How To Photograph Stunning Autumn Color

How To Photograph Stunning Autumn Color

General How-To

How To Photograph Stunning Autumn Color

Autumn Color

Five Essential Photography Tips for Autumn Color

Autumn color season is one of the most eagerly anticipated times of the year for restless nature photographers. The brilliant red, orange, and yellow foliage is like a jarring wake up call for all the creative energy atrophied by the listless and drab dog days of late summer (August through mid- September has always been my least favorite time of year). And since these photos aren’t going to just take themselves, here are 5 essential tips to help you make the most of the autumn color season.

Polarize

A polarizing filter removes glare from almost any non-metallic surface, which includes autumn leaves. Leaves have a waxy coating and they produce glare when viewed from certain angles. A polarizing filter makes fall color look more colorful and saturated but in reality, it’s only allowing you to see the color that’s already there. Wet leaves create even more glare so during rainy conditions, a polarizing filter is nearly essential.

When working near water, a polarizing filter will also remove glare and refections from the water’s surface and surounding west rocks. It will cut glare from water vapor and particulates in the air as well, making blue skies darker and richer in color. The direction of maximum polarization occurs at 90-degree angles from the sun, while no polarization occurs when shooting directly at or away from the sun. Therefore, no polarizer is necessary when photographing sunrises or sunsets.

Get a screw-in polarizing filter for your lens with the largest front element size, then step-up rings for those smaller lenses. Step-up rings are much more cost effective than a polarizer for each lens. Some recommended polarizing filters (links to Amazon).

B+W 77mm XS-Pro HTC Kaesemann Circular Polarizer with Multi-Resistant Nano Coating ($$$)

Hoya 77mm HRT Circular PL Polarizer UV Multi-Coated Glass Filter ($$)

Lee Filters Circular Polarizer – Glass 100x100mm For Lee filter holder system.

autumn color

Use Backlight

The leaves of autumn foliage are translucent, which means sunlight is allowed to partially pass through them when viewed or photographed from the opposite side. The foliage seems to glow and radiate the boldest colors when this happens. Seek out as many of these lighting opportunities as possible for stunning, luminous color.

This will work anytime there is direct sunlight. Even when most photographers retire during the “idle light” of midday, you can always aim the lens skyward as the canopy of yellows and reds glow against the complementary crisp blue sky. Stop the lens down to f/22 for a sun star to add additional interest.

Keys to Using Backlighting

  • Aim the camera toward the sun (duh!)
  • Be aware of ghosting or flare when shooting into the sun. Your lens hood might help, although probably not if shooting directly into the sun, so consider using your hand, a hat, a book, anything that can block the sun’s rays from striking the front element of the lens.
  • Avoid underexposure. Your camera’s meter will probably want to underexpose the scene under most backlighting conditions. Consider adding a stop or two of exposure to keep the image from being too dark. Better yet, consult the histogram and “exposure to the right.”
  • Look to add a sunstar for additional interest and a strong focal point of the image – if it needs one. A sunstar is created by using lens diffraction when a small aperture is used. A small aperture is associated with large f-stop numbers so a setting of f/22 usually does the trick. Best results are when you partially obscure the sun behind a tree branch or mountain, leaving only some of the sun’s rays peeking through. Let diffraction do the rest.
  • Try to employ complementary colors by shooting skyward on a sunny, blue-sky day. The warm tones in the backlit foliage fully complement the blues in the sky.

Use Telephoto Lenses to Isolate

You should look to use a short telephoto lens (70-200mm or even 100-400mm) to isolate patterns of autumn color, interconnected shapes, and textures within the larger landscape. A forest of trees, colorful or not, can be a confusing maze of visual chaos. But by isolating smaller vignettes with a telephoto lens, you can help bring some order to that chaos.

Telephoto isolation in landscape photography is the fine art of exclusion, stripping away any extraneous visual elements to reveal only the most essential and important parts of the scene. This is particularly true when shooting autumn color.

In the example above with a focal length of 85mm, I reveal to the viewer only a small section of a larger waterfall and scene, splitting the image into three equal sections: the autumn color, the falling water, and the distinctive glacial blue of the river.

Some short telephoto lenses to consider (links to Amazon):

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens

Autumn Color

Look Down

When exploring autumn color scenes in the trees and hillsides, don’t forget to look down at the ground at the “leaf litter” scattered along the forest floor, river rocks, trails, etc. This is particularly true in late autumn, my favorite part of the season when a lot of the leaves have already fallen, some of the trees are completely bare or still holding on to a few leaves, and there no longer is any green hanging around.

