Fall Foliage Tips

fall foliage close-up
©Hudson Henry Photography

Autumn—one of my favorite times of year—is coming on quickly here in eastern Oregon: The nights are cooler, and each morning, the air has a hint of crispness in it. As a photographer, this change in the weather brings with it the anticipation of fall foliage, and I find myself itching to head out to shoot. I have been scoping out locations, planning my time, looking for the peak windows, and getting my gear ready. I have also been chatting with Ben Long and Hudson Henry about the best approaches for capturing fall color. Among us, we have a few tips for getting the most out of your fall-foliage shots.

Hudson: Let light dictate your scene

Hudson has found himself in some amazing places during autumn, but he also finds inspiration in his home area of Portland, Oregon. Here are a few of his tips for getting the most out of fall color:

  • When I photograph fall colors, I let the light dictate my subject choice and composition. Overcast days are wonderful to work with fall color. Under clouds or fog I can shoot in deep colorful woods without the pesky highlights and shadows that get in the way on blue sky days. Just be sure to keep that dull grey sky out of the frame.
  • Puffy white clouds with blue between soften the highlights each time the sun passes behind a cloud, while allowing me to include the blue and white of the sky to offset the other fall colors I am photographing. On bright sunny days, I use a long lens to look for small details in shadows and reflections while avoiding any direct sunlight or sky in the frame.
  • I rarely leave my polarizer behind, but I always want it for fall colors. Polarizers don’t just add contrast to the sky and help control reflections, they also make fall colors more intense. This is especially true in a misty, wet forest of color. The polarizer cuts through the wet shine on the leaves allowing me to capture more saturation.
  • Finally, I’m not at all above carrying a particularly lovely leaf specimen to place in just the right spot in the frame. Props have been a part of photography since the dawn of the art, and if it helps me capture the image I’ve envisioned, then I’m all for it.

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Hudson’s Advanced Panoramas course

Mount Adams, from Trout Lake, Washington.
Mount Adams, Trout Lake, Washington. ©Hudson Henry Photography

Last fall, when we released Hudson Henry’s Panoramas Made Simple, it was our intent to offer a companion volume, Advanced Panoramas, designed for photographers who wanted to go beyond the basics and create complex panoramas. In the end, Hudson and I decided that the advanced course made more sense as a video series than an ebook. (There will be extensive written cheatsheets to go along with the videos, however.).

Hudson is working on that course now, and he anticipates that it will be available in the fall of 2018. Here’s what he says about the new course:

The advanced course is for the photographer who wants to create complex, multiple-row and other specialty panoramas; ones that require extreme precision during the capture process. It will cover the equipment necessary for building these advanced panoramic images and how to calibrate your camera and lenses. It will also offer more advanced editing techniques utilizing Photoshop and other powerful software. 

If you purchased Panoramas Made Simple, we’ll let you know when Hudson’s course is ready. If you didn’t purchase the book, and have been waiting for the advanced course, the best thing to do is register over on Hudson’s website; he’ll keep you up to date on that course, as well as any other cool things he’s doing.

[If parts of this post look familiar, I apologize. I posted a small bit about this at the end of the item about the upcoming 9th edition of Complete Digital Photography, but it appeared to have gotten lost in the shuffle, hence the repost.]

 

Focal Length and Depth of Field

There is a long-standing myth in photography that focal length has an impact on the depth of field in your scene. I know this myth is long-standing because it’s what I was taught, and it is what I have, in turn, been teaching. In fact, early editions of Complete Digital Photography included this very myth. However, with a simple experiment, you can demonstrate that focal length has no impact on actual depth of field.

However, before you start dreading the need to relearn a bunch of old habits, stop. While the theory that has been taught for the last 150 years or so might have been technically incorrect, the practical upshot has been completely valid. So, this article is not so much about changing your hands-on technique. Rather, it’s simply presented to offer you a more accurate explanation of what actually happens to depth of field when you choose one focal length over another. Your everyday practice—using longer lenses to get apparently shallower depth of field—will still apply, but after reading this article, you might have a different understanding of why the depth of field appears different with different focal lengths.

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