Photographing Autumn Color

Hints

It’s late September, and here on the coast of Maine I have already seen a few trees starting to show their autumn colors. Fall is my favorite season, I love shooting this time of year. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you are photographing fall foliage.

Check on-line foliage reports to find the best autumn colors in the area you’ll be shooting.

Shoot early in the morning and late in the day for warm light, avoiding contrasty mid-day lighting. If the day is overcast, you can shoot all day! Blue skies are beautiful, but cloudy days will saturate those gorgeous colors. Just don’t include that white sky in your composition, fill the frame with color.

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I like early morning shooting best, morning mist can add wonderful mood and dew on the leaves is great for macro work. Bring your polarizer along to eliminate any glare on the leaves and boost color.

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As with all of your photos, watch for distractions that do not add to the scene. Look carefully around the frame before you click that shutter. As my students frequently hear me say, “If it doesn’t add, it needs to go.” Eliminate anything that doesn’t add to the story you want to tell with your photo.

Shoot from wide to macro, work your subjects!

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Look up for backlit leaves….

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Look down for reflected colors in streams, ponds, puddles and on any reflective surface.

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I shot this one on the hood of a car!

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Don’t be afraid to make your own scenes. Adding that one perfect autumn leaf to a composition can add a wonderful focal point.

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If it’s windy, embrace that wind and shoot with a long shutter for a more abstract look.

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Moving water with a long shutter speed creates an interesting look as well.

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If it’s not windy, you can play with camera movement instead. Pan, zoom, swirl and twirl, move that camera with a long shutter, it’s fun!

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Happy shooting!

– Kathleen Clemons – Instructor at BPSOP

Kathleen Teaches:

Fine Art Nature Photography

Fine Art Nature Photography II

Fine Art Nature Photography III

Capturing the Beauty of Flowers

Lensbaby Magic

Photographing Mud

 There is so much in nature to photograph! National Parks, wild areas, and even our own backyards! We have an infinite amount of subjects to capture and in amazing ways.

 

But it is not necessarily where we photograph as it is what we photograph that makes for a pleasing image which results in images that please us. These might be subjects we discover or others we pursue that are subjects close to out hearts. And one of my favorites can be found just about anywhere.

 

I am here to admit: I love mud! And I love photographing it. Cracked mud in particular!

 

Everywhere I go, if I see mud, and especially cracked mud, I immediately stop and look for a place with NO mud to set down my camera pack and get to work.
Let’s face it; mud is all around us!  From alpine settings to a rain forest, a drought stricken desert or a city park, there is a good chance there is mud of some sort. All mud is not the same either since it depends on the makeup of the content. I have seen red mud, green mud, brown mud, and probably more colors as I have wandered around the Southwest.
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I usually don’t set out in search of mud rather I discover it while wandering around with the camera in search of more ‘traditionally beautiful’ subjects.

 

Now, as we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And as a ‘beholder’ myself, I am here to tell you mud is beautiful.  If you don’t agree, then why do some woman smear it on their face to make themselves BEAUTIFUL? Why do some craft beautiful pottery from mud? ,In many communities you can find a jacked-up 4×4 vehicle caked in mud and usually, although not always, operated by a young testosterone driven male strutting around like it’s a badge of honor and swearing to never wash it. In a few cases however, the vehicles do look better caked in mud than without.  Like flowers in bloom, free flowing rivers, and wandering wildlife, mud has a place in nature. Much of the rock formations we walk across may have been mud in some form. We use it for beauty products, smooth it across sheetrock, and slap it on some stucco homes.  So why not photograph it?
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Mud can tell a story like these grizzly tracks along a muddy river bank. Fortunately, photographing mud does not require a ton of equipment or any sophisticated techniques.  All you need is this:
1 – A camera and lens
2 – A tripod is useful but not mandatory
3 – Solid boots on your feet in case, god forbid, you stepped in the stuff
4 – A plastic garbage bag so you have something to lay your camera bag on (or yourself). This can act as a rain cover in emergencies.
The Art, Like any subject, you want to compose your image to create interest with the shapes and lines of the mud.
Fortunately, mud is often a one dimensional subject easily photographed looking straight down so composing the image might be a matter of simply rotating the camera left and right.
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When setting up shots like this, you can use a moderate aperture like f/8 and hand hold the camera provided you have the light that provides a fast shutter speed. I find these ideal shooting conditions for mud since I try to avoid using my tripod and…well, getting mud on the legs.
On occasion you need to get down to a lower angle to emphasize the mud in a near-far wide angle composition. This is one reason I prefer cracked mud: it’s often dry and you don’t run the risk of getting muddy.  Either way, the low angle often presents a better angle for a strong image.
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If you struggle with the idea of finding any beauty whatsoever in photographing mud, feel free to create the fake shot of a fall color leaf lying in the mud, a simple step to beautify what you might consider; ugly mud. If there are no beautiful fall leaves available, then take it further and add one in Photoshop like I did here.
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On the other hand if you find mud as exciting and appealing as I do, consider a rafting trip like the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon where you will find some wonderful mud pits that you can jump right into. You can wallow all day if you wish, but be advised: doing so will suck every ounce of moisture from your skin so you will want lotion and a lot of water to drink.
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Photographing mud is nature photography and even though it is less ‘beautiful’ than other nature subjects, it has its own unique beauty. So go forth with your camera and new vigor and capture some great mud images, but be sure and avoid…getting muddy.