There are often many tiny scenes within the autumn leaves themselves found in the patterns of veins and variations in color found in a single fallen autumn leaf. A versatile macro lens of about 100mm is a useful tool for these types of images, like this image shown above. Links below to Amazon.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens
Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Vibration Reduction Fixed Lens
Sony SEL90M28G FE 90mm f/2.8-22 Macro G OSS Standard-Prime Lens

Autumn Color

Look For Reflections

On any sunny autumn day, find a body of water that is in the shade but also near some brightly illuminated autumn color, such as a grove of colorful trees or hillside. Here is where you will find a great opportunity to photograph fall reflections. If the water is still enough, you can capture some literal refections that create a mirror image of the primary subject. If the water is choppy from the wind or is moving, like you would find in a river or stream, you can make abstract reflections or colored water with longer exposures. The above image is an example of the latter, with a 10-second exposure being used to smooth out the water’s surface.

These type of refection images almost always need some help in the form of one or more visual anchors in addition to reflection. A rock or rocks, a log, or a duck are just some examples to look for when making autumn color photos of reflections. In order to get exposures of 10 seconds of longer during the middle of the day, you will need a strong neutral density filter of 6 to 10 stops in filter strength. I use the Lee Big Stopper (10 stops) and Little Stopper (6 stops) for these situations. Links to these and some other options below on Amazon.

Lee Filters 100 x 100mm Big Stopper 3.0 Neutral Density Filter, 10-Stop
Lee Filters 77mm Big Stopper Kit – Lee Filters 4×4 Big Stopper (10-stop ND Filter), Lee Filters Foundation Kit and 77mm Wide Angle Ring with 2filter cleaning kit
Lee Filters 100 x 100mm Little Stopper 1.8 Neutral Density Filter, 6-Stop
Tiffen 77mm Variable Neutral Density Filter

A Last Piece of Advice

Bookmark this page for next year.

Essential Autumn Color Links

U.S. Fall Color Map by Weather.com https://weather.com/maps/fall-foliage
Fall Foliage Prediction Map for the U.S https://smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map/
Peak Fall Foliage Map by Stormfax http://www.stormfax.com/foliagemap.htm
Peak Fall Foliage Map for New England https://newengland.com/seasons/fall/foliage/peak-fall-foliage-map/
Your Ultimate Guide to the Smoky Mountains Fall Colors http://www.visitmysmokies.com/blog/gatlinburg/attractions-gatlinburg/ultimate-guide-smoky-mountains-fall-colors/
15 National Parks for Fall Color (Wilderness.org) http://wilderness.org/15-national-parks-fall-color
The 10 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Canada https://www.tripsavvy.com/places-to-see-fall-foliage-in-canada-1481743
Best Times To See fall Foliage Across Canada with Interactive Map http://www.winnipegsun.com/2013/10/02/best-times-to-see-fall-foliage-across-canada

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By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Living The Dream: My New Online Photography Course

Living The Dream: My New Online Photography Course

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Living The Dream: My New Online Photography Course

Living The Dream

 

The Ultimate Guide to Landscape, Wildlife, and Travel Photography

A photo expedition to one the planet’s bucket-list destinations can easily cost many thousands of dollars in guides, food, lodging, and transportation. And don’t even get me started on how expensive photography gear can be these days. So how heartbreaking is it to return home from your trip-of-a-lifetime only to find your photos to be disappointing, lacking the technical refinement, excitement, and emotion of the experiences you just had? Wouldn’t it be wise to invest just a fraction of those costs into a comprehensive learning experience that will guarantee better photographs from your next trip, whether that’s elephants marching across the African savannah, first light on the peaks of the Rocky Mountains or even a favorite photo location close to home?

18 years ago, when I became a full-time professional photographer, I literally started with nothing. Since then, I have traveled to more than 60 countries in pursuit of exotic lands and magic light, completed assignments for National Geographic, The New York Times, and the BBC among other clients, and built a social media following of more than 1.2 million. I guess you can say I’m Living the Dream but I’m really just doing what I love. Now I want to share with you everything I’ve learned – as well as what it takes to be a professional nature, wildlife, and travel photographer – since I became a pro in 2003.

