One of the focuses of landscape photography in the autumn is obviously the amazing colors as the world around us transitions from summer to winter. We dream of capturing those amazing, broad landscapes that are exploding with golds, oranges and reds. For some parts of the country, those colors are a matter of pride, and lots of money in tourism dollars. If you live somewhere where you can capture those vast, dramatic landscapes, then most certainly do it. But, don’t limit yourself there.
Capturing color can be accomplished in a variety of ways, in magical golden light of the morning and evening, as well as overcast light. There are several different compositional and technical approaches that provide some diversity in your images as you capture color.
First, think of the elements of design for color as shown on the classic color wheel. Look to combine colors that are on the opposite side of the wheel from each other: blue and gold, red and green.
Second, think about maybe adding some movement to your colors. There are two techniques that I employ: one where the camera is still, the other where the camera is moving. For the first, place your camera on a tripod and compose your image to focus on something that is moving and has color, like leaves on a tree during a breeze. Set your ISO to 100, aperture to f/22 or higher, and exposure to aperture priority. If it is still too bright to get to 1/30 or lower, add a Polarizing filter, which will take away a stop-and-a-half of light. For the other method of creating color, simply hand-hold your camera under the same settings, point at some color, and then move the camera during the exposure or zoom the lens in or out during the exposure.
A third way to capture color is to capture the reflections of color rather than the trees directly. During a recent photo outing to Potter Marsh in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, I photographed such reflections while only including grasses in the image, not the trees creating the color. One of the common misconceptions when composing an image is that you have to include a whole subject in order to capture the subject. Art often allows the viewer to “fill in the blanks,” to insert their own interpretation into the work. Photography is just the same. Another additional element that can be great to include in these reflection compositions is movement, such as a stream or river that has fall colors reflecting on it.
Of course, while creating these compositions, still consider all of the other elements of design that make for a strong photograph: leading lines, S-curves, textures, repeating patterns. Being a good photographer involves always controlling everything, as much as is possible, that is within your viewfinder. The more you learn to see compositions, the better you can become in photographing them.