– Charlie Borland / BPSOP Instructor

Charlie is teaching:

Show Up…Have Your Camera 

 

Frequently when I travel I find that I bounce back and forth between planning out every day and every moment to try and ensure that I get some great photos, or allowing things to be very fluid and even random in order to get that “great shot”. It’s a unique challenge to try and be sure that I get to see and do everything, find all the great sights and be there at the perfect time all in the hopes of making that “great shot”, but I find I end up missing something: life, and what is truly available. Not so surprisingly, it seems like the images reflect that as well. The solution: show up, and have your camera.

 

Professionally it’s my job to ensure that I can deliver an image on time and meet informational needs in a visually stimulating way. Personally though, I understand a lot of that is a result of the creative process that requires a certain amount of planning, skills, tools, and experience. It can also take intuition, and ‘letting go of control’ of rigid plans, schedules, and expectations. The greatest lesson I had learned from a lot of my photographic mentors when asked, ‘how did you get such a great shot?!’. The answer was nearly always “I simply showed up, and I had my camera”. I am over simplifying things, but a great deal does seem to lay credence to this concept as a core foundation to nearly every great image made, even when you don’t think one exists. The following are a few tips and points to keep in mind to look for and find those great images while on your travels whether across the globe, or in your back yard.

 

I had a rough shooting day in Cambodia last year while working on a project interviewing and photographing some of the Khmer Rouge survivors that I knew of in an outer lying province. Utterly exhausted and feeling like a failure, I and the team climbed into our taxi for the long, three hour dusty, bumpy taxi ride back home. The driver had asked why we were traveling to such a remote area of Cambodia. We explained the project to him, and shared how I had a pretty bad day with no great images because of either bad light, or unwilling subjects, or just bad timing. He was very kind, and listened like all great taxi cab drivers should. To our surprise, he himself was a Khmer Rouge survivor! He spoke with us for most of the drive about his own personally experiences as a former reluctant soldier for the Khmer Rouge. We all talked and asked questions and learned far more than we had ever thought. Of course, this all re-electrified us, and I just couldn’t help but ask if we could make a portrait of him. Thankfully, he agreed, and pulled over in the middle of the under construction dirt highway. We ran off into a rice field next to the road, the sun having already set, and what looked like a rainstorm about to dump. We quickly set up our speed light flash, and made a portrait in about 5 minutes. Lesson learned: despite one failure, always show up, and listen to what actually is available…and have your camera. Sometimes the best subject to photograph is the one that is provided in front of you, and also interested and engaged with you.

 

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I tend to cook a lot, and attend a lot of dinner parties with friends. It’s a great time to socialize, catch up, and learn new recipes, but also make some great photos. Even though I never really seem to turn off the ‘photography filter’, there are times that I will try to step away from it for just a little while. However, when I do, that always seems to be the one time that I think I could have made a really great image, especially when it comes to dinner parties. Last year I attended a small late afternoon gathering at a new acquaintances home only providing wine and the protein; scallops, with the idea of dining while watching the New Mexico sunset. Of course, we pretty much went through the bottle wine while catching up and sharing stories, and the meal took much longer to cook than expected. I grabbed the sunset, but what of the meal?! Since we took so long, she improvised the dish with radishes and a great pesto sauce, sautéing the scallops in the last half glass of wine. I also had to improvise making the photo of the food, but the outcome was much better than we could have expected. The blue cast is from the twilight from the windows filtering in from outside, and the warm tones are from a bunch of tea light candles that she had in the kitchen. It perfectly reflects the cool colors of the plate edge and spinach, and the red and blonde tones of the scallops and radishes. Had we crammed and tried to shoot at sunset, it would have yielded great contrast and much harsher colors. These worked much easier, and more appetizing. Lesson learned: patience, don’t force things, especially great food, and great images. Sometimes the best light is when you barely notice it. The scallops were incredible!

