Tips for Photographing Fall Foliage in Vermont

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Where are the best places to take pictures of foliage?

First thing’s first, it’s frustrating to photograph fall foliage if the colors are not right. When photographing autumn foliage, it’s all about peak foliage. Peak foliage is all about timing and location. Right place, right time for optimal colors. But, how do you know what’s the right place at the right time? Unfortunately, it’s truly impossible to know. I’m sorry, that’s something no one wants to hear. But, there are resources to help get you close, so don’t get too sad. Vermont has a foliage forecaster that will help your planning. It should give you an idea of where peak foliage (brightest colors) will be throughout the season. So, give the forecaster a glance, but keep in mind things may change. Ideally, you’ll want to do some traveling around to gauge how things are progressing, and keep an eye on what’s happening. In that case, patience is key.

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What can I buy to improve my foliage pictures?

We get asked this all the time. There are many factors to creating a great image, but we know it is tempting to want to buy something to make it… easier. Luckily, when it comes to taking pictures of foliage, there is something you can buy to drastically improve your images. If there’s one thing we would recommend (there are more), it’s a circular polarizer. Used correctly, these filters will drastically cut down on glare and reflections. I know what you just thought! What does that have to do with leaves? Leaves can actually reflect a lot of light and produce a lot of glare. By doing so, you aren’t able to totally capture what’s under the glare, which is the fall color. Using a polarizer will cut out glare, and allow you to capture deeper autumn colors.

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What else can I do for better autumn photos?

The whole idea of a great picture is to print it big (pro hack: we print big!) To make a large print requires a sharp, detailed image. Otherwise, detail is lost in a big print, and the image loses its original wow factor. Detailed photos require a couple of things beyond having a high megapixel count camera (but that certainly helps). The first is a smaller aperture that will create a greater depth-of-field, so more of your image is sharp and in-focus. Plus, although high-end modern lenses are excellent edge-to-edge, the center of a lens is always sharpest. Using a smaller aperture ensures the center of the lens is used. Second, the camera has to be rock solid. Any movement during exposure will blur your photo. Even a fast shutter speed with a tiny bit of camera shake will create a ever-so-slightly soft image. In addition, using a smaller aperture and a polarizer (which will effectively reduce light transmission) will require you to use a longer shutter speed. Longer shutter speeds are no bueno for sharp images, unless… the camera doesn’t move. To ensure the camera doesn’t move means having a rock solid tripod. One that is rated well for your camera gear’s weight. It’s also important that when using a tripod no additional shake is added to the camera’s exposure. That’s when a remote release comes into play. Touching the camera can introduce a lot of movement, but using a remote release will remove that shakiness from ever occurring.

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What is the best lens for fall foliage?

This is a common question that is not fair. It’s so subjective! It depends on your shooting style, and what you like. Some photographers like a longer focal length lens that will isolate a subject, and capture more obscure detail. Other photographers prefer a wider angle lens that encompasses more of a scene. Still others may want to capture extreme detail and will reach for a macro lens to get a close up of, say, a gorgeously red leaf. If there are so many possibilities, why not a lens to capture them all? All-in-one lenses are not always the best, but if you don’t want to invest, or carry around, a lot of lenses, we’d suggest that’s what you do. If you have an APS-C camera (crop sensor), it’s worth checking out the Tamron 18-400mm lens, or similar. Fast aperture lenses won’t be so much a concern. Again, you will want to stop down your aperture anyway. Having a f/1.4 won’t necessarily help. Perhaps you want some sort of creative shot, but, otherwise, the fast aperture won’t be used. In this case, an all-in-one lens is most likely helpful to get all the compositions you can imagine.

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Best time of day for fall foliage?

Yes, unlike fishing, there are better times of the day for photographing fall foliage. The most interesting, and appealing light, tends to be softer light. That light is produced at the beginning and end of the day. Ever hear of the golden hour? It’s called that because the light is golden. It produces some of the most beautiful pictures. Hard-core photographers will get started before sun up to find the perfect location, and then take photographs throughout the high-quality light of sunrise. They’ll then be back at it at sunset to photograph the golden hue of the setting sun. So, get out there and capture what this fall has to offer!

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