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I love living in Southern California, but I definitely miss being able to walk out the door and take photos of fall foliage like I was able to do during my days living in upstate New York.
The explosion of colors this time of year is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful sights in nature, and it's a favorite target of mine with my camera.
That got me thinking - what's the best way to photograph fall foliage?
In this quick-start guide, I offer up a handful of easy tips that will help you get jaw-dropping fall color photography.
Shoot Towards the Sun
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Shooting towards the sun during autumn means that you can backlight all the gorgeously colored leaves.
The leaves are translucent this time of year, so the light will filter nicely through the yellow, red, and orange leaves. That means that your photos will have a smorgasbord of color to delight the viewer's eyes.
When shooting towards the sun, the contrast in the scene might be a little overwhelming at first. But the tradeoff is that you get intensely vibrant colors that pop in the photograph.
Just take care to prevent lens flare, either by using a lens hood or blocking the sun from your lens with your hand.
Use a Large Aperture to Narrow the Depth of Field
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Typically, I'd recommend narrowing the aperture to get a deeper depth of field for a landscape shot.
However, when photographing foliage, using larger apertures to narrow the depth of field helps you (and the viewer) zero in on the beautiful details of the foliage.
What's more, it helps you create more interesting compositions that take on an almost abstract vibe, with intense colors that are nicely blurred in the background.
The mood of the shot changes with a shallow depth of field as well - the scene becomes more contemplative and quiet.
Use a Polarizing Filter
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Hands down, the best thing you can do for your fall color photography is have a good polarizing filter on your lens.
That's because polarizers boost the contrast in the sky, making the blue tones of the atmosphere deeper while simultaneously making the white clouds pop.
Additionally, polarizing filters help reduce glare off of water, which is a good thing because incorporating reflections (discussed below) is a must-have tip for fall foliage photography.
These filters also reduce glare off of wet foliage while also boosting the color of the leaves. What's not to like about that?
I've used Marumi polarizing filters on many occasions, and have been impressed not only with the build quality of these filters but also their performance.
Typically, you have to pay a pretty penny to get the best performance with filters, but Marumi has managed to manufacture polarizers that give you the results you want without busting your budget.
Marumi's excellent Super DHG Circular Polarizer has an ultra-thin mount, so you don't have to worry about the lens mount making an appearance in your shot.
Additionally, these filters have a light transmission rating of 99.5% so all the beautiful color and contrast in the scene shines through in your photos.
With a superior multi-coating, these polarizers are incredibly durable, scratch-resistant, and easy to clean, too.
Marumi polarizing filters are available in a host of sizes, from 37mm to 95mm, so no matter the size of your lens, chances are that Marumi has a polarizer for you.
And with prices starting at just $53.95, you get a high-performance filter for a budget price!
It's important to note that the best time to use a polarizer is in the middle of the day when the sunlight is most intense.
That sunlight creates more contrast in the scene to make the colors pop even more when using a polarizer.
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The colors of the fall are so beautiful that you might as well double your pleasure by finding water for some gorgeous reflections.
Whether it's a creek or stream, a pond or a lake, water will amplify the colors you see, making for a much more eye-catching photograph.
Additionally, the water will reflect what's happening in the sky, too. The combination of orange, red, and yellow leaves with a deep blue sky with white clouds is tough to beat!
Utilize both wide-angle and longer lenses, that way you can snap photos that have a great deal of foreground in them as well as isolate a smaller scene of foliage and their reflection.
Create Intimate Scenes With a Long Lens
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Autumn is the perfect time to break out your telephoto lens.
Using a longer focal length allows you to really get in close and highlight the different textures, shapes, and patterns created by fall foliage. Naturally, it also helps you highlight the color of the foliage as well!
Landscapes can be a little overwhelming from a visual standpoint, and narrowing things down with a telephoto lens can reduce the chaos and leave you with a simple, yet highly engaging composition.
When using a longer lens, look for intense contrast - the bright pop of fall foliage against a dark tree trunk, for example.
Using a long lens also necessitates the use of a good, solid tripod to stabilize the heavy lens. Using a camera remote as well, that way you eliminate the possibility of camera shake.