Fall Photography Tips: Don't Forget to Look Down!

My day trip to Ricketts Glen was carefully planned. A pair of calls to the park office gave me redundant information. Both individuals indicated that the leaves in the falls ravines were going to be peak and one said that the water flow was good (that was necessary for waterfalls of course). This information aligned perfectly with the weather forecast calling for very light wind (enabling flora to remain still for long exposures), heavy cloud cover (keeps lighting low and free of harsh shadows) and light rain likely throughout the day (keeps the crowds at home, out of the frame and provides saturated colors).
 
After driving 1.5 hours in the fog, I arrived to find ... no wind. The leaves were indeed peak, but they were peak at the top of the mountain – not down in the deep falls ravines. The fog cleared to a mostly sunny sky and my opinion of a good water flow differs greatly from the person I talked to.
 
Fortunately, there are always great photo opportunities in this park. And, after photographing in the early morning shade for over an hour, the clouds eventually came and were present for a number of hours, creating good light.
 
Especially high up in the falls trails, there were some good leaves, but ... many of them were on the ground. However, the ground can be a great place to photograph leaves, especially when they are wet from a stream they have fallen into or nearby. During the fall, especially late in the local fall foliage season, look for colorful leaves on the ground that can be worked into an image.
 
Don't forget to use a circular polarizer filter to reduce glare and increase saturation of these leaves. The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens was the only lens I used this day. I didn't need a focal length that it didn't contain and the image quality coming from this lens is very impressive.
 
Fall, my favorite photography season, has just arrived in the northern hemisphere. Just as photographers consider the bookmarks of daylight to be the golden hours, I have a set of golden weeks of the year, bookmarking the leaf season. The beautiful bright light green new foliage (and abundant water flow) of late spring marks one of them. The other is marked by the changing leaf color of late summer/early fall and this one is easily my favorite.
 
Read our Fall Photography Tips for ideas and inspiration, select a great location, pack some great gear and go capture some portfolio-grade imagery! Whether that foliage is the primary subject or a backdrop to another subject, we are in the golden weeks.
 
A larger version of this image is available on SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px. If reading from a news feed reader, click through to see the framed image. If you find these tips useful, please share them in your circle of friends!
Posted: 10/23/2016 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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