Today is the last day of summer.
Bright Leaves Up Close
Soon there is going to be an explosion of color, as the leaves turn to brilliant red, yellow, orange, and brown. It is an amazing color palette. Since the colors come and go according to both temperature and altitude, you need to research for fall color shooting.
Location is a consideration. If you live in a zone that is known for its fall color, then no problem. If you don’t you, might need to travel a bit. Think about a park, a nearby National Forest or Preservation area. Go look in your back yard; it may seem common to you, but spectacular to those who haven’t seen it.
Camera/lenses , important but don’t fret over it. If you have a DSLR, then likely you have a lens that will work just fine. If you want to take expansive, colorful landscapes, then you might consider a wide-angle lens. If you don’t have one, think about renting one.. If you want to be closer, then you might consider a much longer lens; say a whatever to 300mm lens, (these lenses now come in multiple iterations). Even a 400mm lens might be just the ticket. You might like the flattening effect it gives.
Filters are another consideration. A circular polarizing filter will intensifyi colors. If you plan to use several lenses, don’t purchase a filter for each lens. Buy the requisite size step up rings and then one filter large enough to cover all your lenses. A graduated neutral density filter is also useful. If the scene being photographed has a broad contrast range beyond your camera’s dynamic range then the use of these filters is a must. These come in stops as # 1, 2, or 3–very useful on a bright day. Another piece of essential equipment is a tripod or some support for those situations that require longer exposure times (think water as in creeks and rivers) is vital. A beanbag stuck in the crook of a tree will do the job so don’t break the bank.
Camera settings relate to the available light. Think about depth of field. Use large aperture for nice bokeh in background, small aperture for greater depth of field. White balance settings are also important. If you are able, set a custom white balance. If not set daylight for being out in the full light. On most days, I set my WB to cloudy as this enhances the reds and yellows, something I like. You might also set various picture controls so use them to your advantage.
Give some thought to the time of day. The golden hours are terrific if you can be there at sunrise or sunset. If not, any light can be good light with some adaptation. Use your filters, adjust your camera settings, get into the woods and do some detail shots of leaves or a single leave. The sparkles of light that leak through the upper canopy of the trees can make the forest scenery look like jewelry.
The most important tool in the box is you. A bit of imagination, a willingness to play with your camera will make all your shots better. Hey, all you can lose is a few pixels. Have fun.