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I am learning that living in the Northwest seems to involve accepting a lot of rain, and gray. I love being outdoors, hiking, exploring, off-roading, and trail running. I also love structures and how they relate to their natural environment. I had been exploring the many bridges and water-ways of the Portland Oregon area last winter, with some pretty bad luck from the rainy weather. I had a rain cover for the camera, but the lens kept getting covered in water drops and mist. It was a constant issue trying to keep that blasted lens clear and streak free. Every long exposure yielded spots and blotches that just ruined each and every frame. I try to never really just ‘give up’, as I know that there is an image to be made nearly any where at any time. But where was this one going to be? I decided to stop fighting the rain, and see what it could actually provide. It was definitely very prevalent, so I was curious to see if it might even help me find and make my image. Sure enough, after a 30 second exposure, and just the right amount of rain coating the lens, it actually helped to make a much cooler image than I would have ever thought by causing flares and light blooms where the drops had landed where there were bridge lights. Staying with the daylight white balance also helped to by using the warm tones of the incandescent lights and cityscape to back light the bridge. Lesson learned: even great images can be made in bad weather. Just have patience, a sense of wonder, and some whiskey to stay warm. Look at using the things that may be giving you the most grief to help make a more unique image.

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Even though structure and planning are very important to have direction and form to function and achieve goals in your photographic endeavors, look at being a bit more fluid and flexible. Look around you, learn to find what is at your disposal, and learn to look at your travel photography as a scavenger hunt. The first key; show up. The second key; simply have your camera. You can’t make great images, if you don’t have it with you! You maybe more pleasantly surprised with the results once you let things go, and be a bit more organic with the process, than with the images that you may rigidly attempt to create, and also the experience that you have while making them.

 

Happy hunting!

-Alan Thornton / Instructor @ BPSOP

Alan Teaches:

Travel Photography

Travel Photography II

Think Different 

I probably love photographing people more than anything else that I shoot, whether I am close to home or in some far-off country.  When opportunity and knowledge collide, I know something special is going happen. Just finding the perfect subject is only one part of producing a great image of someone.  The other half of the battle is figuring out how and where to photograph them. There are many things that I try to convey to my students here at BPSOP, in my  Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face class, and trying to shoot with new eyes is key to developing your own personal vision.

 

What many people don’t realize is that as a photographer, you are the director, and you need to create  & visualize everything and know exactly what needs to be done.  This goes for every shoot that you do involving people and it can’t always be spontaneous. Just as the director of a movie for the most part knows how every scene is going to be set up and shot beforehand, you the photographer will be much better off if you know much of what you want to do in advance. Having some forethought into what you envision can be much more powerful than creating things at the spur of the moment.  I am not saying that I do not come up with things at the spur of the moment, which I do quite often, but much of the time my preplanning and my ideas for a shoot are thought out in advance.

 

As an instructor, while watching many of my students try and shoot models, I see quite often how they try and rely on the model to come up with poses or different ideas. Quite often, those subjects really have no idea how to pose or what to do. They really are like clay in your hands and they need the photographer’s creativity, comfort and ideas to help them understand what they need to be doing or just what you want. I am constantly directing my models every way possible to get just what I need or envision but I am also trying to make them feel as comfortable as possible. There are so many things that you can do to make your subjects feel more relaxed and in turn, they will photograph so much nicer most of the time.

 

Steve Jobs has always been my mentor and his catchphrase “Think Different” is something I talk about in every course that I teach, and every shot I take.  Quite often, if your model is in a relaxing pose, they usually look much better and your chances of a winning photograph are much higher.
 

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In the shot above, I was shooting my little friend Lucinda in the open shade of the parking lot at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. To make her more relaxed I had her lean on her hands and that gave her a beautiful look as kids just as much as adults photograph completely different when their pose is a more relaxing one. This image would be completely different if she did not have her hands to lean on or if she didn’t feel so at ease. We were also just in a parking lot and the gray area to her left was the cement but shooting with a wide-open aperture can sometimes take the unattractive and make it look decent. You have to think about how your subject will look their best but you also have to Think Different.

