Ways to Capture the Fall Foliage with Your Professional DSLR Camera

Autumn is one of the best times of the year. The weather cools down and it gets closer to my birthday, but best of all, there are oodles of colors. Both professional and amateur photos of fall colors drown the internet. Kids take pictures for graduation and couples prepare for engagement photos during this time of year. Whether or not you want to bust into photography, here are several tips for capturing the best fall colors with a professional DSLR, or even a high-end smartphone camera.

Location, Location, Location   And Time
In the West, the Rocky Mountains offer countless landscapes that are rich with autumn colors. However, you don t need to be John Denver to see the beauty in the mountains. You can go almost anywhere and find rolling hillsides, farming lands and steeple churches surrounded by trees. The color always starts north and blends its way south across the landscape. Several online resources can help you chart the progress of the colors.

Also, consider your light. The golden hours are just before sunrise and sunset. These golden colors are rich and saturated, and accentuate the reds and yellows of your surroundings. Don t underestimate the value of hazy or overcast light, either. These forms of lighting are diffused and non-directional, and help produce shadow-less subjects, giving you a soft background of shades.

You may want to shoot some back-lit pictures, too. Having the sun come toward the camera and shining through the leaves gives you stark contrast and increases the rich color of the foliage. If you re shooting in the middle of the day, dance with the shadows coming from the trees. You will be surprised what kinds of images you can capture during any time of the day.

Stay Wide
Staying wide lets you capture a lot more of your surroundings. Grab your 10mm or 16mm lens. If you have a wide-angle lens, that s even better. Wide shots are perfect if you find yourself on the side of the hill or mountain and have miles of color stretched out in front of you. Too much sky will cause some fringing and give you a border that distracts from the color, so frame your shot correctly.

Get Close
This seems like a contradiction to the previous tip because with landscape photography, there is a usually a temptation to stay wide. You may wish to capture the mountainsides filled with crimson red and yellow-leaved trees or panoramic shots of the valley below you, but there is plenty of beauty to behold when you get up close.

Macro photography is a great way to explore the textures and colors of the fall. It gives you a unique perspective instead of a broad overview of Mother Nature. Using a longer telephoto lens, or zooming to a longer focal length with a zoom lens, are both good ways to get these shots. This lets you isolate a subject by creating an out-of-focus background.

Getting close also lets you create sharp contrast between a dark, red leaf on the ground and the washed out dirt behind it, or a golden leave on a blue sky. Being close gives you a wide array of photo opportunities.

Adjusting the Camera
The best professional cameras have loads of settings to help you capture the best shot, but sometimes cameras come with something such as HDR, or High Dynamic Range imaging. The most popular, multi-image HDR combines several images of different exposures taken in rapid sequence. This gives you the widest range of exposures and tonal detail. For this to work, there must be zero movement in your shot, which can be hard with leaves dashing across the grounds.

Auto white balance can be your enemy; it doesn t always give you the most vibrant results. Adjusting your white balance gives you the most accurate color in your images as possible. You can increase the color temperature a few notches, as well. Every DSLR has saturation adjustment, which will also help to increase and richen the colors.

Polarizing filters also help saturate the colors. It s useful and easy to use, and, if you do include some of the sky in your image, it will have a darker, richer shade of blue.

Keep in mind that you can do a lot with your digital shots on your computer. It s nice not to have to do as much work in post-production, so getting to know your digital SLR camera can save you some time in the end. At the end of the day   or the beginning   autumn is a great time to gather dynamic and colorful images to add to your portfolio or your wall.

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