If there’s a season entailing a story to tell, it is undoubtedly autumn, a moment of passage when transformation and contrasts are protagonists. Nature begins its slow sleep while gathering its energies until next spring,sun and rain alternate, menacing clouds clash with the warm and vivid colours of leaves. For those who are passionate about photography, Autumn is surely stimulating and offers many different and evocative situations: the reddish forests, the fog in the countryside or along the banks of a river flowing through the city, the golden light at sunset, the yellow-red colour of the fallen leaves on the pavement and of the trees which stand out the grey of buildings. Each in its own way is a wonderful challenge because capturing the atmosphere of autumn is not easy, unlike what most people think, as you need to pay attention to many elements while shooting, both in town or immersed in nature.
First of all we need to bring with us all equipment so to be ready to deal with very different subjects and situations: wide angle and macro lenses, tripod, spare batteries, filters (a polarizing filter for example will allow us to take even more vivid and contrasting pictures) and also accessories for our smartphone, should we want to take a break from the camera without stopping experimenting or simply to share our shots online in real time.
It is also very important to bring suitable gear to protect our equipment in case of rain: in this season the weather can change very fast so it is better to get a waterproof backpack cover.
Once everything is well-organized, we are ready to go shooting for the best autumn picture.
The best times to shoot in Autumn (but this applies to all outdoor photography) are two: dawn and sunset – the famous “golden hour”, the moments of the day when colours are highlighted from the warm dominant of the light which comes from a low angle. A consideration to keep in mind, that I learned from my experience, is that as much the sun gets close to the horizon the light decreases in advance compared to the exact sunset time.
In this case, it will be sufficient to get to the chosen destination two hours prior sunset to catch the perfect light: obviously this problem disappears if you are in an open space.
Before starting to shoot, get some time to completely immerse in the place you have chosen, sometimes few minutes might be enough to take a look around, get into the right mood to tell your story and study all the points of view at your disposal. Being autumn, the leaves-level perspective is very interesting: get down, place the camera at ground level and with a shallow depth of field you will get an original and evocative style for the foliage and the whole context.
As mentioned, autumn is made of contrasts which can turn in an interesting creative idea: counterpose the warm colours of the leaves to underexposed backgrounds (or with cold dominant) to enhance the colours even more. Also, remember to vary the subjects and change from wide-angle views with aperture between f/8 and f/16 (to ensure everything is in focus) to macro or closeup shots around f/2.8. Try to gradually approach the subject with different DOF and guide the spectator into the story you are telling.
Don’t be afraid to make it your own scene, get into it, move the elements if you are not satisfied with the picture, try to make different compositions with the leaves: throw them in the air and freeze their fall with a fast shutter speed (in good light conditions at least 1/125s).
You are not doing a photo-reportage so feel free to play with every element to build the story you decided to tell.
Just remember to always pay attention to shutter times: a light breeze and a subtle movement of your tripod are enough to let the branches look blurry and to lose sharpness.
With low light instead, you could master longer exposures and experiment with creative motion, which can generate beautifully unique pictures. I take on Autumn with enthusiasm and creativity.
Always remember that there is no right or wrong and that experimenting or putting ourselves to test with unusual compositions is the only way to learn and improve our skills.