leaves

Photo tips: capturing autumn / fall colour

Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year to photograph - the landscape turns red and gold, leaves sparkle like jewels in the autumn sunshine, changing colour almost before your eyes. Is there anything more beautiful than watching a swirl of golden leaves spin and float gently down to rest on a scarlet carpet? There is magic everywhere - look up, look down, look all around.

Yet this autumnal magic can be surprisingly hard to capture on camera, so I thought I would share a few tips that have helped me. I should say that I am not about traditional shots or wide vistas of lots of trees. I hate HDR (High Dynamic Range) shots with a passion. My photography is all about softness and simplicity and my macro lens is my autumn lens of choice. So read on if you are interested in capturing autumn the beautiful simplicity way.

Photos tips: capturing autumn / fall colour

1. Position yourself to best catch the light

This is probably the single most important thing you can do. Observe which direction the sun is shining (even when there's lots of cloud cover) and walk around the tree you are photographing to see where the leaves are best illuminated. Sometimes, this means standing underneath the tree to get to the underside of the leaves (but obviously taking great care not to damage it). You will usually find that in one direction the leaves look flat, dull and lifeless, but from the opposite side they are beautifully lit, with strong vivid colours.

If you're lucky enough to have a day with some sunshine, it's worth waiting for the sun to come out and illuminate your shot - it's amazing what a bit of patience can do.

And make sure your flash is turned off - you won't capture that autumn magic with artificial light.


2. Use other trees for background colour

The joy of autumn for me is the beautiful medley of rich colours - definitely a case where the sum is greater than the parts. To take advantage of this, position yourself so that a brightly coloured tree is in the background of your shot, ideally one that is a contrast to the leaf or tree you are focussing on. Sometimes it's the background that makes the shot.


3. Don't shoot against the sky

The sky is usually much brighter than the landscape. If you are trying to focus on some leaves or a tree with lots of sky visible behind them, your camera will struggle to get the exposure right - you'll find your shot will either be far too light (exposed for the leaves) or far too dark (exposed for the sky). Even with lots of post-processing, it's hard to get pleasing results. You would be better to change your angle of view so that you have other trees/leaves in the background instead of the sky.

Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. If the sun is behind you and the sky is bright blue, you might find your exposure is nicely balanced. And sometimes shooting directly into the sun provides some interesting sunflare - but it can be very hit and miss. As always, the key is to experiment, and check your results.


4. Look for fallen leaves & small details

As well as photographing the leaves whilst they are on the trees, don't forget to look around for other details as well. There is so much richness of colour and texture in the autumn landscape. A few ideas to try:

  • Fallen leaves, perhaps on a branch with some interesting moss, or floating in a stream.

  • Water droplets.

  • Reflections in a puddle or lake.

  • Ask a friend to hold a collection of autumn finds in their hands, or hide behind a leaf bouquet, or make a leaf headdress.

  • Find some colourful leaves for a backdrop for some portraits. Action shots can be fun too - try jumping off a tree stump or throwing some leaves in the air (put your camera into continuous shooting mode for this one, so you can capture as many frames as possible - hopefully one of them will be "the one").

  • Look down at your feet - the autumn carpet can be pretty special.

  • Bring some props out with you to photograph, such as mini pumpkins/gourds, or in my case, dolls :)

  • Collect some fallen leaves to take home with you and arrange them on a simple background (but work quickly, before they dry and curl).

Don't be afraid to move things around either - I will often collect together some of the most beautiful fallen leaves and place them on a branch or a tree stump and arrange them to look as if they had fallen there. I'll also remove anything that looks dead or diseased from the shot (always without causing damage to anything - always respect your environment).


5. WHICH GEAR TO USE AND WHICH SETTINGS

As I mentioned above, my absolute favourite lens to use for autumn photography is my 100mm f2.8 macro lens. This is because I love to shoot small details, with softness and simplicity. I find you need a longer lens as the trees are often very tall, so it's the only way to get close enough to the leaves. I usually shoot somewhere between f2.8 - f4, trying to find the balance between shallow depth of field and sufficient sharpness of the subject I'm focussing on.

