Edward Mendes: tips for creating fall color images with impact
Can you feel it? I certainly can, the tingling on my skin and the excitement buzzing around my every thought. The weather is cooling down a bit and the days of the calendar are steadily falling away moving us closer and closer to one of my favorite times of year…Fall!
I love fall and everything that comes with it, cooler weather, the start of the holiday season and most importantly color, autumn color. I’m lucky enough to live only a few hours from the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which is home to one of the best fall color displays in California. I love the fall colors, all along highway 395 from Carson City to Bishop, the yellows and oranges of autumn light up the roadside with beautiful views and image opportunities. The area is a hot bed for photography workshops during this time of year, my own included, I’ll plug it later, and for good reason. However you don’t have to live in any one special area to enjoy the changing colors of fall, in just about every part of the country leaves will be changing (heck they already are), you just have to be ready to capture them.
Here are a few of my tips for making the most dynamic and successful fall images.
Big Bold Colors
Bold colors catch the eye and during the autumn and fall seasons bright reds, oranges and yellows are in abundance. I like to look for compositions that highlight color, both complimentary and contrasting. Remember your color wheel from grade school? Well, if you don’t you better do a quick search and refresh your memory. The placement of color in a composition can make or break an image. Always take into consideration what colors are in your composition and make sure they work well with one another. Also, look for areas where the over powering colors of autumn are showcased at their peak, remember the eye is drawn to bright bold colors.
During my workshops some people get bummed out when they see overcast skies and I quickly tell them to turn that frown upside down. Why? Because the soft even light that cloud cover brings is perfect for fall colors, in fact I’d save over 75% of my fall images are made on overcast days. Overcast conditions will tend to deepen colors and if a little rain falls all the better, rain drops on leaves and slightly wet conditions make things look beautiful and clean. Remember to use your polarizing filter to remove glare and reflection from the water.
This may come mostly from the fact that I love to photograph water and seem to always be near a river or creek when creating fall images. A reflection is always a strong compositional element so if you can include one do. For the best reflections a sunny day is your best friend. Find an area where the water is in shade with nice even lighting and no “hot spots” where the sun is hitting. Also, remember that polarizing filters can reduce or remove reflections all together so test at different powers before using to see if you’re getting the effect you’re looking for.
Use a telephoto lens to isolate a subject
A telephoto lens is the perfect tool to get close and isolate a smaller section of an overall scene and by doing so create a much more impactful image. Telephoto lenses also compress the depth of field within an image making objects that are further away from one another actually look as though they reside right next to one another.
Keep your head up, way up!
The colors of fall aren’t just at eye level or encompassed in a grand landscape. Shooting isolated leaves and / or vertical trees as they stretch up toward the sky can make for very interesting and new ways to photograph color that you don’t see every day. Also, going back to Big Bold Colors, red, yellow or orange leaves against a deep blue sky certainly count.
Keep your head…down!
Well, maybe not all the time but the point is to remember to be just as mindful of the leaves that have already fallen as you are to the ones still hanging out on the trees. There are countless beautiful compositions of fallen leaves out there set against the colors of the forest floor, riverbed or rocks. I like to look for simple clean compositions and often treat these opportunities as though I was shooting a still life.
A spot of color
Maybe this is just unique to me but I enjoy compositions that feature just a touch of fall color as much as I enjoy the in-your-face color images too. Positioning the color in a certain area can help to lead the view to a certain place in the frame, hold their attention or simply and elegantly whisper to the viewer, “It’s fall”.