Autumn photography toolkit – capturing that ‘golden’ shot

Autumn marks the approach of winter. But for photographers, leaves falling from the trees and a vibrant colour pallet of reds, oranges and yellows provide a perfect canvas to point a camera at.

We have put together a simple but informative ‘photography toolkit’ to help you get the best out of the autumn visuals.

Landscape & location

First of all, photography is a medium that allows for a certain level of creativity and can definitely fuel a sense of adventure. Don’t be afraid to play around with what and how you shoot.

Autumn colours reflecting on still water.
Make use of your surroundings; reflections of autumn colours on still water can show the very best of autumn.

Travelling around and discovering new locations to capture is an important part of the process and can be very productive for autumn photography. Fallen leaves cover landscapes with an orange, red and yellow blanket, encouraging a renewed perspective of even the most familiar of locations, so it is not always necessary to plan epic excursions to get the best shot.

Your local park, back garden, or even in the centre of town, there can be plenty of scope to experiment with seasonal elements and how they can transform the landscape.

Developments to smartphone technology means that everyone can be a photographer at all times. Opportunities for capturing autumn scenes can happen when we least expect it and so your phone camera can work as a good substitute in spontaneous situations due to their compact size and multi-use capacity.

Lighting

While serendipity can reap amazing results, some level of planning is sometimes warranted in terms of picking the times of day that are most favourable in terms of light.

It is because of this that planning is an important part of the craft of photography; whether you are looking to capture the setting of the sun over the horizon, or the subtle tones of a morning sky, it is the quality of light that can make (or break!) the shot. (This is easier than ever before to navigate, with smartphone apps and a whole host of websites indicating at what times the sun rises and sets.)

Planning ahead allows you to have a certain level of control over this important element by utilising periods where conditions are optimum in order to further electrify autumn scenes.

Morning autumn mist.
Particular times of day can be especially favourable for photographers in terms of lighting and weather conditions.

‘Golden hour’

One of the most favourable times of day for this has come to be known as ‘golden hour’, or even ‘magic hour’. Happening twice each day, the term refers to the period shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset, wherein sunlight travels through a greater depth of atmosphere when nearer to the horizon.

More blue light is scattered, with the presence of the sun also adding a warm and red hue. Longer shadows, combined with these other elements, can make some striking compositions. When the sun is nearer the horizon, it creates smaller angles resulting in longer shadows. As such, silhouettes are also prominent in these low levels of light, transforming trees and buildings through powerful backlit effects.

During these times, the golden shade indicative of autumn scenes are enhanced further by this lighting, pulling out the best of the seasonal conditions.

Making conditions work for you

While autumn can still be touched with sunshine, there are wetter, colder conditions of the season to contend with.

Obviously be mindful of your equipment when out in these harsher elements and take the right precautions so that your camera does not sustain damage from wet weather.

But the wet landscape, with glistening foliage, and leaving puddles of water around, can offer dynamic perspectives of certain scenes, particularly when focusing on the autumn colours from reflections. Colder temperatures, although sometimes uncomfortable to work in, encourage misty conditions and a dewy blanket over fields, which can create some stunning shots.

Slow shutter speeds work well when shooting with natural elements like clouds and water, as the emphasis on movement can create a soft blurring effect.

Rule of thirds & leading lines

Standard photography rules can also be applied to intensify the quality of certain autumnal landscapes.

A DSLR camera sitting on a bed of autumn leaves.
Most DSLRs help you to master standard rules of photography, which is great if you’re just starting out.

In landscape photography, especially, composition is key. Paying attention to the basic rule of thirds can prove incredibly rewarding. When dividing your view horizontally and vertically into thirds, placing your horizon on one of the two horizontal lines, and any foreground interest in line with one of the vertical lines creates the most pleasing compositions.

For autumn scenes featuring trees, for example, situating the horizon on the lower horizontal line with branches and foliage filling the upper section of the image, works well to highlight the most significant and defining features of the season.

Using leading lines can also help guide focus towards key features of your composition. A fence, stone path, a stream, or a meeting point between two hills on the horizon can help to guide the viewer’s eye from the bottom left of the image towards the centre, or top right.

For amateur photographers still honing these basic skills, many DSLR cameras are equipped with functions that can assist with composition, allowing you to ensure that everything is lined up before you release the shutter button.

Creating a narrative

Ideally, you want to be able to tell a story without words through your photographs.

Particular scenes, such as landscapes with character – featuring derelict, dishevelled structures or vast expanses of land not frequently travelled – can work to evoke a narrative behind the image, and can hold many untold stories.

Featuring people or animals in your photographs can also be a way of adding character to your work, building a narrative by capturing the ways in which they interact with the autumn landscapes.

If you’re not able to get out and about with your camera just yet, check out our blog featuring time-lapse videos capturing this incredible season across different parts of the world.

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