Living The Dream

In this course, I’ve carefully and thoughtfully laid out what I believe are the most important photography lessons I wish someone had taught me when I was starting out. Here’s just some of what’s included:

  • 5 hours of premium video content (watch it from our site or download it for life). This includes brand new material not covered anywhere else, including a 80-minute sit-down interview on camera, Photography and the Six Principles of Art presentation, composition, long exposures, scale versus personal vision, natural light, and a lot more. You get to see and hear me explain everything in detail with well-organized class segments using my own photographs as vivid illustrations.
  • Tips on the gear I use and proven wildlife photography techniques I’ve used all over the world.
  • Lightroom and Photoshop processing videos, including using and making your own luminosity masks, exposure blending with blend-if sliders and color channels, focus stacking, panoramas, and more.
  • 2 Bonus PDF books: Richard’s Epic Photo Destinations and Richard’s Guide to Going Pro.
  • My Lightroom Preset Collections: “Enhance” for color landscapes and “Transform” for Black and White conversions.

Consider this your preparation for that next bucket list expedition by upping your game now. There’s no better time to make that quantum leap in your photography skill set and knowledge than this current travel “hiatus.”

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Essential Composition: Visual Patterns

Essential Composition: Visual Patterns

General How-To

Essential Composition: Visual Patterns

Visual Patterns

“Stripes” Zebra fur patterns, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

The human eye and brain are instinctively drawn to visual patterns. We are a pattern-seeking species after all so we’re always searching for patterns in random data to help extract order from the chaos in the world around us. As a general matter, we love patterns so much that we have a peculiar inclination to create patterns even where none exist. The old axiom “bad news events come in threes” is but one example that immediately comes to mind. There’s even a word for this curious human tendency to create phantom patterns: apophenia.

Therefore, it should come as little surprise that we seek out visual patterns and repetitions in the observable space around us in the same way we seek patterns in every other way. That’s great news for us photographers and artists since we know our audience is already biologically predisposed to like our images if we use them. Visual patterns can be natural or manmade, regular or irregular, the primary subject or a complimentary part of a larger image concept.

Visual Patterns

“Vermiculations” Patterns of foam and autumn leaves in a back eddy of Duck Brook, Acadia National Park, Maine USA.

Visual Patterns

Patterns are combinations of elements or shapes repeated in regular and reoccurring arrangements. “Discernable regularity” is how Wikipedia describes pattern succinctly. Shapes, lines, and areas of contrast have powerful visual impact when arranged in repeated or corresponding parts either in regular or irregular form. Repetition is a good example of regular patterns and they tend to be manmade. The veins in a leaf or a spider web would be examples of the irregular variety and these are more than plentiful in nature.

What exactly constitutes “good” or “bad” visual patterns is purely subjective. Aesthetically, it’s an indeterminate entity. A forest of tall trees, leaf litter scattered over the ground, a grouping of flowers, a row of buildings, stacked mountain ridges, ocean waves, and flocks of birds are just some examples of literal objects that can be defined as patterns. These are subjects you can encounter on any given day with no need to travel very far to find them. Look no further than your house or backyard if you wish.

Repetitions

Repetition refers to objects, shapes, forms, figures, or lines repeated in regular, consistent intervals. Think of it as the visual equivalent to the beat in music. Gestalt theory suggests that a repetition of visual forms in a composition is pleasing to the eye in much the same way rhythm is pleasing to the ear in music. In addition, the eye tends to follow successive repetitions creating visual movement through the image frame.

Visual Patterns

“Last Sigh” Stacked ridges and sunset at Clingman’s Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina USA.

Tips For Finding Visual Patterns and Repetitions

  • Look Around! Patterns are everywhere. They can easily be found inside or just outside your home if you don’t care to travel very far. Search for strong graphic elements, shapes, lines, areas of contrast, or colors. Remember, you’re biologically pre-programed to be awesome pattern hunters!
  • One successful strategy is to Fill the Image Frame with repeating elements or patterns for powerful emphasis and the greatest possible visual impact – from corner to corner, edge to edge. If the pattern or repeating visual elements are dominated by lines, try rotating the camera and viewfinder so that the lines create diagonals instead of a vertical or horizontal orientation.
  • Break it! Often a pattern or repetition can indeed be the order that you seek in the visual chaos but it’s too monotonous or boring. How about a break in the order? A visual anomaly within the pattern can create a powerful focal point.
  • Perspective Progression When composing wide-angle landscape images, a pattern or set of repeating objects or shapes can make a compelling foreground that helps move the viewer’s eye up and through the image in a dynamic way. I call this compositional tool perspective progression and it can be every bit as effective as leading lines or power shapes in creating visual movement.