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It’s not just posing your models but also finding a great location that can make or break the shot. In the next photograph of the girl in the water above, I had brought my camera gear to the beach on the coast of Turkey, hoping for something unusual to shoot. I found a gorgeous 17-year-old Turkish girl who couldn’t wait to take pictures and we spent over an hour with different setups on the beach. I then decided to try something different and we both went into the water and with my 70-200 2.8 Canon lens, I went about waist deep but I had her go all the way under the water. I would shoot her just as her head came out of the water and she would open her eyes and looked straight at me. Not at all an easy shot but with that gorgeous water and her beautiful face that looked like Cleopatra, sometimes it all just meshes so well and you know you’re onto something. She was relaxed but also motivated to try something completely different and with the combination of the elements, I knew this was thinking differently.

 

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A good portrait doesn’t always have to be a close-up of the face. There are so many different things to try that can make a powerful or memorable photograph when shooting adults and children. In the image of my little cousin Jake at the beach in Marina del Rey a few weeks ago, I decided to focus on capturing him in his element and I let him walk towards the waves and decided to shoot him as a silhouette.  With a gorgeous sunset, I framed him and the water as the majority of the image at left a thin stretch for the sky. Quite often I will play with those proportions and it’s fun to see how different your images can look with more foreground or background as the main part of your image. But I made sure I got the shot when the sailboat was just in the right spot so that it gave a sense of balance and place to the image as it looks like he is mesmerized by the waves and the boat. Photographing people from all positions, like from behind in this image, is definitely thinking differently and sometimes you can end up with one of your favorite images if you just come up with new ideas to push your creativity as much as possible.

 

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In the image above of the Samburu tribe in Kenya, I definitely decided to try something different although setting up this image was much harder than it might appear.  Getting everybody to be in a circle and leaning down looking straight at me was quite a daunting task but I never give up till I get exactly what I want.  I envisioned this image before I shot it and with their gorgeous colored robes and their dark skin and bright sky, I knew I would end up with something unusual. Laying on my back on the dirt and using a superwide lens, it was difficult getting them to be in that circle and smile and lean over just perfectly.  It took quite a few shots until I got just what I wanted but the effort was definitely worth it. I was leading a Safari at the time and was showing all of the photographers that the tribes were just as powerful as the animals. I probably spent half the time photographing different tribes from group shots to individual close-ups and so many more. As I said at the beginning of this article ….  I absolutely love photographing people!  And you can’t beat the tribes in Africa for capturing something that might be once in a lifetime.

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Don’t forget props. I am constantly looking for different things for people to wear or to use the photograph that will get me something unusual. In this next image of my friend Liz,  my girlfriend and I went to the costume shop and got an old hat and a pair of gloves from the 20s so that we could capture her in a very old-fashioned look. I set up one very small soft box to her left but I shot in very close with my Canon 100mm 2.8 IS macro. I knew with the extreme lack of depth of field that the pearl necklace would  blur out beautifully with this lens and that’s why I chose it.  I also had her give me an intense look almost as if she was very upset and I made sure the background went completely black. I had the light falloff quite dramatically on her right side but had just a hint of light below her eye to give a little bit of dimension. The final touch was using Nik Silver Efex Pro to convert to black-and-white and give me exactly what I envisioned from the get go. I wanted something different and unusual and with the combination of her face, the props, the light and then the right software…… it all fell into place.

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On this last image  of the boat from above,  I set this up on my last workshop to Burma.  I had many of my students on the bridge with me, high above the water  but I had set this up before I brought them up there.   I found a young monk and a parasol and put them both in a boat in the lake and told the boatman  to  row over to the bridge slowly.  When I got to the top of the bridge,  I was able to give him direction and make sure that the monk and the parasol was placed perfectly and that  the oars from the boatman  were exactly where I wanted them.   I was creating a piece of art from my mind and all the pieces had to be perfectly in place.  Neither one of them could be looking at me and I had to make it look as realistic as possible  and many of my students got  very similar shots.  I am leaving in 2 weeks for another workshop in Burma with 8 more people as it is probably my favorite place on earth to photograph not only people but some of the most gorgeous scenery on earth.  This image all started  because I wanted to create something different.

Don’t forget the words that are so incredibly powerful & how much they can help improve and define your photography. Those two words that Steve Jobs used to define Apple, are the two words that define my vision of photography.  Think Different!!   Pretty powerful stuff.    You have to get out of your comfort zone……  or you will never grow as a photographer.
Don’t forget the words of Tiger Words that are also very powerful……… “If you are not trying something different……….then you are not improving”.

 

– Scott Stulberg / Instructor @ BPSOP

Scott Teaches:

Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face

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