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Autumnal-coloured tree in a yellow field

News Capturing the ‘golden’ shot in autumn

6 October 2016 Daniel Curtis

With leaves already falling from the trees and the summer greens making way for a vibrant autumn pallet, here are a few tips to get you prepared for capturing the best photographs this season.



Photography is definitely a medium that can fuel your sense of adventure so don’t be afraid to get creative with what and how you shoot.

Travelling to interesting locations can be very productive for autumn photography, especially with the orange, red, and brown colours encouraging a renewed perspective of even the most heavily photographed of landscapes.

Sometimes, however, the opportunity for capturing the perfect photographs can happen when we least expect. If possible, take your camera with you on your travels, whether it is for work or for pleasure, so as not miss out on these golden opportunities.

Although they are not able to match the high definition of DSLR cameras, the image quality of smartphones are constantly improving and are often a good substitute in spontaneous situations due to their compact size and multi-use function.



While spontaneity can achieve some of the most impressive and unique photography in any number of settings, planning is also an important part of the craft and can reap amazing results.

Lighting is key when shooting for any purpose; whether looking to capture the setting of the sun over the horizon or using artificial lighting to enhance a human subject in the studio, it is the quality of light that makes (or breaks!) a shot.

So planning ahead is important as it allows you to have more control over these important elements of your project.

This is especially true when capturing landscape photography during the autumn period, as certain times of day provide photographers with optimum lighting conditions.


The Golden Hour

Also known as the “magic hour”, this photographic term refers to the hour following sunrise, or the hour following sunset.

At both points the sun is low in the sky and takes on a golden shade, bathing the land in warm oranges and browns.

With low levels of lighting also come silhouettes, transforming trees and buildings into powerfully backlit compositions.

Calculating the golden hour is now easier than ever with a host of websites and even smartphone applications tailored to such a purpose.


Taking advantage of the landscape

When the sun is nearer the horizon it creates a smaller angle, meaning that the horizon produces longer shadows, so make use of what is around you in any given landscape.

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

Strong composition is key, particularly in landscape photography, and the rule of thirds divides the image both horizontally and vertically into thirds.


Rule of 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 with branches and foliage filling the upper section of the image would work well to highlight the most significant and defining features of the season.


Leading lines

Another familiar practice in photography as it helps to focus the viewer’s attention, leading lines help guide focus towards the key features of the composition.

Ideally the viewer’s eye should be led from the bottom left of the image towards the centre or top right. A fence, stone path, a stream or line of trees, for example, can help to create this effect beautifully.

For those amateur photographers still honing their basic skills, many cameras feature functions that assist you with the composition of your photography so that you can ensure everything is lined up before you take the shot.


Using your surroundings

Although autumn often means waving goodbye to so much of the sun, the wetter, colder conditions of the season can create absolute magic when the right opportunities are seized.

Reflections in water can offer dynamic perspectives of certain scenes, as well as colder temperatures encouraging misty conditions and a dewy blanket over fields, creating idyllic shots.

Playing around with shutter speeds also work well with natural elements, with lower speeds producing a calmer image in times of heightened activity and harsher weather conditions.

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


Creating more magic

As well as relying on your surroundings to some degree, using props can also help you to create some stunning effects.

Manipulating the already optimum levels of light with a reflector, for example, can transform any subject.

Using a piece of white foam board can be just as effective as any professionally bought product on the market. With the sun situated behind your subject, a reflector can be used to direct the light to any desired position, often enhancing particular features of the subject.

If you are shooting people along with your autumn landscapes, simple styling choices such as clothing with warm tones and materials indicative of the season such as wool, can also help to capture the right feel.


Completing the story

Photographs are often thought of as a story without words and capturing a particular scene can work to evoke a narrative behind the image.

Searching for landscapes with character, for instance, featuring derelict, dishevelled structures or vast expanses of land not frequently travelled often hold many untold stories.

Consideration of just some or all of the above elements will stand you in good stead if you are looking to create a stunning visual narrative.

So wrap up warm and happy ‘snapping’.

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