Each year I get excited about the opportunity to photograph the beautiful colors of fall.
There are many passages in the psalm and other books in the Bible where creation worships and praises the Lord. Psalm 97:1, 1 Chronicles 16:3 and Psalm 150:1 are just a few of those passages.
Some verses specifically mention trees. Psalm 96:12 declares, “Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this; shout aloud, O depths of the earth. Break out into singing, O mountains, you forests and all your trees” And in Isaiah 55:12 we read, “The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
If the trees praise God, then I want to capture their praises with my camera. Over many years through research, trial and error and personal experience, God has taught me how to capture the best of His fall colors. I want to pass some of this knowledge on to you to help you better photograph the praises of the trees.
These tips are for all photographers. Whether you use the latest and greatest digital camera or your phone, you’ll find these tips to be helpful in capturing the colors of fall.
When to photograph the Colors of Fall
In the fall, anytime of the day is a good time to be outside, but early morning or late evening make for the best time to photograph. The low angle of the sun makes the light warmer and the shadows longer. The warm light makes for beautiful images and longer shadows pull out details. In autumn the two hours after sunrise and the two hours before sunset give us the best light for the best images.
A big exception to this is photographing on cloudy or drizzly days. The time of day does not matter then. In fact, overcast skies and wet leaves often exaggerate the colors of the fall foliage. Just be sure not to include the sky in your photos on cloudy days.
Reflections and the Colors of Fall
Fall colors reflecting in the water can create some beautiful abstract images. It can make the water look golden or a brilliant red. The tiny waves or ripples in the water can make your image reminiscent of French Impressionists’ works. Reflections can also help amplify the amount of color in the photo in large vista landscape images.
When taking reflection photos, you want the water to be still, but slight waves or ripples can also work. In gentle water motion, the details get somewhat or complete abstracted and thus emphasizing colors over form.
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a great rule to use in any type of photography, but it works especially well in landscapes. To apply it, mentally divide your camera’s view finder into horizontal and vertical thirds, much like a tic-tac-toe grid. My camera’s viewfinder has this built-in which makes this easier. Your camera may as well.
Keep your Horizon line at or above the upper third or on or below the bottom third. Avoid placing it in the middle of your frame, unless you’re doing a reflection shot. Try to place key subject matter on the intersection points of the grid lines.
Photograph Near Water
If finding great colors seems a bit difficult, look for water. Not only does water provide reflections, it often makes the colors of trees by streams and other bodies of water look a bit brighter. The colors of the fall season may also appear by water a little sooner and/or last a little longer.
To add something different to your photography, think about photographing the leaves that have fallen on or near the water. The color on wet leaves looks more saturated.
Shoot Close up on Fall Colors
Think about looking for close-ups. Try to isolate the areas of the strongest color by getting close. If you have a long lens or zoom lens, zoom in close on your subject. I often find myself photographing just a portion of a tree or even just a few leaves. These photos often create a strong emotional feel.
You can also look down and tightly frame what is on the ground. The shapes of the leaves and the way they fall often leave beautiful patterns on the forest floor.
Backlighting means that the predominate light source comes behind your subject instead of from the front. When sunlight strikes autumn colors from behind, they become translucent and allow some light to pass through them. This emphasizes the color and creates a glow. Be careful not to catch the sun in the photo. Try to block it with the trees or leaves or by isolating your subject.
Don’t forget to make your fall color endeavor a spiritual one. I desire that everything I do would point to God and be a spiritual experience. I constantly talk to God when I photograph nature. My spirit connects with Him as I photograph and I feel His presence. I want His Spirit to be driving every one of my images so that it may be an act of worship. Make your photography and your time in the outdoors to be a time you connect with God. Your photographs will reveal that.
I hope you enjoy your fall. It doesn’t last long, but it does give us glimpse of God’s glory. The fading color serve as a reminder that only the things of God last forever.