Another installment from my third week of lists, a clinging-to-the-trees, back-to-school-special, dreading-impending-winter edition all about autumn colours, falling leaves, and capturing the spectacular scenery of this short-lived season in photos: it is always inspiring to me. I get out of the house and clamber around the outdoors with my camera in hand and there is always something amazing to photograph. I’m hardly an expert, but my hands on experience with a handful of very short autumns has given me some insight into:
6 Tactics for Amazing Autumn Photos
The once-long-ago boy scout in me never really forgot this bit of wisdom and I tend to apply it to many aspects of life, including photography. In our neck of the woods, autumn is usually a flash season: it appears near the end of September when we’re all least expecting it to arrive and sometime in mid-October we all wake up to freshly fallen blanket of snow and… bam… autumn is gone again for another year. Photographing autumn in Edmonton is all about single (or if you’re really lucky perhaps, just maybe double) chances. You’ll get one nice weekend to get out amongst the changing foliage, one or two awesome sunsets, a hour or two of whisping fog through the river valley. You’ve got to be ready to seize those moments… or wait until next year.
Autumn is all about the colour, but chances are after a summer of rich greens and photographing flowers and brightly dressed folks wandering around in the shorts, paying attention to skin-tones and trying not to over-saturate your pics, your camera’s colour setting have been stepped back a notch from the ideal autumn settings. Grab your manual and figure out how to crank your colour saturation up… but just a little bit. Of course this is as much personal preference as it is style, and you’ll need to take a few test shots to gauge the ideal settings for your own scenes and preferences, but I personally think that pulling out all those rich yellows, oranges, and browns from the scene make for some amazing pics.
And those autumn colours are really all about one thing: the slow natural decay of summer into winter by the foliage that surrounds us. Anywhere you go, most of what was only a few weeks ago brilliant shades of greens is now withering into a forest of autumn colour. Embrace the foliage. Learn to love the foliage. It is what will define your imagery as autumn imagery, whether as the focus of your photo or as the subtle backdrop to other subjects. People, architecture, objects or simply a beautiful shot of the sky: a few changing leaves in the corner and automatically you’ve encapsulated a time-frame into your photo… autumn.
If you live in one of those more equatorial parts of the planet, this point might not make much sense to you: I’ve been to the Caribbean and Hawaiian Islands and I’ve not only fallen in love your climate, but as a photographer I envied your routine and predictable sunsets. In Edmonton we have sunsets that vary from mid-afternoon in the deepest parts of winter to nigh on midnight in the lazy days of summer. And every sunset is different, unique, and impossible to predict. But in autumn, the sun usually sets around the dinner hour and thanks to whatever confluence of astrophysics, atmospheric moisture, and harvest dust in the air, the sunsets in autumn are some of the most amazingly colourful I’ve ever witnessed. Personally, I enjoy silhouetting people and plants against their blanket of colours in those handful of moments before they fade into dusk, and this is as much an act of patience and persistence as it is any sort of skill. Whatever your preference, don’t miss your chance to snap a few of these scenes come autumn.
Brown. It often seems like such a mundane colour and traditionally gets a bad reputation because of that. And we, as humans, are unlikely to embrace the colour brown for fashion or art or love for that reason. To many it seems more like a lack of colour. A failure of colour. It is the colour of dead. It is the colour of dirt. It is the colour of sh… well, you know where I’m going with this, right? If you’ve ever stopped to think about it though, you’ll note that brown is not exactly a colour that you can find in the standard spectrum. Thing is, people are actually very particular about browns. Don’t believe me: try doing graphic design and getting just the right shade of brown for something. It’s tough. See, I would argue that in the same way there is a kind of uncanny valley effect for animation and robotics, there is an uncanny valley effect for the colour brown in our brains. Why? Because brown isn’t a single colour: it is a palette of colours mushed together and from any particular shade of brown can be pulled a list of other colours. A flower can be any old shade of red or orange, but the browns are so particular and so connected to specific things in our minds that to get them wrong is to break the symbol of realism it represents. And autumn… it is flush with browns. Explore. Embrace. And keep away from that boring green you’ve been snapping all summer.
Finally, and an absolute classic: find someone to throw some leaves into the air. Action autumn photography encapsulated in a single snapshot, and definitely a photo to add to your collection and offer you a million and one opportunities to flex your creative muscle and re-define such a moment with your own personal style. Go on: grab some and throw them up. Just watch out for bugs.
The author enjoys autumn walkabouts almost as much as he enjoys photographing them. In fact, now that he’s written that he thinks he might just grab his camera and the dog and go for a walkabout now instead of finishing wri