Another lens I like to use is my 24-105mm f4 zoom lens. I will mostly use this fully extended at 105mm with an aperture of f4 to get as much background blur as possible. It's also nice to be able to capture a few wider shots as well.

I also enjoy using my 50mm f1.4 lens. However, you need to be able to get reasonably close to your subject to produce the tight compositions and blurry backgrounds I love, so this has its limitations.

Finally, you might find a monopod or tripod helpful. The light can often be very low at this time of year with shutter speeds quite slow, so having something to steady your camera can be helpful. I have to say, though, that personally I prefer to shoot unencumbered - I'm forever moving around trying to find the perfect angle/light/background, going down low, shooting high. If I had to keep adjusting my tripod, I would be there forever!

Instead, I usually make sure my ISO is set to auto, so my camera can use higher ISO settings if the light is very low. I will most often shoot in Aperture Priority mode, as aperture is the setting I like to adjust most often. My camera will then adjust the shutter speed and ISO automatically, in accordance with the light reading.


6. Beware very shallow depth of field

Whilst I absolutely love shooting with the shallowest depth of field my lens will allow for maximum background blur, you do need to be careful if you are using a macro lens.  Shooting at 100mm focal length with an aperture of f2.8 gives you an extremely small range where your shot will be in focus (just a centimetre or two), if you are standing close to your subject. 

As the light is often low, it can be hard for your camera to focus and you can't be certain exactly where the focus point always is, unless you are shooting with manual focus (something my eyesight doesn't allow). I've come home and reviewed my photos after many an autumn photography session to find that most of them are blurry or the focus point is not in the right place and too much of the shot is out of focus (there's soft and there's blurry). 

I would suggest that you vary your aperture and experiment a bit with different settings, rather than using the absolute shallowest depth of field possible for ALL your shots (I typically work with a range of f2.8-f4, sometimes up to f5.6, if I'm using my 100mm macro lens).

The shot below was taken at f2.8 and I just about get away with it, but if you look closely, very little of the shot is in focus. This would have benefitted from increasing the aperture to f4. As the background is quite a distance away, this would still have allowed plenty of background blur.


For more information about aperture and depth of field, and the relationship to focal length and the distance from your subject/background, please see my How to get background blur in your photographs post.


7. Review often

This point goes hand in hand with the one above. To avoid disappointment, make sure you sit down at some point and review the photographs you have taken. Zoom in and check to see if they are sharp and if the focus point is where you want it. Is the exposure looking OK? You then still have time to re-shoot and correct any problems and try any other shots you want. It's also the perfect opportunity for a nice cup of tea :)


So there you have my top tips for capturing autumn colour, the beautiful simplicity way. If you'd like to see more photos, have a look at my Autumn Glory album on Flickr - I've amassed rather a lot of shots over the years!

Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to help. What are your top tips? 


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Photos tips: capturing autumn / fall colour

Autumn glorious autumn ~ Part 2

I enjoyed a fabulous wander around the stunningly beautiful Westonbirt Arboretum at the end of October as my traditional birthday treat - there really is no better place to be at this time of year :)

My favourite bit without a doubt is the Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum - I just adore Japanese Maples. We started here and returned for some Blythe shots. It really is quite tricky to find the right spot to prop them up that's at the right height and supportive enough to hold them (their heads are very heavy!). It was VERY muddy so I was paranoid that they would take a tumble into the mud. Luckily the worst that happened was a bit of green slime on their tights ;)

I love the photo below of me, taken by my lovely husband. This was how I was to be found much of the time - head in the trees, searching for the prettiest leaves and the prettiest light! My favourite lens for autumn leaves is my 100mm macro lens - I love to focus on the details with a soft background. Low light levels make holding the camera steady pretty challenging, though, so inevitably lots of photos ended up in the bin!

