Saturday, September 12, 2015

How-to: Fall colors photography

Posted By on Sat, Sep 12, 2015 at 7:31 AM

It's that time of the year. Even though it's still warm, the days are shorter and the mornings are just a bit cooler, and and you can see fall colors here and there. But very soon, you'll wake up and come to the realization that Mother Nature flipped a switch and turned the trees from green to gold. Shortly there after, you'll see millions of fall colors pictures on social media, guaranteed.

Every year I see potentially great photos end up just “OK,” and only because of a few minor missteps. I'll give you a few pointers on how to avoid those missteps — to make your photos stand out from the crowd.

1. Get off the road. Sure, there are many great views from the side of the road. But pictures from the shoulder frequently have billboards, streetlights, pavement, and power lines in the frame. People tend to be so focused on the colors that they don't notice the obstructions. Get off the road. You'll only need to go a few feet into the forest to get a clutter free picture most of the time.

click to enlarge Get into the trees for the best shots. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Get into the trees for the best shots.

2. Pay attention the foreground and background — what's in front of and/or behind what you're shooting. A large swath of colorful aspens gets lost if the foreground is a dominated by a whole lot of...nothing. Similarly, if the background  of your photo inclu des a lot of ugly buildings, the trees get lost. Keep it simple

click to enlarge Keep it simple. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Keep it simple.

3. Pay attention to the sky. A plain blue sky, although visually appealing, is boring. The same with a picture dominated by a solid, overcast sky. The most stunning pictures have white, fluffy clouds against a blue sky. If you're going to shoot when there aren't nice fluffy clouds, frame the picture to exclude as much of the sky as possible.

click to enlarge Blue skies with white fluffy clouds  make an outstanding picture. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Blue skies with white fluffy clouds make an outstanding picture.

4. Get up early, or stay out late. The rising or setting sun gives the best light, and it's also less harsh than the mid-day sun. Think about the best landscape pictures you've ever seen; most of them are taken at sunrise or sunset.

5. Get close. The big, wide landscape pictures are nice, but sometimes the more compelling photo is a close-up. Close-ups are usually better shot on days when there is a bit of thin cloud cover, but still pretty bright outside. If you don't cast a distinct, sharp shado w on the ground, it's a good day for close-ups. To do closeups right, however, a tripod is a necessity.

click to enlarge Get in close on those overcast days. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Get in close on those overcast days.

6. Use a digital camera, unless it's for social media. Digital cameras take better pictures than cell phones, especially if you're planning on making large prints. But for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., cell phones are great. Want to make you cell phone pics even better? Check out the SnapSeed and Aviary apps. Both are available for Android and iPhone users, free and can really transform a picture. Don't overdo it, however. You want nice, not fake.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website ( E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob:

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