Archive for November, 2009

Fall Color Report




In today’s post I plan to cover the essential gear you need in your camera bag when you head out into the woods to catch the colors at their peak and hope to mix it up with some shots and maybe a little story too, but I’ll come to that later – eventually.

This year, fall did something weird with us. At first glance, I was pretty sure we skipped it completely to head straight into the cold and snowy winter which is certainly one of the most interesting and challenging seasons for us nature and landscape photographers. Not only the snow and freezing temperatures make hiking more exhausting than it is already during the rest of the year, it also needs another kind of vision because the areas you know might look totally different under a 4 or 6 feet snow cover. However, the first day of fall was here and I found myself surrounded with the first two feet snow of the year and I knew the most scenic area would be the 4000ft. peak of the Fichtelberg where winter was already in full force. (Pictures to follow in another post.) Back in my neck of the woods, the snow was already melting and to everyone’s surprise most of the leaves in the lower lying areas where still on the trees. The next weekend I packed my gear for a three hour tour in some local forests.

The first image for today was taken on a steep slope where the forest is more open than in most parts in the area. The warm afternoon sun was blasting through the tree tops of spruces, birches and a few pines which are a really rare treat to the eye. I used a small aperture to allow a longer exposure to give the foliage a somewhat abstract look while the wind was blowing through. Click on the image for the full view.

Golden Autumn

Canon Rebel XSi with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 11mm, 2sec, f/22.

Essential for this particular image was a circular polarizer and a 3-stop soft-edge gradual neutral density filter to balance the bright sky and light hitting the upper leaves and the relatively dark foreground.

I especially find the circular polarizer extremely helpful for fall foliage images. Not only does the CPL remove reflections from the water surface and allows you to see to the bottom of a stream, it also cuts through haze and mist, which you often find in fall and it removes the glare from the foliage which will otherwise make it look dull and without the punch required to make an image really work and leave an impression on the viewer.

Without a doubt, a set of gradual neutral density filters can also be of a great help for any scene where you encounter a bright background and a relatively dark foreground. In order to achieve a balanced and well exposed photograph, you basically rely on them if you do not plan to spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. For beginners a set of a 2-stop hard-edge and a 3-stop soft-edge should handle most scenes quite well. I’ll cover the idea behind neutral density filters in a future post more extensively. If you have any questions though, please feel free to leave a comment with your question.

The next image is called “Dead Warriors” since those old spruces lined up there in such a dense manner, it seemed impossible to break through the defensive line to the magical place that lies behind. Or it might just have been more of the impassible thicket. I did not put to much thought into that and wandered on. Click on the image for full view.

Dead Warriors

Canon Rebel XSi with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 16mm, 0.6sec, f/11.

Last for today is a little cascading waterfall which I shot already the year before but the spring flooding changed the layout quite a bit and it was rather hard to find a good composition. A little upstream I saw these bright colored leaves swirling around a little pool and set up tripod. A 20-second exposure was needed to ensure a proper exposed and lit scene. Click on the image for full view.

Tumbling Leaves

Canon Rebel XSi with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 11mm, 20sec, f/8.

I’ll be off to a nice little stream tomorrow to catch the remaining color in the trees before the winter really kicks in. Stay tuned for part two of the report.