Embracing the Magic of Fall: Your Guide to Nailing Fall Landscape Photography


Hey, fellow landscape photography enthusiast! Can you feel that slight chill in the air yet? Yep, fall is right around the corner, and you most likely already know what that means: it’s prime time for capturing those breathtaking autumnal landscapes. The vibrant colors and the cozy vibes are a landscape photographer’s dream come true. But, before you dash out with your camera, let’s chat about how to get prepped for some epic fall photography.

Scoping Out the Scene

Let’s start by scoping out the best spots. Do some research before you even pack up your camera bag; this can be online, hitting up photography forums, and perhaps even consider stalking Instagram for those jaw-dropping autumn shots that may be in your area. Each will form inspiration and build your hunger to catch your own shot.  Make a list of spots you’re dying to explore – from classic locations to hidden gems that’ll may make your portfolio pop. And yeah, don’t forget to figure out how to get there without getting too lost (GPS is your friend). By planning it out in advance, you take the guess work out, except that is the guess work regarding the weather. If you are like me here in Ireland, you know that clouds and rain main ruin your day, even though they weren’t exactly forecast. However, this adds to the chase and makes catching those banger shots even more worthwhile, at least for me. 

Getting Your Gear Game On

Time to give your gear some love! You may have been out over the summer in some wild places, so best to take the opportunity to “fall clean” as such and ensure that everything is in tip-top shape. Clean that camera sensor, give your lenses a wipe down, and make sure your filters aren’t smudged. Nobody likes spots ruining a perfect shot. Oh, and a tripod? Non-negotiable for some. It is like that steady rock that’ll keep your shots tack sharp, especially when that golden hour light starts playing its magic tricks. Some may argue against a tripod, and that’s fine too. Go with whatever you feel comfortable with, as this is all that matters at the end of the day. Trying some macro shots can also be fun, as you may encounter some fungi on the forest floor.

Befriending the Light

Speaking of magic tricks, let’s talk about that dreamy fall light. Early mornings and late afternoons, that’s when you’ll want to be out and about. The sun’s not too harsh, and the colors get all warm and cozy. But don’t ignore overcast days. They’re like nature’s soft box, making colors pop and shadows play nice. Embrace the weather, whether it’s sunny, cloudy, or somewhere in between. If it’s cloudy, then woodlands can be perfect, as can waterfalls, as you won’t have to deal with hot spots in your frame from direct light as it streams through the foliage.

Rocking Composition

Alright, let’s geek out on composition for a bit next. You know the rule of thirds? Use it to create some balance and interest in your shots. I call it a tool rather than a rule, as it isn’t the make or break for an image. Instead, do what feels right and tells your story of the scene that you see. Leading lines? They’re like breadcrumbs guiding viewers through your photo story and can come in many different shapes and sizes. The key is to look out for them when composing your shot, and in fall, it could even be leaves as they lie on the ground in front of you.  And don’t forget about framing — using natural elements to add depth and context to your shots. Play around, break some rules, and find your style, but most of all, enjoy being out in the fall conditions more so. That being said, it can also be good to explore as fall ends, as you will end up with less foliage, and some last leaves may shine through. 

Rain, Fog, and Drama

Remember, it’s not just about the perfect blue skies. Rain and fog can be your new BFFs. Raindrops on leaves? Instantly adds a touch of magic. Fog? It can create mysterious and moody landscapes. So, don’t stay tucked in when the weather gets a bit dramatic. Grab that rain cover for your gear and maybe even an umbrella for yourself. It’s all part of the adventure, after all. I firmly believe that bad conditions do not exist in landscape photography; there is always a shot. Granted, it may not be a banger, but it still will be a shot. What has happened quite often is my expectations were low to begin with, based on the poor weather, which meant when I did bag a shot, it felt like a bonus.

Time for Some Fun Techniques

Ever tried that artsy shot with a blurry background and a single leaf in focus? You will be familiar with shallow depth of field, and fall is perfect for it. Macro shots of fallen leaves or dew-covered grass can also create a shot which shows the true essence of fall photography, as the colors will be more vibrant. Also, long exposure shots are your secret weapon. Capture the motion of falling leaves or flowing streams, and watch the magic happen as the leaves follow the flow of the water and leave their streaks behind in your shots. Watch the water before you compose and look out for swirling patterns as the leaves take their journey, as these will develop into circular patterns in your long exposure shots. 

Dress the Part

Okay, I know we’re all about the shots, but let’s not freeze our fingers off. Layer up, as you can always peel off if you get too toasty. A warm hat, gloves, and a jacket that’s wind-resistant should be in your bag. You may feel that you don’t need them when heading out; however, it’s best to have them rather than be looking for them. There is nothing worse than being beaten back by the cold when an extra 30 minutes may have been needed for those perfect conditions to occur. Don’t forget comfortable shoes. You might have to hike a bit for that perfect shot, so make sure your feet are up for the adventure. Many people, when starting out in landscape photography, underestimate the power of comfortable and waterproof shoes. These will allow you to get into that stream and catch the flow of the water far mor easily.

A polarizing filter is an especially good tool to have in your camera bag all year round. However, it is in the fall that this tool can effectively be a game-changer. Two of the properties of this filter can really come into their own during this season: the ability to remove glare and see into the water in front of you and to enhance the natural colors of a scene. When I am shooting in fall, this is the single most important filter to have in my bag, as it is the only filter that cannot be replicated in post-production.

So, there you have it, your guide to embracing fall with open arms and a camera in hand. Get ready to capture the magic of this season like never before. It’s time to let your creativity run wild and document the world, as it transforms into a canvas of warm hues and enchanting landscapes. Happy shooting! 

Have you more to add to this article? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


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