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Offering a superb show of foliage including bright displays of gold, scarlet, and orange, Fall is one of the best shooting times all year. I’ve spent my photographic career living for the moment when nature’s greatest show on earth begins each year. My passion for the vibrant hues and rituals that accompany the season have yielded many tips and tricks for creating the best images possible. If you’re a Fall Fanatic like myself you’ll appreciate these tips your next fall shooting session.

Shooting Fall FoliagePhoto Courtesy of Cheryl Woods

Plan Your Trip

It may sound adventurous and romantic to roam the back roads of a small New England town but you’re not going to maximum your time. And, you may miss some must see spots for your portfolio. The show starts early in New England. Check sites such as the U.S. Parks guide to fall foliage state-by-state. With hundreds of state parks and forests to choose from in over 50 states, this guide will make the task seem less intimidating. It covers everything from dominant colors to peak travel times.

Work your way south as time progresses and remember the lower the elevation, the sooner the leaves change. Temperature also affects when the colors turn so colder, higher elevations will also yield early hue times as well. The last areas to bask in the glory of fall foliage are coastal towns. 

Creative Techniques

Some autumn days can be swirling with wind others are dead still. If you want to create a faux sensation of movement, you can try panning, slow shutter speeds or a tool such as the Lens Baby, which will give you effects like the one in the shot below. You can tilt and shift the lens (acting much like adjustments to the back and front of a 4×5 camera) to give you all kinds of crazy effects. They attach to either a DSLR or even a Smartphone.

Shooting Fall FoliagePhoto Courtesy of Cheryl Woods

Explore other options to such as backlighting. Shoot leaves with the sun streaming in behind them to illuminate the details. Close-up lenses can highlight tiny elements as well. Reflections of trees in ponds or creeks also make wonderful shots. Try varying your perspective, too. Lie down and shoot straight up at the trees and close-ups or lie on your stomach and shoot at extreme ground level. 

Finding Your Way

Allow for some happy accidents along the way. You may have told yourself you’re going to make it all the way up to Bangor, Maine by nightfall but you’ll end up discovering some precious spots to shoot along the way. Double the time you estimate it will take you to get somewhere to allow for those hidden gems in your travels. Here are a few other tips for getting around if you didn’t pre-plan your trip:

The Locals

The best people to guide you in your travels are, of course, the residents of wherever you’re driving. People are usually proud of their own territory and will be happy to clue you in on what the locals know. Check out local diners, bars and gas stations.

Shooting Fall FoliagePhoto Courtesy of Cheryl Woods

GPS or Map?

Although a GPS is great for telling you where you are, sometimes your GPS can lead you astray. You’ll want to have some good old fashion paper maps on hand. Maps let you see the “big picture”. Pick up a road atlas when you stop at that gas station to chat up the locals. They will also indicate scenic spots such as creeks and rivers that could turn out to be prime spots for shooting.

Weather Watch

Fall can bring rainy days or even snow the farther north you get. Don’t hide inside. The rain will only saturate the fall colors. And, the fog and mist can soften and mute colors and add mood, atmosphere and mystery to your images. If you do get one of those warm, perfect fall days, be sure to spend the entire day shooting. Although most of the year the rule is to use dawn and sunset as your optimal times to photograph, the Fall will offer soft light all day long. If you do find yourself with some harsh shadows, try a polarizing filter to cut down the contrast.

Shooting Fall FoliagePhoto Courtesy of Cheryl Woods 

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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