Sensory Overload – The Old Fart Photographer

September 20, 2016

Simple Tricks for Taking Gorgeous Fall Pictures

Cottonwood Lake, Colorado

Cottonwood Lake, Colorado

It had been a long day of taking pictures. My friend, Gary, and I had been on the road since 3:00 am. It was fall in the Rockies and we planned to reach the top of Cottonwood Pass by sunrise, and now it was towards sunset. We had traveled to Tincup’s old cemetery, spent time taking pictures at a couple of Beaver ponds, and enjoyed an amazing vista at the top of Cumberland Pass. We had one more stop before we lost the light of sun. Before heading in to Buena Vista, we stopped at Cottonwood Lake.

My senses were not prepared for what I saw. At the end of Cottonwood Lake were aspen at their colorful peak. Not only were their leaves yellow and green, but many of them were pink. As I walked among the trees I was shouting, “I’m on sensory overload.” Now, understand that I was feeling a bit sleep deprived by this time and I’m sure that Gary would have appreciated a little peace and quiet, but it was truly an amazing spectacle.

I was able to capture a few good pics, but I wasn’t thinking straight. I was so caught up in the beauty that I didn’t slow down and think before I pressed the shutter button. Here are a few tips for you so that you don’t make the same mistake this fall.

  1. BREATHE: Take a few deep breaths before you start taking pictures. Sit back and look over the entire scene. Enjoy the beauty of God’s canvas before you start thinking about composition and camera settings. Walk among the trees looking up and down, and notice what the light is doing as it passes through the leaves. Burn a picture of this scene on your brain before you open your shutter to capture this parade of pigments. You might come home with fewer pictures, but ones with which you are satisfied.
  2. Tincup Cemetery, Tincup, Colorado

    Tincup Cemetery, Tincup, Colorado

    SPEND TIME THINKING ABOUT COMPOSITION: An important question to ask yourself when taking pictures of the fall colors is, what’s my subject? As a friend reminded me, the dominant feature of fall is color, but color itself is probably not your subject. You’ve probably done the same thing that I have. You’ve taken a picture of some beautiful leaves thinking that you’ve got this amazing shot which would make for a masterpiece above your mantel. However, your picture isn’t interesting. It’s just color. Again, ask yourself, what’s my subject?  Think about leading lines to draw the viewer deeper into your picture. Notice what’s in the background. What needs to be included and excluded from your picture?

  3. IT’S ALL ABOUT LIGHT: Backlight the leaves if you want to make them pop.  Backlight is when the sun is in front of you and passes through the leaves. Notice how the light and shadows fall on the leaves. You might even capture the sun as a starburst through the trees. To do this, stop your camera down to a small aperture (f/18, f/22) and slightly under expose your picture.
  4. Lutheran Valley Ranch, Colorado

    Lutheran Valley Ranch, Colorado

    GET ON YOUR BELLY: The light passing through the leaves creates a pleasingly warm light on the ground. The plants and fallen leaves make for an interesting picture, especially if the light is spotted on a few plants and not on others. And don’t forget about macro photography as newly fallen leaves carpet the ground. These contrasting colors, along with both light and moisture, can make a spectacular photo.

  5. BE CREATIVE: Let your personality come through in your pictures. Three people can take pictures of the same scene, yet each picture will be strikingly different from the others. Why? Because, like the leaves, each person behind the camera is a uniquely crafted masterpiece of God. Nobody sees the world like you do. Let your God-given personality shine through.

These five points are not an exhaustive list. Look for other blogs by other photographers to help you go deeper into capturing these amazing fall scenes. Most of all have fun. That’s what photography is all about.

Text and Pictures Copyright Douglas P Brauner

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