Fall Foliage Photography Tip: Back Light

In honor of the the fall foliage season that is upon us here in Vermont, arguably one of my absolute favorite times for photography, I thought I’d offer a series of posts during the coming days that provide some helpful tips for capturing some stunning Autumn photographs.  I’m thinking five posts each featuring a different tip for improving your fall photography.

First let me start by stating that as I write this things are really starting to pop here in northern Vermont.  We’ve had some cool to down right chilly nights in the past week and the color is rapidly advancing.  I’m predicting peak color above 1,400 feet and in the northern part of the state to be sometime next week, definitely by the first of October.

Okay tip #1: Use back light to make fall foliage colors pop!  Find an angle that places the dominant light source (most likely the sun) behind your subject, ( you know, the pretty trees you’ve traveled so far to see and photograph).  This type of light literally makes the tree canopy or vegetation look as though it is emitting the light and the color takes on an almost electric vibrance.  Metering these scenes can be tricky so make sure to check your histogram (particularly the color or RGB version) to avoid blowing any important highlights, especially the red channel which I’ve found particularly prone to clipping.

Here’s one from yesterday while out scouting the foliage in my neck of the woods.  As you can see the leaves of this red maple take on an eye catching luminance and vibrance that makes them pop against the darker forest background.  The other thing to note is that because the tree is backlit the near side of the trunk is in shadow and as such is very dark, resulting in some really nice contrast against the brighter leaves.

fall foliage photography in vermont

© Kurt Budliger Photography

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~ by kurtbudliger on September 22, 2010.

3 Responses to “Fall Foliage Photography Tip: Back Light”

  1. Great information. Vermont, a great place to be in the fall. Beautiful shot.

  2. Tripod and HDR…..even better fall foliage! 😉
    Keep up the beautiful imagery Kurt.

  3. Thanks for the comments! I don’t know Kevin, yeah I could have pulled out some more shadow detail in an HDR image but I would have lost a lot of contrast. I’m not a big fan of the automated HDR programs. When I use it I prefer to bracket a few exposures and manually blend the portions of the scene at the extremes.

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