A Few Tips for Leaf-Falling Photography

The leaf-falling part of autumn is here and will soon be gone (honestly, some trees go from bright green to bare in 48 hours while others take a month to lose their leaves) which means that if you were wanting to capture the “changing of the colors” with your camera, you really need to get out and get it done soon before all the trees are bare and you’re getting ready to break out your snow shovel and put up your rake. Still, there are a few things you should consider before you start snapping photos willy-nilly.

1) Beware of the sky. Autumn is a funny season in a lot of places. It can be clear and sunny with bright blue skies one hour and then grey and dreary the next. If you’re going out to get some fall color photography done, make certain you take a camera that does well in a very wide range of lighting settings and has fairly good white balancing.

2) Panoramic shots can be great…if you don’t lose the forest for the trees. During the summer months, it’s pretty much a given that a tree is going to look like any other tree. Yes, yes, you can tell the difference between a maple and a pine. But, other than that, leaves will be green during the summer whether they’re leaves on a willow, oak, or birch tree. In the fall, however, every tree acts differently. Some will have their leaves turn yellow. Some will have their leaves turn red. Some will have their leaves turn orange. So, make certain that you can see the leaves of the trees and not just the trunks.

3) Don’t mess with the wildlife. Autumn is the time of year that many species start stockpiling food to help them survive the winter months. Some animals will be gorging themselves to get ready for the long months of hibernation. Yes, it might bother you to watch one animal eat another. But don’t get involved. Let Nature take care of this for you. And don’t start feeding wild animals either. Doing so will get them desensitized to people and could lead to future travelers being attacked.

4) Leaf piles, children, and dogs = awesome. Yes, it might mean that you’re going to be raking the yard twice or more but if you can get some nice-sized leaf piles built up (and especially if your lawn is still mostly green this time of year), you just need to sit back and wait for your children (or the children in the neighborhood) to discover your leaf piles. Kids do seem to have some kind of mystical sixth sense about these things so you may not be waiting long. Sit back and let them have fun undoing your hard yard work while you get some great action shots.

5) Seriously, don’t mess with the wildlife. Not only is it a bad idea to get between a bear and his dinner, you will still need to be careful of plants that are noted for being somewhat nefarious. Leaves of three? Leave it be. Unless, of course, you like wearing calamine lotion and itching for a week (or more). And, if you’re going out camping, please take a few moments to ensure that you’re not about to throw poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac on the fire. Trust me, that’s one ER trip that you don’t want to be part of.

6) Halloween decorations are great photography chances as well. This is the one time of year when it’s acceptable to take long hayrides, to wander through hay mazes, and to have spooky things up and all over your yard and house. The rest of the year, if you do this, people think you’re strange. So, take advantage of it while you can. Get lots of photos of Halloween decorations. Enjoy photographs around a bonfire after a hayride. Get lost all day in a maze in a cornfield. Just take your camera and lenses with you to get any memorable shots!

7) Really, don’t interfere with the animals. Seriously. If we need to go through this again, maybe outdoor photography is too dangerous for you and you should take up sewing instead.

— da Bird