The Art of Fall-ing With Your Camera
Fall is a beautiful time of year, but it's not that easy to capture an image that does justice to an entire season.
If you live in a part of the country that features annual displays of fall foliage that cover hillsides as far as the eye can see, consider yourself fortunate. Through the sheer weight of numbers and profusion of colors, you could likely point your camera almost anywhere and capture a feeling of fall. Find a subject worth shooting, and there's probably color all around.
But if, like most of us, you have to work at seeking out the reds, oranges, and yellows of the season, photographing fall can be a tad challenging. When you find a good composition, it often isn't that colorful. When you find a patch of color, there's likely nothing more than that to build a compelling image around. It can be challenging to find a suitable subject and good color at the same time.
Standing at a location, we may only see what is in front of us, but we're also aware of what surrounds us to a reasonable degree. This time of year, there's often an unmistakable feeling of fall. The cold and damp seeps into our bones. The wind rustling through the trees, and the resultant display of falling leaves creates a familiar mood. Even when not looking directly at the evidence of the season, you know it's there, and it influences your perceptions.
Understanding of how the camera sees is critical when trying to portray a feeling and point of view. With a camera, what's inside the frame matters; what lies outside the frame doesn't. You may know you're standing right next to a litter bin or picnic table. But if the camera can't see it, neither will your viewers. All they will be able to see is what you show them, either by choice or by lack thereof. It's from this alone that they will form their perceptions.
When you're trying to shoot a compelling image of fall color, but there's only a smattering of autumnal splendor to be found, fear not. In many cases, all you need is a smattering. The art of fall photography is in the telling. With careful framing and composition, you can do a lot with just a little.
A mountain stream may look relatively similar year-round, but when shot with a wide-angle lens close-up with some foreground rocks scattered in colored leaves creates a strong message, even if those are the only such leaves for miles around. Bonus points if the whole scene is still wet from an early morning sprinkle. Granted, having more to work certainly would be nice. But with some attention to detail and a dash of creativity, it may still be possible to take the picture you imagined in your mind's eye.
In spring, I sometimes find myself scouring a hillside for the wildflower patch of my dreams. In the fall, I do likewise searching for autumn color. Half the fun is undoubtedly in the quest and the discovery. But the other half is in exploring what I can do with what I find. Shooting position, perspective, focal length, and more are just as important as simply being in the right place at the right time.
Photography isn't just about taking pictures of things. It's about the way those pictures are taken. The art of fall photography isn't just about looking for colored leaves and taking their picture. It's about the way those colorful pictures are taken.