Most of the leaves here are now on the ground, so these photos will have to help carry me through until springtime - I really don't like everything bare and brown! Nature really does put on a pretty spectacular seasonal finale.

As always, you can find more photos on Flickr in my Autumn Glory Album. I've also uploaded several of these images to my Red Bubble shop in case you are interested in cards or prints. There's currently a 15% discount on Wall Art (posters and prints in a range of sizes and formats) and Home Decor (cushions) with code RBGIFTS15 which is valid until the end of Thursday 13 November.

Autumn glorious autumn ~ Part 1

I just adore autumn and it's glorious display of colour in such warm, rich shades. It's so uplifting. Autumn leaves are such a gift - I always feel compelled to capture that beauty on my camera, to carry me through the winter months when the trees are bare and the world becomes monotone.

It's an annual ritual for me to go hunting leaves with my camera - and a traditional birthday treat - nothing makes me happier (except perhaps the sea!) :) These photos were all taken in Harcourt Arboretum in Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire last weekend. And this weekend, as my birthday treat, we're heading to the amazing Westonbirt Arboretum. So I thought I'd best get these photos published pronto :)

There really is nothing finer than listening to birds chirping away with sunshine on your face, and gorgeous low, warm light pouring through the trees, setting the leaves aglow. It really is tonic for the soul.

For more autumnal fabulousness, take a look at my Autumn Glory Album on Flickr.

Early autumn wanderings

I've enjoyed a couple of lovely outings with my camera recently to capture the last glimmer of summer and the new beginnings of autumn. I love this time of year - maybe it's because I'm an autumn baby - or maybe it's all that beautiful colour and gorgeous light....and the best is yet to come :)

I took a Blythe along with me to the Oxford Botanic Garden in mid-September, and met up with the lovely Ruby Red for some leisurely wanderings and a jolly good catch-up. I find a friend helps to fortify my courage with taking Blythe photos in public :) We were surprised to see so much lovely colour and carpets of beautiful cyclamens and what looked to me like crocuses. A thoroughly lovely day!

And last weekend Al and I ventured out to the fabulous Batsford Arboretum in Moreton-on-the-Marsh. It's such a beautiful place - we've visited often and it looks different every time. There was a surprising amount of autumn colour for this time of year - I love spotting the bursts of red amongst the green. And adore how magical everything looks when a sunbeam bursts through the cloud. I took bambi along with me for a little photoshoot. She took a few tumbles and is a little bit worse for wear, but I loved photographing her "out in the wild", so I guess a few tumbles go with the territory!

We also had fun taking a few portraits of each other - I needed a new pic for my blog and Al wanted to play with his new 56mm f1.2 lens for the Fuji XT1. It really does produce some dreamy results. And the Arboretum provides a lovely backdrop. I've played around with a few textures too to soften things a little. All photos of me taken by my lovely husband alpower.com and post-processed by me.

I always find walking through so much greenery and space so calming and restorative - I can highly recommend it as a way to unwind and refresh.

I've updated my Red Bubble Shop with my latest photos. If there's a particular image you would like to see that's not in Red Bubble, please let me know (hello@zoepower.co.uk) and I will happily add it for you.

Glistening golden Acadia

So before autumn says its final farewells, I thought it would be good to share the third leg of our fabulous USA trip, in all its autumn glory. From Vermont, we enjoyed a very scenic (and rather epic) drive to Mount Desert Island in Maine. We stayed in another lovely Airbnb place in pretty Somesville - the perfect location from which to explore the stunning Acadia National Park. The Park had been shut, along with all the other national parks and monuments, as part of the government shutdown in October. Luckily for us, it reopened a few days before we arrived and I am so thankful it did. Acadia really is the most stunning location, especially in the autumn.

All of an autumn whirl

We were lucky enough to enjoy some days of sunshine and it just transformed the autumn landscape into a magical glistening, golden, sparkling wonderland. There really is nothing quite like it. Dancing dappled light, golden warmth, fiery leaves - it really is tonic for the soul.

