Ready for the fall

Au­tumn leaves are a great sub­ject to pho­to­graph, but how do you ap­proach wind­blown fo­liage? Tracy Calder has the an­swers

Amateur Photographer - - 7days -

When sum­mer turns to au­tumn, the shorter days cause leaves to turn rich shades of orange, yel­low, brown and red. This nat­u­ral spec­ta­cle presents pho­tog­ra­phers with plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for shoot­ing close-up ab­stracts, grander vis­tas and pretty much ev­ery­thing in be­tween. At this time of year gusty days and nights can strip the trees bare in a mat­ter of hours, so don’t waste time wait­ing for pre­cisely the ‘right’ con­di­tions – just get out there and adapt your plans ac­cord­ingly.

1 Use a light­box

If you still have a light­box ly­ing around, put it to good use by ar­rang­ing leaves or other translu­cent ob­jects on it. Se­lect spec­i­mens with well- de­fined shapes and good ve­na­tion. You might like to press them un­der a book for a few hours be­fore­hand to pre­vent them from curl­ing up.

2 Try a sup­port When the wind rises above 5mph, plants tend to blow about quite a bit. To keep ev­ery­thing steady wait for a lull in the breeze or use one of the fol­low­ing: floristry wire (to fix your sub­ject to some­thing steady); a Wim­ber­ley Plamp (seen here) to hold a small branch still; or a wind­break.

3 Look for skele­tons

If you slow down and look around, you might no­tice some skele­ton leaves. These del­i­cate struc­tures have veins re­sem­bling road maps and can make at­trac­tive com­po­si­tions. Think about the back­ground be­hind the leaves; go for some­thing plain or lightly tex­tured. This type of sub­ject of­ten suits the black & white treat­ment.

4 Watch the weather

While it might be tempt­ing to wait for clear-blue skies, fo­liage is of­ten best shot in bright but over­cast con­di­tions. If you can’t wait for cloud cover, use a dif­fuser to elim­i­nate harsh shad­ows. You can en­rich colours by un­der­ex­pos­ing a touch. Try to avoid wind, but don’t shy away from frosty con­di­tions.

5 Shoot en masse

When au­tumn leaves cre­ate a mass of colour, the re­sult can be pleas­ing. You are un­likely to find hundreds of leaves in per­fect con­di­tion, so se­lect your favourites and ar­range them on a suit­able sur­face. You will need more than you think to fill in the gaps.

6 Try un­usual ac­ces­sories

Tweez­ers, paint­brushes and fish­ing line might seem like strange ob­jects to pack in your kit bag, but each one has its place. Tweez­ers can be em­ployed to re­move dead leaves or stray de­bris from a scene; paint­brushes are ideal for trans­port­ing in­sects into new po­si­tions; and fish­ing line can be used to hold dis­tract­ing fo­liage out of the frame.

7 Don’t for­get the tra­di­tional rules

If you are shoot­ing au­tumn leaves close up, don’t dis­count the ‘tra­di­tional’ rules of com­po­si­tion. You can still ap­ply the rule of thirds, for ex­am­ple, and many cam­eras come with an elec­tronic grid for this pur­pose. What’s more, lead-in lines can also be use­ful, with di­ag­o­nals pro­vid­ing a sense of en­ergy.

8 Move the cam­era

For a more ex­pres­sion­is­tic shot of au­tumn leaves, ditch the tri­pod and try ICM (In­ten­tional Cam­era Move­ment). De­lib­er­ately mov­ing the cam­era dur­ing a long ex­po­sure re­sults in washes of colour that are more akin to paint­ing than pho­tog­ra­phy. To ex­tend the shut­ter speed you may need an ND fil­ter.

9 Make tiny ad­just­ments

If you would like to make tiny al­ter­ations to a close- up com­po­si­tion, con­sider a po­si­tion­ing plate or fo­cus­ing rails. These de­vices sit be­tween your cam­era and tri­pod and al­low you to make se­ri­ously small ad­just­ments by mov­ing the cam­era, which is the pre­ferred method of fo­cus­ing when shoot­ing at such high mag­ni­fi­ca­tions.

10 Visit a gar­den Un­less you want to em­pha­sise age or nat­u­ral de­cay, spend some time track­ing down a per­fect leaf spec­i­men. Bear in mind that if you are shoot­ing a close-up view, any blem­ishes will be much more ob­vi­ous. As a re­sult, it can pay to visit a for­mal gar­den where much of the prun­ing has been done for you by keen gar­den­ers.

11 Ap­ply colour the­ory

Colours that sit op­po­site one an­other on the colour wheel (such as blue and yel­low) are com­ple­men­tary, and cre­ate max­i­mum con­trast. Use this knowl­edge to your ad­van­tage by look­ing for such com­bi­na­tions in na­ture. Colours that sit next to each other are known as anal­o­gous, and are har­mo­nious.

12 Show a part

Some­times show­ing part of a leaf can be much more in­ter­est­ing than in­clud­ing it in its en­tirety. You might de­cide to con­cen­trate on the blade (the flat part), the peti­ole (the leaf stalk) or the midrib (the cen­tral vein). Con­sider what at­tracted you to the leaf in the first place and make that the fo­cus.

13 Re­fine your fo­cus When depth of field is lim­ited, ac­cu­rate fo­cus­ing is es­sen­tial so switch to live view and use man­ual fo­cus. Small ad­just­ments can make a huge dif­fer­ence, so turn the fo­cus­ing ring very slowly and ob­serve the re­sults on-screen. The viewer’s eye will al­ways be drawn to ar­eas that are in-fo­cus first, so bear this in mind when you’re look­ing at the screen.

14 Mix leaves with water Leaves re­flected in lakes and ponds are ob­vi­ously pho­to­genic, but there are other ways to com­bine fo­liage and water. One is to lo­cate a stream, look for leaves drift­ing along and em­ploy a slow shut­ter speed to trans­form them into a colour­ful blur. An­other way is to look for re­flec­tions of branches in shal­low water and in­clude what’s un­derneath the sur­face.

15 Shoot into the light

Shoot­ing into the light can lead to strik­ing im­ages. Where pos­si­ble, half-hide the sun be­hind a branch, tree trunk or clus­ter of leaves. Try to ex­per­i­ment with lens flare too – you may be pleas­antly sur­prised at how ef­fec­tive this ‘mis­take’ can be - it of­ten con­veys a feel­ing of en­ergy. Nat­u­rally, it’s im­por­tant to avoid look­ing at the sun ei­ther di­rectly or through the lens.

When shoot­ing into the light, avoid look­ing at the sun ei­ther di­rectly or through the lens

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