Fall Photography

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Alger County, Michigan
Birch and maple leaves light up a northern Michigan forest.

As peak color reaches southern Michigan I thought now would be a good time for a few fall color photos and tips. This time of year is always challenging for photographers and just like spring wildflowers, it’s fleeting. Color can come on so slow that one wonders if it will ever happen and then seemingly overnight the landscape is transformed. Rain and wind can end this show quickly so it’s best to act quickly. Years of observing the progression of color and best compositions in the areas you work in will help you use your time wisely. As always, I use a tripod and remote release to ensure razor sharp results. A polarizing filter is useful in eliminating glare on shiny leaves and adding contrast to skies.

Union Bay, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan
The Lake Superior shoreline at Porcupine Mountains State Park, Michigan.

Most folks love a sunny October day but, as beautiful as it is, the light on those days makes photography difficult. Except for the first and last couple hours of daylight, clear days are full of unwanted harsh highlights and blocked up shadows. Our cameras’ sensors just can’t record the range of tones that our eyes can. One benefit of clear, cool weather is fog in the mornings. If not too heavy, this can add a lot of mood, depth and mystery to your images. Overall, I prefer overcast days for my fall color photography. I can shoot all day, the colors are more saturated, and I can avoid bright hot spots and black shadows. Add a little rain and colors become even more intense as fallen leaves soak up the moisture and water stains the tree trunks and branches. On these days I usually avoid including the sky in my compositions unless there are dramatic dark clouds.

Sumac in flames along the roadside.

Small apertures for greater depth-of-field are most often used in this sort of photography. That means slow shutter speeds and it also means that the wind can make it tough to get sharp images. This is a great excuse for standing around doing nothing for long periods of time as you wait for a lull. What to do when the wind just won’t stop? There’s always something interesting to photograph. It’s just a matter of using your imagination and getting better at finding opportunities. On windy days the forest floor, streams and shorelines offer infinite possibilities.

An aspen leaf on lichen covered Lake Superior stones.

Autumn reflection, Lake County, Ohio
Reflections on an Ohio pond.

Getting off the beaten path and away from where everyone records the same vistas can be rewarding. I love to explore new areas and make images that convey my awe for the stunning show that fall provides.

Lake of the Clouds new
Lake of the Clouds

Get out there before it’s all over!


~ by David Stimac on October 16, 2013.

2 Responses to “Fall Photography”

  1. Beautiful….makes me really want to love fall….almost! LOL Seriously, your ability to catch on film what your imagination sees, well, it never ceases to amaze me!

  2. Lovely David! Every season brings a new horizon of exploration and color!

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