For the love of autumn: 10 favourite leafy pursuits

Autumn and spring are my absolute favourite seasons. The colour that transforms our streets and parks and woodland never fails to uplift and inspire me as nature puts on her spectacular end of year finale. I struggle with winter - the dark days, bleakness and brown everything - so I like to savour and soak up autumn whilst it's here. My favourite way to do that is of course photography (I'm typing this on a crisp winter's day and re-living all those beautiful moments and that delicious colour as I look through my photos). So I thought it would be fun to share some of my favourite autumnal leafy photographic pursuits and a lovely burst of colour along the way.

All of these photographs were taken at Winkworth Arboretum, Sheffield Park & Gardens and Scotney Castle (all National Trust) - my favourite places for autumn colour near me.


1. Leafy Close-Ups

Those amazing leaves deserve their moment in the spotlight. I love to hunt out the extra special ones and find a lovely colourful backdrop (a pile of leaves on the floor or a colourful tree is ideal) and use a shallow depth of field to blur the background and allow the leaves to stand out.

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For most of these shots I used a 50mm f1.4 lens on my Canon 6d and shot wide open at f1.4 for maximum blur and also because the light was very low. My usual lens of choice for autumn shots is my 100mm f2.8 macro lens which allows me to reach up into the trees, but for these shots, as I was holding the leaves whilst photographing them, I needed a shorter focal length.

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2. Hunting out the best colour combinations

As well as honing in on the details of autumn, I love to stand back and look at the sum of its parts. The beautiful tonal ranges and melee of different colours from leaves at different stages of transformation, all working together to please our eyes.

Sometimes these beautiful colour combinations can be found in a single tree, other times beautiful compositions can be created by placing a contrasting colour in the background of the tree or leaf you are photographing (as I did with the close-ups above).

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I always love to use a shallow depth of field for my autumn shots, to blur the background and allow the eye to focus on the important leaves or tree in the foreground; this also helps to accentuate any colours in the background, as they simply become colour rather than distracting details.


3. Collecting leaves

One of my absolute favourite things of all is to wander around hunting out the prettiest leaves (windfall only of course) to admire as I walk along, as well as photograph and take home with me. I have been known to wear some in my hair (or hat as is usually the case!) and arrange some pretty leaf bouquets. Always go prepared with a collection bag for your treasures :)

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TOP TIP: leaves will keep well for a few days in the fridge if you put them in a plastic bag with a sprinkle of water. This comes in handy if you want to photograph them, but the light has gone by the time you get back home.


4. Leafy flatlays

This goes hand in hand with no.3 above. For me, one of life's great pleasures is arranging leaves in pleasing combinations and shapes and then photographing them to enjoy for months and years to come. It's a wonderful activity for mindfulness practice as it is wholly absorbing - I find it so relaxing.

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5. Admiring the Autumn Carpet

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There is so much joy to be found in autumn whichever way you look. But a carpet of fallen colourful leaves is so very beautiful and brings out the inner child in me. After photographing their perfection, I can't help but kick them along or throw great handfuls of them up in the air (I'll spare you the slow-mo videos of me doing this ;) Whatever you do, make sure you look down to your feet as well as up in the air or there is so much you will miss.

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6. The art of fallen leaves

I love to seek out the fallen leaves that have landed gently on a moss-covered branch, or been caught in the gentle embrace of other leaves. It feels a bit like suspending a moment in time. I could sit and watch the leaves gently drifting by all day. It makes a great subject for some slo-mo video too :)

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7. Warming up with a cup of tea

It's easy to wander for miles when you're entranced by all the beautiful leaves, and it can be cold out there too. I usually make sure we have a flask of hot tea with us to revive us - and this year I went one better and took my favourite mug with me for a treat. It makes a great photo subject too :)

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8. Getting my head under the trees

Sometimes (often!) the best views and light are from under the trees. You'll often find me pacing around and doing circuits of my favourite trees to find the best light - and looking up. So many people seem to just stroll on by, missing out on some of the best colour and photo opportunities. Go under and look up people!

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9. Taking portraits

All that glorious autumn colour provides a perfect backdrop for some portraits. Find some pretty leaves to frame your shot or provide some colour for the background. We've had fun trying to take some photos of our little dog Misty amongst the fallen leaves - but it's considerably more challenging than taking photos of people, as trying to get her to sit still is a nightmare! She's much more interested in the ducks.....

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10. Seeking out the softness

Autumn colours can be rich and vibrant, but I've found my taste veering towards the softer end of the spectrum with some gentler, more muted colours of late. I love to seek out the pastel tones and accentuate the softness with a very shallow depth of field (you will likely gather I'm a big fan of blurry backgrounds!). A big part of the fun is then back at my computer, reviewing the beauty I've captured and playing with the edits to soften the colours and cool the tones to fit with my style.

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