The fall time of year is one of the most beautiful times of year for many forested parts of the world. Its arrival is often marked with colder foggy mornings, the beautiful changing of nature color from the familiar green to the orange, yellow, and reds we associate with fallen leaves. Unfortunately, this portion of fall only last a few weeks before we end up with barren trees, more reminiscent of stick figures. So naturally over the last couple weeks I have been looking around a lot for excellent locations for both foggy shots, and to continually revisit as the leaves change and begin to fall.
Assorted photos from a couple different morning trips near the Willamette river.
With this time of year, comes excellent opportunities for blue hour, field, and woodland photography. If you follow my Instagram account, you'll know that I try to do some location scouting ahead of time to get an idea of things that might look good in different lighting or weather conditions. Plus, you never know what you might find while you are out on a quick hike.
From my location scouting there have been several spots that I have noted that might make excellent pictures under the right conditions with a telephoto lens. Both luckily, and unluckily I ordered the newer Nikkor Z 70-200mm F/2.8 to try and get some use out of it before the conditions changed too much this fall. Only to be disappointed when it arrived with a defect in the aperture system that prevents the lens from achieving a larger depth of field. Making it somewhat useless for landscape photography unfortunately. I have reached out to Nikon and we will see what they can do for me. Otherwise, a story for another time.
Woodland photography is a particularly new area for me with landscapes but has already proven to be a unique challenge. Compositions are often abundant when you are walking through the woods, but the truly unique shots are more difficult to find. There have been several ventures that produced no usable shots just on the note of composition let alone weather and lighting conditions. So, for anyone reading this, I'd like to share just a couple tips that I have found helped produce better images during the fall season.
Additional assortment of shots while chasing the fog this fall season.
Scout your locations
As woodland and foggy photography can be more difficult to get right to begin with location scouting becomes even more important than it normally does. This doesn't necessarily mean that you can't find good compositions day of, but the weather and lighting changes so rapidly this time of year that it really helps to know where you are going and approximately what you want to photograph. This also saves time so that you might be able to try an additional composition before the fog breaks off.
2. Wake up early
Fog is a great way to add depth to an otherwise flat image while taking pictures of trees. It also helps to lessen the bright sky peeking through between the leaves. This tip also plays in with the first one a bit in that fog usually dissipates as the morning breaks into the afternoon.
3. Compose removing distracting elements
Photography is the art of reduction. When you compose a woodland scene, pick the subject that catches your eye, be it an interesting tree, stump, color, or symmetric shape in the trees, leading lines, etc., and eliminate anything that does not add to this. You don't want a bright spot from the sun or the sky, unnecessary trees or shrubbery, or leading lines pulling your eyes away from your primary subject. This is the hardest part of woodland photography for me and why I find location scouting so important. Many wooded areas have a lot going on and it can be very difficult, or sometimes impossible to eliminate distractions when you find an interesting subject.
Five shot panorama. Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 at 70mm, f8.0, 1/160 sec, ISO 100.
I'll leave you with one bonus tip, that somewhat contradicts tip number one above. Don't be afraid to pull to the side of the road and take a picture when something catches your eye. Some photographers consider these "snapshot" photos and a lot of them are, but every now and then you get a gem, or at the very least a new location that you will want to revisit under different conditions. The panorama shown above was taken on the drive home from a failed morning of woodland photography. There was little to no fog in the location I had visited, and the compositions were not good enough to stand on their own without some slightly different weather conditions to go along with it. But as I was driving along country farmland roads, I caught the tail end of the golden hour light glistening off light fog through this farmland with the birds flying overhead. Of course, I had to stop and take some pictures.
As I learn more does and don’ts, I might leave a more comprehensive guide to woodland photography down the road. Hope you enjoyed this short update to what I've been up to so far this fall and see you next time.