Photographing a Stand-alone Tree in Stunning Red Fall Foliage

It is my favorite time of the year — Fall. The landscape is taking on spectacular colors, and I feel the need to make the colors last by photographing them.

However, I frequently encounter beautiful trees in full fall color with uninspiring surroundings. The challenge is to capture the beauty without including unsupporting subjects, especially power lines, in the composition.

As the relevant example for this image, our local high school grounds have a border of large maple trees that get extraordinary color each fall. While the school property and nearby neighborhood are nice, the buildings, streets, wires, etc., are not what I'm looking for in a nature picture.

In this case, the simplest tactic is often to get out the telephoto lens and isolate a portion of the tree.

The timing of this year's peak fall leaf color coincided with the Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD Lens review. This lens has the perfect range for isolating leaves (and the excellent image quality necessary to make the shoot worthwhile).

A large tree can offer many compositions, but after moving around to figure them out, I typically come back to a small number of favorites. To find these, try zooming out to the widest focal length and then zooming in as the composition is adjusted until nothing extraneous is in the frame, and the remaining limb lines and leaf clumps are balanced. Lock the tripod head, take that shot (perhaps several if the leaves are moving in the wind), create some variations, and then zoom in further to get a different look. Then, start over, perhaps after moving to a different position.

This maple tree's foliage was not solid, meaning some background showed through. The best options were to fill the foreground tree's holes with sky or, as shown here, with a background tree across the street. Note that the horizon and other orientation-identifying subjects are not discernable in this image. In this case, it is OK to tilt the camera slightly to adjust for the available details (I keep telling myself that).

This image was captured just before the sun set. The bright red leaf color lit by warm light made the red channel the one to watch for exposure. A Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter reduced the reflections on the leaves, further saturating the primarily red colors.

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