather around the fireplace and pull out the warm blankets. Wishing the warm days of summer could last forever? I know where you’re coming from but there’s no need to fall into a manic depression. With the change of seasons, opportunities abound for curious photographers, those willing to explore, seeking out new chances for great seasonal shots. Plus you need a few good shots for your holiday cards anyway, right?

Personally, I love this time of year for taking photographs. The change to standard time means the nice light is now available in the late afternoon. The golden hour at sunrise comes earlier at first but give it a few weeks and it’ll be back to a reasonable, but not too early hour. I know you late sleepers will appreciate it. Generally the light is softer and offers a greater range of opportunities for the photographic experience.

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In the fall and winter months we get more varied weather and as many of you know, weather creates great opportunities for photography. The sunsets just seem to pop when you have left over storm clouds lit up by the setting sun on the horizon. There are many good photographers who chase these weather opportunities where light breaking through dark storm clouds creates scenes that are awesome captures. The possibilities for those once in a lifetime shots increase exponentially this time of year! Have you noticed the great high dynamic range (HDR) photography examples on social sites like 500px and Twitter? The dark contrasts and spectacular highlights from HDR (done appropriately) just make stunning landscape photographs and many of these great photographers leverage the weather to produce their great images. Perhaps HDR isn’t your favorite style, but great photographs come from good light and composition, so have at it any way that suits you best.

Fall is harvest season and a great time of year for family and kids. There are lots of fairs and markets in your local areas this time of year. Look for the pumpkin fields, opportunities to pick apples, etc. It’s a great time for family and people photographs, perhaps some long promised portraits of friends and family. We were at a local celebration of our small railway last weekend, a modified narrow gauge railroad that runs on weekends for visitors. The soft light during these overcast autumn days make for some beautiful shots. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a nice subject (such as a friend or family member) along with bright background colors to make the photo really pop.

Photographing AutumnThe shorter days with a low sun have other benefits too. Generally, it’s cooler in most places, downright colder in other spots! Personally, I prefer cooler weather for photography. I’m not talking extremely cold temperatures of a winter in Yosemite, but rather pleasantly cool and comfortable. Cool temperatures are perfect for hiking into areas that you wouldn’t otherwise consider because of the high heat and humidity common during the warmer season. In my area here in the southwest United States, the deserts are a perfect place to get out and shoot in the fall. In the summer, daytime temperatures often get up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and the desert isn’t much cooler at night in summer, often staying up in the 80’s and 90’s. In the cooler seasons these areas become accessible for long hikes, walks, and photography.

We don’t have much in the way of the fall colors during the changing season here in the southwest United States, at least nothing on the scale of the more northern states and Canadian provinces. The only real color for us requires a trip to the local mountains where the fall colors can be intense but are generally short lived. But in the right conditions, fall colors in the landscape can be spectacular no matter where you live. It just takes the initiative to get out there and shoot. You’ll be amazed at the opportunities and results once you decide to make the effort. In fact, you’ll find the more you use your camera, the more you’ll be inspired and the more your creative juices will flow. You’ll have an increasing understanding of your personal capabilities at that moment and what your gear can support. Most importantly, the more you shoot, the more your photography skills will grow.

Target a subject and go for it whether it’s a shot of the clouds or fall weather, family portraits at a local market, a pumpkin patch, a fall celebration or a hike in your local town, state or national park. The most important ingredient is your determination and persistence to come back with the best shot you’re capable of; one that you’re glad to have captured and most importantly, shared with your peers, family and friends.

Photographing Fall

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Bill was born in Toronto, Canada but spent his early years in Dunoon, a resort town on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll, Scotland. Bill’s heart has always remained solidly connected with the natural beauty of the land and sea and his primary focus is on landscape, seascape, street and urban photography. Bill has been a contributing writer for PhotographyBB Magazine, where his monthly articles have inspired the thoughts and passions of hundreds of thousands of readers and photography enthusiasts. He is now a columnist for CLARITY by PhotographyBB.
  1. Allan Flagel Reply

    Great article, Bill – well written and very colourful accompanying images.

  2. Russ Reply

    Ignore 50% of the Earth why don’t you, or is this just a Nth Hemisphere site?

    • Dave Reply

      Hi Russ,

      Thanks for the comment. It’s not that we’re ignoring 50% of the Earth. We are based in North America, so we simply posted an article for photographers on our section of the globe. If you have a spring tutorial that you would like to share, I’d be happy to post it to the blog. :)

  3. Graeme Reply

    Thought provoking article that can equally apply in the southern hemsiphere. Be observant and look around you. Here in Australia the spring colours are jumping out as native flowers pop out and intense colours occur under the intense blue skies. Around the beaches in Sydney we have just started “Sculptures by the Sea” which richly aids the photographer with unique backgrounds of sculptures and seascape. So Thanks for you Autumn article which encourages us to get out in the landscape, be observant and capture the local atmosphere.

    • Dave Reply

      Thanks for this comment Graeme. You bring up an excellent point! I’m off to Google “Sculptures by the Sea”. I have not heard of it before and you’ve piqued my curiosity! :)

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