Tip 2: Capture Color Combinations
Aspens, Acadia National Park, Maine
Handheld Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 17– 40mm f/4L Canon EF lens; 1/160 sec at f/16, ISO 400.
Everyone loves bold autumn color juxtaposed with a brilliant blue sky. Frame the most vibrant sunlit reds and yellows against the sky to create the strongest color scheme; including a few puffy, white clouds can’t hurt, either.
For the photo above, I pointed my wide-angle lens up for this dizzying view of aspen trees. The sun was included for compositional interest, and a small aperture was used to create a sun star.
You can use a polarizing filter to darken skies and increase contrast with clouds. (I did not use a polarizer here, as the camera was at the wrong angle to the sun and, with this wide a lens, the sky would’ve been darkened unevenly.)
Blue sky, though, is not the ideal lighting for other types of scenes. Overcast light often works best for streams and waterfalls, as in the shot below, and a little bit of drizzle can really help to saturate autumn colors. In situations like this, a polarizer, by reducing reflections and cutting through glare, strongly enhances color.
Polarizers also act as neutral-density filters, reducing light without shifting color, which allows me to use a longer shutter speeds.
It’s never been easier to ID the right place and time for peak autumn color. The Weather Channel (www.weather.com/activities/driving/ fallfoliage), Foliage Network (foliage network.com), and other websites let you monitor fall color progression. A number of sites are dedicated to specific areas of the country—do a search for yours. Watch out: Color peaks earlier at higher elevations, and this may not always be reflected in online reports.