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Photographing Fall Colors

Foliage Photography Tips from Pro Photographer Dale Stevens

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Fall Trees Photograph

Don't forget your camera--you'll want to capture photographs of New England's fall splendor.

© 1998 Kim Knox Beckius
Shutters will be firing like machine guns over the next several weeks as fall visitors to New England endeavor to snap precious photographs that capture the colors of foliage ablaze. I asked professional photographer Dale Stevens, owner of Maine-ly Photos Scenic Photo Tours, to provide some helpful tips on preserving fall's finest colors in photographs. Here are his answers to some common questions about photographing fall foliage.

Also... Submit your fall foliage photos for possible online publication in the Fall Picture Gallery.

Hope you shoot some awesome photos!

Q: Is there a special filter that can be used to intensify or highlight fall colors when photographing foliage?

There is no filter that I know of that will help in every situation. However, a polarizing filter (compare prices) will help when you are at 90 degrees to the sun. The other thing that will help to give more brilliant colors would be to shoot the photos after a rain. The air is clear, the leaves are clean, and the colors will be more vibrant.

Q: What is the best time of day to shoot fall foliage photos?

Morning is better because the air is always cleaner, and there is less dust, smog, etc. Or, after a rain as previously mentioned.

Q: Do you have any particular places in Maine to recommend that are great to photograph in the fall?

I don’t have any one particular place that is best, but, I would say go to the more hilly country like northern Maine, western Maine (around Sunday River), Aroostook County or Vermont. Those big rolling hills allow you to see for miles. Scenes like this will give you colors that just cannot be imagined--you must witness them first hand. Visit the small towns and the backroads; these are always better than the highways and interstates.

Q: If I want to photograph raindrops on a leaf what settings should I use?

The lens settings are probably not as important as the lens you use. You would take the photo the same way you would take any other photo whether you meter in the manual mode or use a program mode or some variation of both. The exposure part of it is as easy as the automatic settings of your camera. You must, however, be careful that there is not a whole lot of light being reflected off the water. This may fool your metering system. For this reason and others, you should try to take this picture with the light diffused either through the trees or with some slight cloud cover.

The most important part of taking this photo, though, is using the proper lens. You should use a good macro type lens or close-up filters. The former can get expensive if you're on a budget, and the latter will work for much less money. I prefer using the macro lens personally because of the nice clear picture quality.

Q: Do you have any general tips for photographing landscapes?

When photographing landscapes, whether in autumn or any other time of the year, it is always good to use some of the Rules of Composition. For example, place an overhanging branch or bough from a nearby tree in the sky to hide plain sky. This also gives the photo some depth so the viewer will have more of a feeling of being there.

You can also use a road, or fence or a brook in the foreground to lead the viewer's eye into the picture.

This is known as a lead-in line. If you can imagine, try to have one of these being closer to you and trailing off toward the "real" scene, whether that is a mountain or a farm house or anything else.

Next Page: More Fall Photography Tips

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