Autumn, Glorious Autumn!
My favorite season of the year is autumn. For me, everything seems to slow down a bit. The sun's daily path is now lower in the sky which transforms the harsher light of the summer months into a softer more pleasing light that seems to evoke a more relaxing feeling. I also appreciate the fact that the days are now shorter which helps make photographing at both ends of the day a little more tolerable. The life of a nature and landscape photographer can be exhausting!
The one aspect of autumn that I cherish the most is the changing of the leaves colors from the dazzling greens of summer to the brilliant yellows, reds and oranges of autumn. The process itself is quite amazing, but the beautiful displays of color can be drop dead gorgeous!
The Eastern Sierra is my go to destination and I start preparing (and getting excited) about six weeks from my intended first exploration of the season.
Autumn in the Eastern Sierra is such a magical time of year. Each year is different (I found this year to be especially surprising because there seemed to be a lot of color change happening in some of the lower elevations ahead of some of the higher elevations that usually change first.) Every autumn day is different from the previous. In fact, if you spent enough time working one small area (or one aspen grove) you would see dramatic changes to the scene as the sun's position changed throughout the day! Another way to change the whole look and feel of a scene is to change "your" position in relationship to that of the sun. If you view trees with the sun directly behind you (the sun illuminating the front of the trees) the trees will look all washed out with flat coloring. But, if you reposition yourself with the sun now illuminating the trees from behind the trees themselves or even from the side you will now see vivid brilliant colors and wonderful pops of light!
Below are some samples and tips from some of my past autumn explorations. Enjoy!
Backlight and Sidelight
Here the sun had just crested a tall ridge in the background and was illuminating the trees from behind and slightly to the side.
Tip: Look for natural frames.
Here I used some nice looking tree trunks to create a natural frame.
Bishop Creek Autumn Vertical
Tip: Use filters.
Here I used a combination of two filters. A polarizing filter to 1) eliminate the glare from the surface of the water, and 2) expose the creek bottom. It also slowed my exposure by two stops and when coupled with a six stop neutral density filter I was able to use a 15 second exposure to create some nice silky water.
Tip: Add foreground interest.
In this composition I choose to put the large pine on the right edge as well as include the rock outcropping . I think this adds some additional interest, texture and a greater sense of depth.
Tip: Get In Close.
There was a few inches of fresh snow on the ground and still clinging to the branches, stumps and rocks. When I stumbled on to this little nugget I quickly switched to my macro lens and went to work. I really like all the details here.
Gull Lake Boat Dock
If you have a good sky use it!
If you don't have a sky that you like, don't include it.
Tip: Make both vertical and horizontal compositions.
Notice the completely different look and feel of basically the same exact scene!
Aspens and Deer
Be Prepared (to take advantage of everything possible)
This was a thrill that I will never forget! I wrote a blog about this event. You can find it here.
Autumn is NOT just about beautiful changing leaves. Be open minded and flexible. Slow yourself down. Venture out at different times of day. Visit new places, but also visit old favorites. Embrace the magic of autumn and you will be rewarded!