For more help with visual patterns, as well as other photography composition concepts, check out my e-book, Creative Composition. Have fun with visual patterns and repetitions in your photography!

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 


Kelby One Landscape Photography Conference

Kelby One Landscape Photography Conference

Announcements

Kelby One Landscape Photography Conference

Join me and other top photography pros for an exciting two-day Live Online Landscape Photography Conference with Kelby One on September 8 and 9, 2020. This in-depth training will focus specifically on you and your landscape photography! This digital conference will teach the techniques, tricks, and secrets that you need to know to get flawless landscapes images everytime!

If you would like to be a part of this exciting and educational LIVE event, you can Register Here.

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 


6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

General How-To

6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

Photography Tips For Beginners

When I was first starting out in photography – I mean the very beginning when I wasn’t even sure which end of the camera to look through – it was difficult to find information about learning photography. It was difficult to get good information, I should say. And now, while there are photographers all over the Internet willing to teach you how to take photos in different places and media, there is very little in the way of just good, solid advice for those who know next to nothing. So after some thoughtful consideration, here are my top 6 photography tips for beginners. 

#1 No Camera, No Problem

If you’re just starting out in photography, it’s obviously useful to own a working camera with which to practice, especially one with manual control over exposure. But given the cost of even an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera these days, you can still get started with even the most basic of tools – your phone, for instance – while you save up for sometime with more control and options.

You can effectively use your phone to help in learning composition and image frames (what to include and exclude from the photo) to get a head start with one skill that even many advanced photographers struggle with. Ideally you would have a real camera with more control over the final image but in reality, a smartphone camera is better than no camera at all.

#2 Invest in Good Glass

When you do get to the point where you’re ready to invest some money in photo equipment, please take the following advice. Invest in good glass (hipster photography lingo for “lenses”) and less in the camera itself. You should almost treat digital cameras as disposable. Just as a car has a limited number of miles in it before it gives up the ghost, so does a camera with regard to the number shutter actuations before it dies. Also, the sensor technology in your brand-new digital camera will be obsolete in a couple of years. Lenses, however, can last a lifetime, as long as they are maintained properly and your camera manufacturer doesn’t change the lens mount. Bottom line, if your funds are limited, the better investment is in lenses, not cameras.

#3 Your Photos Will Suck

The French documentary and street photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson mused that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. This is true of photography and most other things you try to learn as well. Your first 10,000 steps as a toddler were probably your most wobbly and unsteady too. Yes, your photos will suck at first and that’s ok. In fact, they might not be very good for many years. The important thing to remember is that you’re striving for improvement, not perfection. Improvement, not perfection. One day you’ll look back on the photos you took during your first year and find them absolutely revolting. And that will be the best feeling because you will know you made improvements along the way.

#4 Follow Your Passion

Ask yourself this question. What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning or the last thing that crosses your mind as you drift off asleep at night? I guess you can say this is a rhetorical question since what I really want is for you to realize is what makes you tick. What are your passions? If they are flowers, then photograph flowers. Wildlife? Photograph wildlife. Cars, beaches, people, pets? Find out what your passions are and train your lens on those things. I would advise against investing too much time on subjects that you are ambivalent about. What a waste! Share your passions! I talk more about this in my recent Twitter AMA.

#5 Experiment and Have Fun

Learn and absorb all you can about photography from books, classes, blogs, online tutorials, and social media. Learn, learn, and learn some more. But in addition to all that learning, make sure you make time to have fun too. Play with your camera. Choose the wrong lens purposefully just to see what you can make of the photo opportunity. Play with different settings and filters so you develop an intuitive understanding of how your camera works and what photography is all about. Your formal learning will be even more powerful when coupled with and intuitive feel for photography.

#6 Take Care Of Your Health

Take good care of your health. Eat well, sleep well, and take care of your body by exercising it regularly. Meditate if you are into that sort of thing. I sure am. If you’re not healthy, it will be difficult to be productive or to have any fun. If you’re not mobile, you will miss shots and opportunities which is frustrating. If you’re tired and exhausted all the time, it’s nearly impossible to be creative. Take that one to the bank.

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe.