Autumn is my favourite season! I just love the beautiful colours as the world turns from a vibrant summer green to a magical mix of red, oranges, and yellows. I love the idea of snuggling inside with a cozy blanket, a mug of coffee, and a good movie. Getting outdoors and kicking my way though a carpet of crispy leaves is something I really love. I enjoy when it’s chilly enough for a pretty scarf but not yet unbearably freezing cold. And of course, I want to take my camera out with me to capture some of that ethereal autumnal beauty. So here are some tips for ensuring your photos do justice to this splendid season.
With the sun lower in the sky for a longer period of the day, and much less intense than the full sun of the summer, you can open up your shutter and let that pretty light flood in. I love to shoot facing the sun so my subject is backlit. Using a wide aperture and focussing on details in the foreground you can you then get a beautiful dreamy background, pretty rim light, a hazy look of autumnal mists.
Everyone’s favourite golden hour falls earlier during autumn so is at a much more convenient time to get out and shoot, especially with children. I love to incorporate my children in my nature shots, they are so inquisitive about the world around us and I love capturing that fascination. In autumn you can get them involved with nature by collecting conkers, pine cones, pretty coloured leaves etc…, writing or drawing what they see on a clipboard, or just out playing in the environment. The autumnal nature can become a key part of the story in your image by using it as framing and layering. Or you could focus on the details of the leaves or trees and have you child blurred so the nature becomes the subject. Here I’ve used the beautiful textures of the fallen tree as a foreground layer whilst my daughter investigated in the pretty golden light.
As with every season, always remember your colour wheel and the various combinations that enhance your photos. Luckily Mother Nature does a lot of the work for you in autumn. Analogous colours (ones next to each on the wheel) are easy to spot amongst all the yellows, oranges and red, whilst complementary colours (ones opposite on the wheel) can be found as reds (or browns) with greens – think acorns, holly leaves and red berries, a partially transformed leaf…, or as oranges with blues in pretty orange trees against a fresh blue sky.
Other colour schemes such as split complementary, triadic, and square (see the diagram below for a handy reference) are a little trickier because they involve more colours, but keep looking all around, look up and down, look at tiny details and at the scene as a whole, and you might notice something that works.
Autumn is such a wonderful time of year to spot wildlife. A lot of this will depend on where you live but here in the UK squirrels are out and about busy foraging for nuts ready the winter. Spiders are more active because it’s their mating season. You might see robins, owls and other birds, maybe foxes, hedgehogs, mice, perhaps even deer, elk, and other more unusual creatures (at least unusual for me – maybe you see bears everyday!)
A tip for shooting for these animals is to be patient, slow and quiet. They’ll most likely run away if they are frightened by movement or noise. If your camera allows for silent shooting that can be a good option so as not to scare them when you press the shutter button. You might also want to use burst mode; animals can move quickly and by shooting many frames a second you stand more chance of catching a good shot.
There might not be as many colourful blooms as spring and summer, but there is still plenty of plant life to discover. Evergreens, ferns, leaves, trees, fruit, moss, seeds, fungi, the list is endless. I especially love to look for interesting textures in autumn when there is less range of colours. Try photographing these textures from a range of angles. Light coming from different directions can make a huge difference to how the image comes out. You might also want to try black and white for shots where you want the story to be more about the texture and light rather than the colour.
Another type of nature I love to capture in autumn, and through into Winter is dead stuff. Literally anything can look stunning when shot in pretty light, close up to enhance the texture, or perhaps through a special lens if you have a macro lens, a lensbaby or something similar. I also love to experiment with freelensing and reverse freelensing.
Autumn is a time of harvest; the gathering of crops, nuts and seeds ready for the Winter. Fruit is collected from orchards and fields are plowed ready for the next year. Maybe you live on or near a farm where you can document some of this process. Maybe there are places you can visit with your children to pick apples or pumpkins. Every year I like to plant some sunflowers in my garden. I love watching them grow taller and taller and bloom in the summer months. Then in the Fall, I collect all the seeds. I keep them in a jar ready for the following spring.
All of these things, and many more, provide wonderful opportunities for capturing autumnal nature within whatever genre you like to shoot. I hope this has encouraged you to get outside, enjoy the season and create some beautiful images.
You can find lots of more of my nature images on Instagram @abicoop28