Photographing or shooting video of fall foliage around the world has to be one of the most beautiful, overwhelming and exhilarating experiences you can have because your opportunities can be everywhere around you where the colors peak.
The initial key to getting quality images of fall foliage of deciduous trees and shrubs is to look for contrasts and brightness in the leaves. The short season for fall colors happens at different times in the northern hemisphere, from late September to December depending on a number of factors. Altitude and temperature are a factor.
In reality, the time of year leaves pop their color depends on the shortening night length, altitude and the end of the growth cycle of the trees and shrubs. Weather conditions that create a cold snap also assist the flow of carbohydrates and minerals to the leaves. This is when fall colors begin to show as the leaves become more dry and thus the leaves begin to burst into color and then just as quickly can begin to fall off.
Because of Climate Change and global warming, more and more fall foliage are being stressed too early and this puts pressure on the plants to survive to this stage. A growing period during summer, with good moisture and then a dry, cool sunny fall of warm days and cool but frostless nights are ideal weather conditions for the brightest colors in any given fall season. As long as there are no heavy winds or rains, the leaves should burst to their brightest as the nights lengthen and last for days.
Our cameras come out when Fall foliage is at its peak
That’s when our cameras come out and we are overwhelmed with the possibilities. Look for soft or bright light during the day, back lighting in morning and evenings give the leaves a glow from the sun through the leaves, and explore the contrast of reds, yellows and orange colors as each plant or tree goes through many stages and variations in tone and brightness. You will sometimes see a field of gold and a single cluster of red creating a contrast of colors that create great images.
Don’t be afraid to shoot details, get close to the leaves, looking upwards and even down as the leaves fall to the ground or into streams and creeks and grab onto rocks. Fill your frame with the vibrancy of the colors.
Shoot with a tripod when light is low. Avoid too much sky in wide shots unless the clouds are spectacular too.
So pay attention to where the colors are expected to be each year near you, or if you are going to travel to the Rockies to shoot the Aspens, or Vermont to capture the Maples, don’t hesitate to call ahead and use the resources of the forest service, look at their websites as well as online sources like The Foliage Network. Finding fall colors is not an exact science so be flexible in your travel plans.
Finally, be aware that some areas can change from green, to color, to brown and then to barren in just a matter of days. Rain or snowfall can come in and remove the color very quickly so be prepared to get out there as soon as leaves head to turn to peak color… you may have anywhere from two days to two weeks, or just a few hours. Talk about an exhilarating opportunity indeed.
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