I’ve been making autumn photographs for years and have never been completely satisfied with the results. Color in itself is not a particularly good subject so a photo with a mass of brilliant foliage, for me anyway, really isn’t much to write home about. My “curve in the road” photos, I think, are better because they are designed to entice the viewer to wonder what beautiful foliage might be seen around the bend.
|Beautiful autumn day in northern Wisconsin|
So what makes the perfect autumn foliage photo and how do you capture it? Here are my thoughts:
Artistically, it should show off the brilliant oranges, golds and reds of the season which means that the subject should be well lit. The subject should be interesting without the color. There should be an interesting foreground that leads the eye to the subject. The sky must have some blue in it. Puffy clouds in a blue sky make the sky more interesting. A washed out sky sends an otherwise nice photo to the trash bin. It must create the appearance of three dimensions in a two dimensional medium. It should create a desire in the viewer to want to see the sight in person, again and again.
Technically, everything should be sharp. That means small apertures and fast shutter speeds, especially if there is any wind. Nothing should be cut off. Tops of trees should have some room above them. The subject should be placed for eye appeal. There shouldn’t be any distracting elements in the photo and there can be no intersections such as foreground branches crossing over the subject. Horizons must be level.
While I'm not saying this is a perfect shot, I think the photo above that I made in the Harrison Hills of north central Wisconsin meets my criteria for a pretty good photo. I personally think it is my best fall foliage photo.