Friday, 8 May 2009

It’s Autumn!

One of the most colourful seasons of the year, autumn has many photographers stopping in their tracks to capture it’s beauty.

How is the best way to photograph that vibrancy and beauty in a meaningful way? A way that shows the emotion, the colour yet add your own personal touch.
Here’s a few tips for your autumn photography:
Choosing Your Subject
It’s not all leaves! Yet those leaves do draw our attention, don’t forget autumn also means other things: birds are migrating, if autumn rains have fallen fungi are sprouting, other plants such as cactus and autumn perennials are flowering and what about that fog wafting through the valleys, around the tress and along the creeks early in the morning?
Back to the leaves, which always rank high on our list of ‘must get’ shots. What a palette of colours Mother Nature provides us with and this is where we have to have a little think as each day of autumn presents another array of changing tones. If you’re out early in the season there will still be a lot of green, later the deciduous trees will be almost or completely stark and around their trunks the ground will be carpeted thick with leaves ranging from reds to bronzes, oranges and yellows – a wonderful contrasting yet colourful sight.

Know where to find deciduous plants. Grape vines are deciduous so vineyards can provide us with great subject choices.Try botanical gardens which often have specimen plants from across the globe. Remember not all tree species change their colour at the same time.
Position, Position, Position
Look for the best angle – sometimes this is pretty obvious straight away but look around and take images from not just head-on and eye level. Ask yourself what is the best view point? Is it better from a worms eye view, lower to the ground or higher up? Try lying on the ground – look up, along it or gain more height. There’s nothing actually wrong with carrying a step ladder around in the back of the car, climbing a tree or using the roof rack on your car. Don’t limit your choices. Always remember safety first!
Yep, there’s that word again! We are capturing a tiny slice of our huge world and presenting it in a 2D rectanglar image. Be creative, know the rules, use them and of course know when and how to break them.

Aim for balance, use contrast supplied by nature wisely, bring elements close to the lens, get in close, isolate your subject, try some with angles and look for the tiny details as well as the overall scene.
When to Shoot
We all know the mornings are getting cooler and its much nicer to snuggle in bed but......
Photographers love the ‘Magic Hour’ though here in Australia it’s not really an hour. It’s a tiny slice of time before and just after the sun breaks the horizon on its way up and down each day. This is when we get the golden light where the sun emits a warmer or orange tone and is a softer and more diffused light source.

Check out the grass, now being burned by the falling overnight temperatures – look at its contrast and texture in this light. And what about those leaves? They will glow and shadows can be dramatic and moody. Then there’s that fog drifting through the valleys, along the creeks and around the mountain ridges only available early in the morning.

Just because the clouds gather don’t put the camera away and reach for a book on the couch instead. Overcast days give us lovely even lighting providing an added hand from nature for richer colours and contrast.
How to Shoot
Our rule of thumb is to choose the lowest ISO you can depending on your cameras capabilities. But most cameras can comfortably shoot up to 400 ISOO without too much noise.

Shutter speed you may not think should matter when you are photographing leaves or a tree, however if there is the slightest breeze that leaf/leaves may be blurred if your shutter speed is too slow. Keep an eye on it and if it falls too slow go to 1/250th of a second or higher to freeze that action.
Why not try using the wind to your advantage and painting a picture? Put your camera on a tripod, set a slow shutter speed, use a cable release, or remote or the cameras self timer and expose for a ¼ second or longer depending on the wind. Add to this zooming your lens in and out for an abstract effect. Who said photography was not art?

Trees can be so big! So if you are wanting that whole tree/s sharp you’ll need to use a small aperture and focus to gain maximum benefit of your focusing thirds. If you have a depth of field preview button use it!
Over and under exposing: overexposing can bring out the subtle tones while underexposing gives deeper and richer colours.

Use a polarising filter to enhance those rich colours by increasing the saturation and the wonderful blue skies we have in autumn will be captured beautifully by the polariser decreasing the haze.

Unless you can really capture something unique try not shooting directly into the sun as this will often produce lens flare and decrease saturation. When you do shoot into the sun, make sure you use a lens hood and if you don’t have one use something else: a hand, cap, notebook or anything to shield the lens.
Change the white balance and warm up those shots – we love cloudy or shade and play with your custom settings.

Don’t delete on the shoot. Wait till you get home and have a look at the images on the computer screen. You’ll often see something you may like and could have overlooked while out shooting.

It’s not all over when you finish your shoot. Back up immediately when you get home and then process your images. If you have shot in RAW you need to post process but don’t overdo it.

Have fun – get on out there and capture this wonderful season!
The birds are singing, the trees are turning and it’s time for us
to get those shutters clicking!
(c) 2009
Written by Danielle Lancaster - Bluedog Photography

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