Created by Kenneth Peters Photography
The fall season is one my favorite seasons to shoot landscapes and cityscapes. The primary reason for this is the wonderful color the leaves provide. Being color blind this is a season when I actually can tell the difference between orange and yellow. The second reason I prefer this season is the wonderful light that is available in the dawn and twilight hours. As the sun dips further in the the horizon the sun’s harsh light is transformed into a warming glow which provide great accents and shadows that really make landscapes come alive. So what are some great tips to use when you decide to venture out for a fall shoot. The first thing, as is all photography trips, is to pack the correct equipment.
There are several pieces of necessary equipment in order to make the most of your trip. The obvious and most important piece of equipment is a tripod. Regardless of the time of day all great landscapes require a sturdy footing, in this case a tripod. Make sure your tripod has adjustable legs and leveling tools to make sure you can place it where you need. The next most important part of a landscape shoot is selecting the proper lenses.
The key to a sharp landscape is sharp glass. I prefer, if possible, to use a standard prime lens with a fast aperture. If I do not have a standard prime lens with the focal length my shot requires I will use a wide angle zoom with the lowest aperture. In my bag I usually pick the Canon 50mm f1.4 and the Tamron or Sigma 17-50mm f2.8. Occasionally I will also bring my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8. The picture of downtown Easthampton, MA in the slideshow above was taken with the 70-200mm from atop of Mt. Tom in Western Mass. All of the other pictures in the slideshot were shot with the Canon 50mm f1.4, using my feet as the zoom. Now that you have selected the lenses you need to select the proper filters.
Filters are key to making photos look closure to what the human eye sees. Filters also help eliminate atmospheric conditions that can ruin the photo. Besides my standard UV filter which never leans my camera I also use a circular polarizer filter. This filter helps makes the colors pop as well eliminate the autumn haze we often experience in New England. The second set of filters is to enhance the fall colors and provide a deep contrast between the tree, leaves, and the sky. I personally use a Corin P filter setup where I can interchange graduated filters like red, blue, orange, and yellow depending on the landscape. I also usually pack a neutral density (ND) 4 or 8 if I find myself near water and want to create the ghosting effect. These filters and the other equipment is the most important part of your fall shoot. you never want to be caught on a shoot and say “I wish I had X”. Prepare, scope your spots, look at the lighting, and then choose your equipment wisely. Now that you have your equipment set, what do you do with it?
Getting the shot can be most the frustrating part of the journey, but one you get it will be all worth it. As stated above scope the areas that you would like to capture, take some time and review all of the aspects. It is important to look at the shadows, reflections, and direction of light. Once you have selected the proper location and set the camera up you need to get the lighting and white balance. I have found in my various shoots that no matter what, the warmer the white balance the better the fall is captured. I personally use the “cloudy” setting on my Canon DSLR. After the WB is set I select the proper exposure metering. Due to the mixed lighting of the scene I will choose the evaluative or matrix metering. Rarely do I choose spot metering. Next it is important to choose the right aperture for your typical landscape or shutter speed if you are looking for more of a ghosting landscape. I usually use the AV setting my Canon DSLR and set the aperture to 16 or higher. It is important when you are using a 16 or higher aperture that everything stays still, so try not to select a day or a spot where there is much wind. Using the AV mode will allow the camera to pick the proper shutter speed. This is great but there is one more tip that I suggest and it really helps when you are in post editing. I personally under expose my fall shots by EV -2/3. This not a huge amount but it will help you adjust the shows more when you are editing the photo later. All that is left is to snap the picture.
The last step of the process is editing. Editing is always a personal preference so play around with the picture. Use the curves and levels to adjust each color. You can also add drama by saturating colors like red, orange, and yellow and desaturating colors like blue, purple, and magenta. Lastly you can warming tones through software like Lightroom, Aperture, or Pixelmator.
If you have any questions feel free to ask. I would me than happy to help you.