Warmth
Autumn aflame
Walking the red carpet in Acadia National Park

You access most of Acadia National Park via a very well maintained Park Loop Road. Even just driving round this is something very special indeed. But we like to walk in the dappled light, feel the sun on our faces and play in the fallen leaves. So we did. Rather a lot :)

Al and I goofing around in the leaves
Al and I in Acadia National Park
Look up, it's so pretty *1*
Golden dapples

We spent a lot of time with cameras glued to our faces, as well as with our heads staring up - there was so much to look at, every which way!

How I was to be found for most of our trip!
Walking the red carpet in Acadia National Park
Golden skies

There was an absolutely stunning tree just outside where we were staying in Somesville, which was ablaze with colour. I'd love a carpet of pretty maple leaves, please :)

This gorgeous tree greeted us every morning
A fiery tumble of leaves
Nature's gold
I love autumn!
The fall

On a grey day I had fun with some Blythe photography - those gorgeous autumn leaves shine all by themselves!

Autumn girls
Hello!

There is so much to see in Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island - I can highly recommend a visit. The coastal scenery is absolutely stunning too - but that's another post or this will never end! You can see the rest of my photos in my Mount Desert Island set on Flickr. I'll leave you with some shots of Jordan Pond and it's beautiful crystal clear water, Somesville and its pretty bridge, and a beautiful sunset at Southwest Harbour.

Crystal clear water at Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond
The man from milk tray
Mount Desert Island Historical Society, Somesville
Sunset at Southwest Harbour

Autumnal softness

Before succumbing to the seasonal lurgi, Al and I had a super lovely day pottering around the stunningly beautiful Westonbirt Arboretum at the end of our Bath trip. It was a misty, murky grey old October day - but the leaves still looked sooooo beautiful - little autumn gems.

There's nothing quite like watching leaves gently fall like pretty snowflakes, kicking around autumn leaves in every shade imaginable and walking over the most spectacular carpet, to nourish the soul - I really wish it would stay like this.....So here's a little bit of autumn to enjoy all year round :)

More autumn colour can be found on Flickr, as always.

Soft landing
Autumn pinks
Drifting
Bokehlicious autumn
Softly, softly
Fallen
Two little bears up a tree
Dancing leaves
Soft velvety autumn
Autumn fireworks
Autumn bear
Autumn cascade

Autumn - Part II

Apologies for such belated blogging - a *must do before the end of the year* frenzy going on here - with resolutions to do better next year :)

I had the great fortune to visit not one, but three arboretums in October: Harcourt Arboretum, Batsford Arboretum and Westonbirt Arboretum. Each and every one was stunning, and so very different. Such a great month for color too. I can't believe I've never been to Westonbirt before - it's so beautiful and so vast - there's lots we didn't see - so many return trips are planned! We were also blessed with lots of sunshine - nothing quite like photographing autumn leaves whilst bathing in the warm sunshine :)

Here are some more highlights, mostly from Westonbirt Arboretum. See previous blog post for more - and of course, Flickr.

Autumn palette ~ soft pinks
Autumn palette ~ full colour range
Golden whispers
If you go down to the woods today….
Autumn peephole
Every shade of autumn in one tree
A canvas of leaves
Dreamy autumn
Autumn bouquet
Dreamy yellows

Autumn in the frame

I adore autumn. The colours. The richness. The stunning views everywhere you look. Leaves blowing in the wind - each one so perfectly formed. The low, golden light and long shadows. The cosiness as the nights draw in, the lights go on and the blankets come out. It's only just begun and I've already gone mad with my camera - can't help myself. Here are some autumn highlights so far - the rest are on Flickr as always - and there'll be more to come :)

The leaves they are a turning…..
Autumn medley
Wham bam, hello autumn! The original
Wham bam, hello autumn! with a little more red...
Autumn cascade
Autumn in the frame
Autumnal riches
Autumn does disco
Glimmering golden